Hard News by Russell Brown

Going to Evan

What with all the issues and everything, I haven't got around this week to writing something about going to see Evan Dando play on Tuesday night, if only so as to use the headline above. Dando was once the singer of the Lemonheads, one of the prettiest men in pop and a heroic consumer of illicit drugs.

He's no longer any of the above, but his voice is better than ever. It can seem that both his songs and his guitar playing are built around that relaxed, slightly melancholy voice. You can get a good idea of what his New Zealand solo gigs were like from his Live at the Brattle Theatre album, which I highly recommend (if you buy it via that link, we get a little kickback).

Dando had some obstacles to overcome - one group on the Dog's Bollix's dancefloor appeared to have turned up solely to shout drunkenly to each other for the whole gig (some of them were Irish, but that's no excuse) - but overcome them he did. He got rolling to the extent that when he came back for an encore, he just kept on playing, hauling out an array of cover versions, including a great performance of the Velvet Underground's 'I'll Be Your Mirror'. (Earlier, he had shaken up the somewhat devotional mood of the audience by reprising the Lemonheads' cover of Proud Scum's 'I Am A Rabbit'.)

But anyway, it was great, he was funny and affecting, and if he cared to pass this way again, I'd certainly be there. What with the White Stripes, the Strokes and the Flaming Lips, American rock music is certainly doing it for me these days.

And then there's the real world: while one half of National's leadership team, Gerry Brownlee, seems to be narrowing the scope of National's race revolution, Don Brash seems positively intoxicated by it. Yesterday, he declared he would withdraw funding from universities that run entry schemes for Maori students. This, one would think, was bullying enough.

But he went on to say something that can only be described as a lie: claiming that Maori students enjoy lower standards within courses - "the reality is they are not qualified for the job". This is outrageous, and I can't believe he doesn't know it. Unfortunately, it's already out there in the public domain and will fuel further resentment.

Let's take the Auckland University School of Medicine, which operates the Maori & Pacific Island Admission Scheme (MAPAS). Each year, it makes a number of places available through this scheme. The rationale is clear enough: (1) it is clearly useful to have Maori and Pacific Island doctors in addressing the obvious public health problems in those communities, and (2) on average, Maori and Pacific Islanders do not enjoy the same educational opportunities as the general population. Yes, of course, there will be exceptions to that, but it's a sound enough generalisation.

Here's the web page where the School of Medicine explains how to apply for MAPAS. You will notice that on the same page there are details of another scheme, Rural Origin Medical Preferential Entry (ROMPE), which is open to people who have had at least three years of their secondary education at a rural school, or come from other "appropriate backgrounds". The rationale, one would think, is very similar: those accepted will (1) probably be more willing and able to fill difficult rural practices, and (2) probably not have not enjoyed the same educational opportunities as people who went to schools in city suburbs. Don't expect Don Brash to start campaigning for the "human rights" of city dwellers, though. There's no mileage in that.

So Lianne Dalziel has defied the early betting and kept her job, for now at least. She's very lucky. It's not that she leaked something to the media - all politicians do that all the time. It's not even that the handwritten notes on the letter - not the letter itself, which was actually from the Refugee Status Appeal Authority - are legally privileged. It's that she lied about it right up until she had to answer the question in Parliament, where lying would have been a far more serious matter. This is the third time issues of honesty have come up on her watch. She's really lucky.

The Clark government has not been squeamish in the past about dismissing ministers who fail to meet standards, and it's interesting to speculate why that didn't happen here. It might simply be that they didn't want the damage, but the impression has been given that there is confidence that immigration officials did not pass on the letter (if they did, Dalziel's gone).

It now appears that the office of the Sri Lankan girl's lawyer, Carole Curtis, may well have faxed the letter to someone in Helen Clark's electorate office - but not, she says, the one with the handwritten notes and the drawing of a guinea pig on it. But Clark's electorate secretary, Therese Colgan, is prepared to swear an affadavit that that did happen. I met Colgan when a friend of mine worked with her a few years ago, and I have to say she does not strike me as the kind of person who would fabricate a detailed story and then offer to swear on it.

There are a number of elements of this business about which I am not sure what to think, but I do wish Curtis would stop referring to her client as a "little girl". Clearly, she has been through a terrible experience, but she is 16 years old. She is not a little girl, and to keep on referring to her as such is emotionally manipulative.

I would recommend reading the text of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision. It's not very long and it explains the reasoning behind the decision, including its belief that care was available for the girl in her home country, and doubts about the credibility of some evidence.

If you're going to credit the Authority's research and reasoning in the Zaoui case, it doesn't seem fair to dismiss it here. The authority's decision could have been trumped by the Associate Immigration Minister Damien O'Connor making an exception on humanitarian grounds, but without knowing the standards pertaining to such ministerial decisions, or how often they are sought or made, I couldn't venture on the merit of his decision not to.

Meanwhile, a mad press release from Wayne Mapp had me briefly alarmed about the government's foreshore policy. But the transcript of the Wednesday Parliamentary Questions session he refers to does not, in fact contain any new or startling information.

National MPs were just fishing for a soundbite, which they have a right to do, and Mapp's excitable statement was justifiably ignored by the media. But it all goes out there into the public domain and maybe people will believe it. Anyway, the transcript itself - responses by Cullen and Wilson to questions from Brownlee and Mapp - is actually well worth reading as a summary of exactly what the proposed policy means

And, to conclude, a question of etiquette: earlier in the week, I'm in Grey Lynn, buying some vegetables. Among the other customers are a gay couple, shopping for a dinner party. The younger guy, in his early 30s, is what they call a bear: thick, dark hair over much of his torso, shoulders and back included. He goes to the gym and he's showing off.

I know this, because he's not wearing a shirt. Crisp, faded 501s, black leather belt, but no shirt.

So bear guy bowls up to the till as I'm paying for my mesculun salad, and his shoulder brushes against me. He's lightly sweating, although it's not a hot day.

I mean, tell me if I'm out of line here, but I'm thinking, it's 4.47pm at the vege shop, not 3am eternal at the club of your choice. This is wrong, right? I mean, eeewwwww …