Hard News by Russell Brown


Just a little bit good, surely?

Even at the risk of having to momentarily lay down the chip on her shoulder, you might have thought Tariana Turia could have found something to welcome in the news on Maori outcomes from last year's census. Some indicators haven't changed - relative lifespan and Maori over-representation in prison - but there is also some pretty good news in the numbers.

At 41%, the growth in the median income of Maori from 2001 to 2005 (from $14,800 to $20,900 a year) outpaced that of the general population, where median income rose 31%, to $24,400.

Census and other data released last week also show:

* About 54 per cent of Maori adults now have level 1 NCEA or above, up from three-quarters of the national average in 1996 to four-fifths.

* About 64 per cent of working-age Maori are now in paid work, up from 70 per cent of the national average to 80 per cent.

* Maori incomes have risen faster than average across the board. The proportion earning at least $70,000 a year has doubled from 1.7 per cent of all Maori in 2001 to 3.4 per cent, while the proportion in the total population rose only from 5.1 per cent to 8.1 per cent.

Of course there are gaps yet, but it seems churlish to me to see these trends as anything other than encouraging. Bickering over where credit is due doesn't seem to be the point.

Turia's response was to dismiss the results and question the data, then accuse other politicians of patronising Maori by travelling to the Ratana marae and using Ratana for political gain. Is that not a judgement for church leaders to make?

John Key made a good start, with a straightforward speech at Ratana. It's nice not to feel the need to read between the lines of the National leader's utterances. Helen Clark also seems to have demonstrated good grace. Perhaps we'll have a nice Waitangi Day.

Donnie Davies' video for 'The Bible Says' may have been yanked by YouTube - and now by MySpace - but that doesn't seem to have slowed his onward viral march.

The belief that his hymn to homosexual recovery is in fact a super-dry parody is meanwhile gathering steam and one gay site is proposing that Donnie is in fact improv actor Todd Quillen. (Others have pointed out that all the Davies-related websites are on recently-registered domains associated with the same front company.)

"Davies" has issued another video message, this one thanking blogger Andrew Sullivan for his support for his song, his band Evening Service, and his ministry, Love God's Way (they've rather brilliantly burgled the Psychedelic Furs' 'Love My Way' for the closing theme music). Meanwhile, you may find his list of gay bands to steer clear of useful. Oh, and God Hates Figs. True fact.

If you haven't seen Spiders on Drugs, it's worth a couple of minutes of your time.

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