Article Title:Peter Brown's homophobic logic
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:25th October 2003 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:118
Text:We ask NZ First deputy leader Peter Brown to elaborate on his recent attack on gay chief censor Bill Hastings, and take a look at who might be backing him up. NZ First deputy leader Peter Brown last week shocked many when he asked Parliament whether it was appropriate, in a country where the majority of people were heterosexual, to have two homosexual Censors, and would the Government consider replacing one or both of them in order to better reflect New Zealand society. Speaking to Radio Pacific's Paul Henry the following day, he accused Chief Censor Bill Hastings of "bragging" about his sexuality in interviews, and believed he should step down. asked Mr Brown if he was also going to suggest, in keeping with the logic of his question in Parliament, that NZ First should consider replacing its leader, Winston Peters, with someone whose ethnicity matched the majority of New Zealanders. "Your understanding of my logic is wrong," he said. "I simply questioned, in a country where the majority of people are heterosexual, whether it is appropriate to have two homosexual censors." Mr Brown said "some" members of NZ First may distance themselves from his comments, but he doubted that any would deny his right to ask a question. The Human Rights Act, passed into law in 1993, prevents discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and this includes the area of employment. Mr Brown's suggestion that Government break the law by replacing a public servant for the exclusive purpose of better representing the sexual orientation of the majority would indicate that he holds little respect for an important piece of protective legislation. Is it part of NZ First policy to, if they come to power, repeal or alter the Human Rights Act? "There has been no discussion, as far as I am aware, in NZ First about repealing the Human Rights Act. Additionally, I did not call for anyone to be dismissed." Is it Mr Brown's personal view that the Act should be tinkered with? "I haven't given the matter any thought at all. However, if someone alerted me to a major flaw or concern I would likely advocate that it is examined. This is my attitude towards all legislation." Mr Brown also asserted outside Parliament last week that homosexuals have a different morality, and that Hastings had passed objectionable material in a way that "someone who shared heterosexual old-time values would not have allowed", a quote which he is now distancing himself from. We asked if any evidence could be provided of Hastings' bad job performance. "Yes - I have read several of the Censor's reports on various films/videos," he replied. "The descriptions outlined in these reports makes terrible reading. I believe many of these films/videos are clearly 'objectionable' and under the law should have been banned. I am not referring to mainstream cinema films." When asked to provide a list of titles, Mr Brown said that he was able to, but wouldn't as he was unwilling to provide these films with any publicity whatsoever. He also admitted that he could not say "for certain" that sexual orientation would have a bearing on censorship. "However, many homosexuals do have a different approach to entertainment, and are invariably at variance to mainstream society," he added. "I, therefore, suggest that there is a possibility that sexual orientation could have a bearing on censorship. I simply asked the question which provoked the debates. I advocate balance." Mr Brown must be commended for advocating for balance on a non-existent issue. Indeed, he must be commended for having time to ask such questions at all, considering he's supposed to be NZ First's spokesman for accident insurance, energy, labour, and transport statistics. Police Minister George Hawkins last week came out in support of Mr Hastings, whose contract came up for renewal this week. Censorship of films, books and videos under Mr Hastings has arguably been the most stringent in New Zealand's history. He has now been confirmed in his position as Chief Censor for another three years. Labour MP Tim Barnett also responded to Brown's comments last week, saying they were totally unfounded and that they showed homophobia was bubbling beneath the surface of NZ First. "The people he's talking about are quite open about their sexuality. They're highly professional, absolutely suited to do the job and their sexuality in that case is quite irrelevant," he said. Mr Barnett said that slurs against gays are becoming more common in Parliament, having noticeably increased over the last six years. Also increasing has been the popularity of NZ First, and questions have been raised over the last week as to where that support base is coming from. Mr Brown says above that if "someone" alerted him to a major "flaw" within the Human Rights Act, that he would advocate it be investigated. He says this would extend to any piece of legislation. So why stop with human rights? How about relationship recognition (still not a reality), or homosexual law reform? There are no shortage of people in this country who could find "flaws" in those, and Mr Brown is all for "debate" and "balance". Bruce Logan of religious right front organisation Maxim recently addressed a NZ First conference. Even though Winston Peters reportedly fell asleep during his speech, Maxim's arsenal, which boasts five full-time paid researchers and an annual budget of close to a million dollars, cannot be written off. Their almost-successful lobbying against the Prostitution Law Reform bill was so relentless that even Tim Barnett congratulated them on it. An article currently on Maxim's website entitled "Where Is The Government Taking The Family?" spreads defamatory lies about gays and lesbians, quoting sourceless statistics that conclude nearly all gay relationships are polygamous, and that a significant percentage of gay men have had more than 1,000 sexual partners. Loving homosexual relationships are compared to bestiality and incest. Peter Brown's calm "logic" in justifying homophobic, discriminatory statements is in-line with Maxim's use of reasoned, "academic" language in their submissions to Parliament and articles published in their magazine "Evidence", as well as newspapers around the country. Maxim founder John Graham has already recognised that this is limiting the appeal of the Institute's articles, and has repeatedly urged researchers to present their arguments in simpler language to reach a greater audience - and NZ First certainly like to keep things simple, don't they? Maxim have also severely played down their right-wing Christian roots, even though all Maxim staff are Christians with strong church ties, and their managing director says he is "motivated by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ". Even the New Zealand Herald has been fooled - whenever Maxim staff write for the Herald's dialogue pages, they refer to Maxim as a "social research and policy organisation". Someone should put that up on a Tui beer billboard. So where else might NZ First's support be coming from? A recent reader poll in dubious conspiracy theorist Ian Wishart's "Investigate" magazine saw NZ First's support at 28%. This same poll saw support for vehemently anti-gay fundamentalist party Destiny New Zealand at 26%. Wishart has a talkback programme on Radio Pacific from 7pm weeknights, which is used to heavily promote his magazine and often favours block commentary from Wishart in lieu of calls from listeners, which amount to just over 63,000 nationwide - and his ratings are climbing. Could Peter Brown's comments be the opening salvo in a war designed to open up the debate on the "rightness" of homosexuality again, conveniently in time to destabilise legislation that will finally recognise our relationships and our families? There can be no doubt that, in public and in private, the trenches are being dug. Chris Banks - 25th October 2003    
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