Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is this appropriate?

Dr Judy McGregor is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. She's also been a journalist, editor and university lecturer. She was first appointed in 3 February 2003 for a five year term which was renewed for a further five years on 20 January 2008 until 19 January 2013. Both those appointments were made by the former Clark Labour government.

So it was no surprise that Dr McGregor was a keynote speaker at Labour's recent conference. Although she is supposed to be politically neutral, she is known to be affiliated to the Labour Party.

What was more surprising was the content of her speech at the conference; check this out:

A quick search of the 2011 election results website shows that Annette King won the Rongotai electorate from National's Christopher Finlayson with Green co-leader Russel Norman in third place. Given that Dr Norman is in a heterosexual relationship and has children, and that Christopher Finlayson is openly gay, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out who Dr McGregor was referring to.

Of course, it's not the first time that Mr Finlayson has been the subject of homophobic insults from the Labour Party; check this out:

Trevor Mallard has gone into bat for his former benchmate over at Red Alert. Amongst other things, he says:

I don’t accept the view that he is picked on because he is gay. He is picked on because there is a common view that he has travelled too much. But there is no doubt that lots of people are putting an extra boot into Chris because he is gay. One only has to look at Whaleoil (yes I did) or many comments on Kiwiblog to see the bile that homophobes are writing.
All of us make mistakes in our jobs. Sometimes we don’t see it. I’ve had a few examples. Would have been better for my career if I didn’t call Tau Uncle Tom or if I kept some space between us.

Now Trevor Mallard is not entirely a babe in the woods when it comes to homophobia. So we helpfully added this comment

Inventory2 says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Trevor – I commend you for your loyalty to a colleague, especially one you admit you are not close to. However, when you are making accusations about homophobia, maybe you ought to preface it with some self-condemnation of a certain interjection that you made against Christopher Finlayson last October, which is recorded in Hansard. Perhaps it can be explained under the “We all make mistakes at work” banner.

It's since been moderated, with a comment from Trevor Mallard who says "I understand what homophobia is". Indeed he does; check this out, from the Hansard of Question Time, Thursday 15 October 2009 - it's the crossover between Q11 (to Christopher Finlayson) and Q12:

Hon Steve Chadwick: Will he provide an answer assuring that there will be no decrease in Government funding for the arts and culture sector as a result of any increase in charitable giving by private individuals to the arts and cultural institutions?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am seeking to grow the arts budget. I have made it clear on a number of occasions that the Government has very real responsibilities to fund the arts and that, in addition, the increase in funding from private and corporate sources will encourage an explosion in the arts.

Education—National Standards

12. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her reported statement that—[Interruption] Tinkerbell, can you settle down?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not acceptable. I ask the House to come to order. The member asking the question often interjects when other members are asking questions. I ask him to just ask his question.

So what's your first thought when someone says "Tinkerbell"? Here's what comes up when you type in Tinkerbell on Google. It's obviously OK for Mr Mallard to make comments like that to an openly gay National MP in the bearpit that is Parliament, but when someone makes comments against one of his gay colleagues, that's homophobia. We're guessing that Trevor Mallard's decision to censor a factual and carefully-worded comment might suggest that he's not happy that his words have come back to bite him. That's his problem.

We accept that Dr McGregor's comment was intended to be a joke. But so was John Key's banter about Farming Show hot Jamie Mackay's "gay red shirt", and look at the furore over that.

There are two aggravating factors here however. Firstly, Dr McGregor is a senior public servant, and is supposed to at least have veneer of political neutrality. So what is she doing cracking jokes at a Labour Party conference? Is it her intention to follow her fellow HRC staffer Dr Rajen Prasad on to Labour's party list?

The second is far more serious. The Human Rights Commission subscribes to the Yogyakarta Principles. According to the HRC website:

The Yogyakarta Principles set out the international human rights standards that all countries must meet to uphold the human rights of sexual and gender minorities.
All people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the same rights and freedoms. All sexual and gender minorities in New Zealand have these human rights, whichever word they use to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity.
These include, for example, people who identify as: takataapui, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transsexual, transgender, whakawahine, tangata ira tane, mahu (Tahiti and Hawaii), vakasalewalewa (Fiji), palopa (Papua New Guinea), fa’afafine, (Samoa, America Samoa and Tokelau) akava’ine (Cook Islands), fakaleiti or leiti (the Kingdom of Tonga) or fakafifine (Niue island).
The Human Rights Commission recognises and values this diversity of identities and communities and acknowledges the difficulty encompassing this diversity under any single umbrella term. Some intersex people, for example, may prefer to use the words ‘sex or bodily diversity’ – while others may simply wish to be known as male or female.

It quite frankly beggars belief that someone who subscribes to those principles by day can have such a cavalier attitude to gay people by night. We are surprised that the MSM has not picked up on this as they did with John Key's aforementioned comment.

Today, we call on Dr Judy McGregor to, at the very least issue a formal apology to Hon Christopher Finlayson. If she were a person of principle, she would also accept that she made a colossal error of judgment which rendered her unfit to hold a senior role within the Human Rights Commission.

Likewise, we call upon both the President and the Leader of the Labour Party to apologise publicly to Hon Christopher Finlayson for this remark, given that it was made on their patch. That is the very least that could be expected of them.

Will any of the above happen? Don't hold your breath. Labour may try to create the impression that it is the party for minorities, but in reality they even worse than those whom they condemn. 


dead ducks in a thunderstorm said...

The general public has no interest in what guest speakers say at Labour Party Conferences.

gravedodger said...

@ddiats, You are absolutely correct apart from the ever dwindling membership of the nasty party.
However Iv2 makes a very valid point about the integrity, the suitability and the appropriatnes of Phd Mcgreggor to occupy the position she does in the NZ Public Service.
I know the neutrality of our once honourable employees has been diminished to the point of ridicule, but that politically partisan effort must have been a step too far for even some of the old guard in that once great party.

The minister responsible for her little fifedom should have had her head on a pike days ago.

big news said...

what a silly post. your readers may wish to reflect on which of the three "offensive" statements was made when the "offender" directed that statement to the person concerned while angry.

Keeping Stock said...

You defeat your own argument BN; if Dr McGregor wasn't angry when she made her speech to Labour's conference, that means it was a pre-planned comment. Surely, she ought to have reflected on whether the comment about Finlayson showed good judgment on her part, bearing in mind the HRC hat she wears.