Hard News by Russell Brown

Peters again

Winston Peters' attack on Jim Peron yesterday appears to be just one more in a string of incidents in which Peters has made extraordinary allegations against members of the public, under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, with the intention of raising his own profile.

Update: Scoop has comprehensive coverage of this story, including an interview with Jim Peron and some speculation about its origins. It would seem that like many other people, Peron has fallen out with Lindsay Perigo (who enthusiastically welcomed him in 2002) over some factional dispute, but Scoop doesn't favour Peron's allegation that Perigo is behind Peters' claims.

Peron, a gay man born in the US, is the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Values, a classical-liberal group which is, for example, in favour of adult sexual choice (and, last year, the Civil Union Bill), but against state welfare and any but the most minimal tax burden. Like much argument of its kind, the ILV's platform can veer towards the shrill and ideological, but Peron makes a vigorous and intelligent contribution to debate in New Zealand.

Act leader Rodney Hide is a friend of Peron's and a member of the ILV board. This was enough of a link for Peters to make a series of allegations during Parliamentary questions yesterday, which he rounded off with a claim I will not repeat here, but which you may read in Hansard (scroll down to Question 6).

In the course of farcical interviews on Close Up last night and Morning Report today, Peters refused to repeat his allegations outside Parliament, but hinted that he had other, unspecified, information to come. He'd want to, because the allegations he did make are tenuous indeed.

The reference to Aristotle's, the Auckland bookshop Peron owns, as a pornography store is simply ludicrous (As David Farrar points out, "using that as a precedent, Peters has just turned every dairy owner in NZ into 'pornography traders'.") Personally, I think the novels of Ayn Rand are embarrassing garbage, but hey ...

It does appear that Peron's work visa in South Africa (where he lived before coming here in 2002) was not renewed - but that is far more likely to have been on account of Peron's trenchant (and yes, sometimes shrill) criticism of the ANC than, as Peters had it, "because of the dubious nature of his business activities."

Yes, Peron did write an essay called The Claptrap Over Child Porn. You can read it and decide whether you think it in any way justifies Peters' innuendo: Part 1: The Political Exploitation of Statistics and Part 2: The US Government Enters the Child Porn Business.

In what appears to have been a monumental error of judgement nearly 20 years ago, Peron allowed the North American Man Boy Love Association to meet at Libertarian Books and Periodicals, the San Francisco bookshop he bought from Eric Garris (who later went on to found Antiwar.com) in 1985. Peron has told the Herald he asked the group to find other premises and wished he had done so sooner. Garris has subsequently indicated an intense dislike for Peron, but it would hardly be the first time a vendor and purchaser have fallen out. (And, as we have seen, the ideologically inclined seem more inclined to tiffs than most of us ...)

Peters would not vouch for his own allegations outside the house and I frankly do not expect him to come up with anything more than the innuendo he has already dispensed.

There are further comments on David's blog here.

Anyway, speaking of moral panics, Ross Bell of the New Zealand Drug Foundation concurred with my comments yesterday about the vile stupidity of the official White House view on harm reduction and needle exchange programmes - which it is seeking to prevent not just within its own borders but anywhere else in the world. Said Ross:

Thankfully, NZ survived the silly debate about needle exchange programmes promoting drug use, and now have a leading NE programme - further improved last year with the free 1-for-1 exchange (users previously had to pay for needles and related equipment).

At a recent health select committee meeting, it was clear that ALL parties (even United Future) endorse the programme.

The 1-for-1 was championed by Jim Anderton, our drug czar.

NZ has one of the lowest HIV infection rates among injecting drug users. Without the programme it's estimated NZ would have had an extra 1,454 people living with hepatitis C, another 1,031 people living with HIV/AIDS, and an extra 20 people would have died following an HIV infection.

We're trying to crack the last barrier of our programme, which is the offence to possess a needle (unless from NE) - hoping to have that offence wholly removed, rather than simply changing the burden of proof from IDUs to police.

Joan Walsh's piece in Salon is the best down-to-earth assessment of the bloggers-vs-mainstream media argument - from a journalist's point of view - I've yet read. Recommended.

An finally - because I really need to do some other work - One Good Move (via The Daily Show) has a hilarious news clip featuring Bush and his new intelligence tsar Porter Goss, in which "Bush bullshits and Porter Goss just doesn't know how to handle it." Dammit man, you're being paid to keep a straight face. Priceless.