Friday, November 18, 2005

Clemency Appeal

If you feel it is appropriate, please click on the link below, and please e-mail the authorities in Singapore. I have included the e-mail addresses, subject line, and text below, so that it is a simple matter of copying, pasting, and sending.

E-mail addresses -
Subject line - Van Tuong Nguyen
Body of e-mail -
Dear Prime Minister, Minister, Attorney General, Your Excellency
I am appealing to your Cabinet to urgently reconsider granting clemency to Australian man Van Tuong Nguyen who will otherwise be executed for drug trafficking.
I believe the death penalty is the most cruel and inhumane punishment and is an appalling abuse of the most fundamental human right - the right to life. Van Tuong Nguyen is a young man with no prior criminal conviction who does not deserve to pay the ultimate price for this mistake.
I understand under Singapore's Constitution, clemency can be granted in rare circumstances and that Van Tuong Nguyen's case fits the criteria - I believe he has always shown remorse, confessed at the earliest opportunity and cooperated fully with the Singaporean authorities and the Australian Federal Police.
I urge your government to show compassion and grant clemency to this young man.
> Yours sincerely

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Look Below the Waterline

A couple of offhand remarks lately have made me realise how little people know about what goes on behind the scenes on a program like the Rainbow Report.

One – a seasoned broadcaster – said, ‘People don’t realise how much work you put in – it’s only half an hour on air but two hours preparation.’

Another – a listener and community activist, referred to the quantity and quality of information ‘you provide on the Rainbow Report so effortlessly.’

Stifling my hollow laughter, I said to the latter, I may glide across the airwaves like a swan, but if you look below the water you will see that I’m paddling like fury.

An average day goes something like this:

8am latest. Fire up the computer. Read through all the emails received overnight and reply to any that need a response. Look at all the news alerts I receive from various wire services re: news stories of possible gay interest. Download any interesting stuff I think I might want to use, or might be useful for reference.

9am. Start trawling through my ten favourite gay news service and radio websites for possible stories. Click on any interesting links and download any possible stories and soundbites. Then visit a selection of gay and lesbian websites around the world: my list of favourites contains 9 Australian, 9 European, 6 Asian, 4 African, 4 Middle Eastern, and the grand-daddy of them all, 16 in the USA. That’s 58 websites – not counting the ones where I click through to others to find the story – maybe another 20.

Also during this time: from the diary of upcoming events, requests for interviews, local knowledge, whatever, decide who I’d like on the show today/soon and place calls, send emails, sms’s. Mostly I get voicemail and answering services.

11am. Review what I’ve collected. Decide what fits in the Roundup, what merits a longer piece, what goes on The Spike. Some of them may not be useful directly, but there may be a local angle. For the last couple of days there have been a series of reports from the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network documenting bullying in US schools on a state by state basis – who should I call locally for comment and comparison with the local situation. Place more calls, emails, sms’s. Write, record and produce Roundup – two versions, one for tonight, one for tomorrows repeat.

12am. Lunch. If no-one’s called back, start to panic. Draft outline script and running order for tonight’s show. Do some chores about the house. Answer phone calls, set up interviews – most people call back during their lunch hour.

1pm. Time out – Divert the phone to the answering machine. Soak in a bath. Read the papers.

2pm. Set off for Joy

2.45 – 3.00 Arrive Joy. Fire up studio 2 and start doing phone interviews. If I have a live guest, that’s only one pre-record. If not, that’s two. The actual interview aired may only be 5 or 6 minutes, but that’s up to half an hours work – getting them online, pre-interview chat, often to relax their nerves, the interview itself, which, unedited, is probably 8-10 minutes long, then wind down, thank them. Sometimes do three or more interviews to get ‘stock’ for future show. Try to have more than I actually need, especially if live guests are scheduled that night – you never know if they’ll show, and as a no-music show, I don’t have the luxury of throwing to a track in an emergency.

4pm. Move to production booth. Finalise the two editions of the Roundup and upload to MD. Edit the pre-records and upload to MD. Any downloaded overseas radio material or contributor material – review, edit, revoice segments where necessary. Pre-record any of my own comment pieces.

5pm. Off to the newsdesk. Finalise running sheet, with timings. Realise I have a couple of gaps. Write the show script with all the linking material. If I have live guests, pre-phone to confirm they’re still available, have right phone number. If not, decide what I’m going to replace them with. Try for another live guest, hope I have a usable pre-record, or plan to pad.

5.45. The script is locked, no matter what. Now open up newswire service and decide what stories I want for the evening news bulletin. Download, craft bulletin script, pre-read bulletin and show script. Correct where necessary. Give program support any info people might ring in for, or warn them if program is likely to be controversial. Brief panel operator.

6.15 – if I’m lucky. Toilet break and cup of tea. Deep breathing


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Rainbow Report, Tim Newton and HIV

Text of Tuesday broadcast............

Monday night I aired a piece by Tim Newton in the course of which he said: that 'we all know how to avoid HIV infection, it's been drummed into everyone, and especially the gay community, and there can be very few excuses, and therefore little sympathy, for those who become infected from having unsafe sex.'

That sentence upset a lot of people, and after the show I received a number of responses. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive in time to air during the show, but given the strength of feeling on the issue, here’s a selection.

Listener Reaction

The piece on HIV by Tim Newton was absolutely appalling! You have lost me as a Joy member and a listener. You should be ashamed of yourself

Doug’s piece on HIV with Tim left me shell shocked – his opinion is pathetic and disgusting

Many of my friends are positive, I am not, saying they deserve it is uncalled for, we’d appreciate not hearing those comments

I was disgusted with Time Newton. His views on HIV are outrageous. No matter how much care you take in life shit can happen. Why is this unsympathetic person allowed to voice this crap on Joy.

My Response

I've listened again to Tim’s piece, and run it past several other people, and though his view could be considered harsh, I think he's been misunderstood. The segment that caused the offence went as follows:

He said: 'we all know how to avoid HIV infection, it's been drummed into everyone, especially the gay community, and there can be very few excuses, and therefore little sympathy, for those who become infected from having unsafe sex.'

He did not say that HIV positive people deserve it. He did not say that people who, despite taking care, become infected. He said people who nowadays, despite all the available education and information, have unsafe sex – in other words, barebackers, people who choose not to take care - have VERY FEW excuses, not none; LITTLE sympathy, not none.

Imagine I’m 20 years old. I’ve drunk a few stubbies and I’m driving my mate home in the ute. He doesn’t fasten his seat belt and I don’t insist. I drive too fast, wrap the ute round a pole, and wake up paralysed from the neck down. My mate is dead.

We’ve both seen a million commercials about not drinking and driving. And another million about fastening seat belts. Yet now I’m in a wheelchair and my best mates dead, because of the choices we made.

Do I have any excuses? Not many. Do I deserve sympathy? Maybe some. Do I WANT sympathy? Or do I want to face up to my responsibilities and do what I can – however inadequate – to try to make amends?

I’m the creator and producer of this program as well as it’s presenter, and I took the decision to air Tim’s piece. I’m sorry that it has hurt and offended some people. Clearly Tim could have worded his comments more precisely. But I’m not sorry I put the piece to air.

The show is called the Rainbow Report because the rainbow represents diversity – and that includes diversity of opinion. I’m not in the business in silencing opinions that you or I might not agree with, or that some might find offensive.

There are people who would prefer that certain topics not be aired, that certain opinions not be expressed, that debate be stifled.

I’m not one of them. I believe in free speech. I don’t believe in censorship. I’m not Phillip Ruddock, or John Howard.

I’m Doug Pollard, and you’re listening to the Rainbow Report.


It seems that a lot of you have reacted strongly to comments of mine aired on the Rainbow Report last Monday. Firstly, I would like to thank Doug for making sure my exact words were replayed and fully understood.

Secondly I would like to apologise to those that either misheard or misunderstood what I said. My comments were not meant to harm or vilify those living with HIV or AIDS, indeed I have many friends in this situation who I love and cherish, one an ex-partner My comments were directed at those who, with full knowledge of the consequences, knowingly expose themselves to HIV by partaking in unsafe sexual practices.

Finally, the comments are an opinion, an alternative opinion, and a personal opinion. The opportunity to air them is a responsibility I take very seriously. They are not gratuitous, they are well considered. I understand that many of the subjects we broach on the Rainbow Report are sensitive but that is no reason not to share a view and discuss them. The Rainbow Report is a voice for the gay community, the entire community. I heed all the comments, good and bad, and I'm proud that, as a member of this station, I'm able to participate in free speech along with the rest of you.

Now it may be that I'm kicked off for airing this opinion and, of course, I take full responsibility for what I said.

I'm Tim Newton for the Rainbow Report.


an email from a listener

Hi Doug,
I am a HIV+ man and I believe Tim Newton’s comments with respect to undeserved sympathy for HIV+ people are disturbingly misleading and without merit, however, they do deserve airing because many gay men are unaware that this level of subliminal, and sometimes outright, disaffection exists comfortably within our own community.

Whilst I am not aware of where Mr Newton’s authority lies in this matter, I am aware that the “safe sex” campaign he refers to is not fool proof. Firstly contemporary terminology refers to a “safer sex” campaign not a “safe sex” campaign. Secondly I have met gay men who are still unaware of what is risky and what is not, despite all the so called education. For example some gay men actually believe kissing a positive person is a risk or using condoms completely eliminates the risk of contracting HIV.

The second point I would like to make is that HIV+ people do not want or need sympathy. Sympathy that is not financial will not result in anyone creating any practical solutions that assist positive people or lead to finding a cure.

Telling people who contract HIV that they only have themselves to blame is wastefully emotive and the same logic could be used against smokers who contract smoking related diseases, drinkers who contract drinking related diseases, recreational drug users who develop problems or die and eaters who contract diet related conditions. I wonder if Mr Newton has even one of these habits or a similarly bad but human habit?

The question we need to ask ourselves is: do we wish to live in Mr Newton’s ‘dog eat dog’ country, or world for that matter? Mr Newton is one step away from condoning discrimination against HIV+ people and again discrimination serves no useful purpose in the battle against AIDS. I recommend Mr Newton go to the “God Hates Fags” website so he can see for himself that there is already enough useless rhetoric concerning HIV/AIDS in the world today.
Thank you Doug for airing these comments. It is important to expose people’s feelings about all of the issues that affect us in this day and age so that we can, as individuals, make truly informed decisions.
Hawthorn East

Monday, November 14, 2005

Last Two Weeks

I'm now in pre-holiday mode - the Rainbow Report comes to an end on November 25 - that's only two weeks away. Hopefully I'll be back on air in February, and in the meantime we need to work out what we have learned from the experience.

What we need to make life easier:

A producer - someone to work behind the scenes researching and suggesting stories, telephoning potential interviewees etc.

A co-presenter - love doing the Friday shows with Cath Pope!

Regular specialist contributors.

A sponsor!!!!!!!

Issues for debate - got any ideas?

Time for show - if 6.30 no longer possible, when? If RR stays daily, suggestions so far have included 12 noon, 7pm, 8pm

Day - if we switch to weekly or bi-weekly, which day/days? Suggestions so far include Monday and Friday (Start/Stop the Week), Wed/Sat.

Frequency - do we stay with daily or shift to weekly, bi-weekly?

Length - if RR is not on air every day, do we switch to one or two hour format?

Content - depends on the above - but what would you like more of? Live studio discussions? Ability to phone-in and participate? If longer but less frequent - include music? What kind?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What is wrong with people who take drugs?

Last night on the Rainbow Report (11.11.2005) I looked at the issue of dance parties and the associated drug culture, with the help of Tim Newton and Adam Pickvance.

Tim asked the question - what is wrong with these people who take these drugs?

I don't have a complete answer - who does - but I put in my two cents worth.

This is what I said:

In 1967 I was 17 yrs old, still in school, fairly certain I was gay and desperate not to be. I didn’t know anyone else who was. Everything I could find on the subject was relentlessly negative, full of words like ‘sick’, ‘abnormal’ and ‘unnatural’. When the issue made the papers, it was stories of blackmail and murders.

And there was a lot about homosexuality in the papers in 1967, because that was the year the law finally changed in Britain. Well, I thought, at least I won’t face the prospect of going to jail if I do give in to my ‘unnatural’ urges and have sex with another man.

Things have changed a bit since then – but not as much as we’d like to think. There are still plenty of people who like to label us abnormal and unnatural and sick. Now there are a lot more people and organizations to prove the opposite. There are books, television programs, even a radio station, if you’re lucky enough to live in Melbourne. But too many kids are still brought up to think there’s something wrong with them, that their natural desires are bad, sinful, sick – take your pick.

So after you’ve discounted the usual reasons you drink too much and experiment with drugs when you’re young - such as, you want to find out what it’s like, and you don’t want to take someone else’s word for it – lots of us gay men do it because it seems to make it easier to do what you really want to do, which is to make a physical, sexual and emotional connection with someone else.

I say seems, because I’ve been there and done that. When I got to uni in 1968 I spent a lot of time trying not to be gay, not to give in to my ‘unnatural’ desires, and when I couldn’t do that any more, I got drunk and got laid. Or I got stoned and laid. Or dropped acid and got laid. Friends said to me, look, all you’re doing is self-medicating, and making things worse: what you really need is to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist fed me valium, and then I didn’t feel like getting laid at all. Not much of a solution, eh? And still gay.

A study this year of gay men coming off crystal meth in New York discovered that most of them had been doing just what I used to do: using drugs to overcome their own self-doubt, fear and hate. They couldn’t reach out and make that connection they desperately wanted without some chemical help, because they’d all been taught, throughout their childhoods, that being gay was bad. Seems like nothing much has changed for many people, in thirty years.

I was lucky, I pulled myself together and got out of all that. But before I started losing friends to AIDS, I’d already lost many to the bottle, barbiturates, the despairing razor blade across the wrists or the rope thrown over a tree branch. What saved me was getting involved in fighting for gay rights with the Gay Liberation Front, helping to start Britains first gay newspaper, Gay News.

Instead of blaming myself for the way I felt about being gay, I now put the blame where it properly belongs, on all the bigots and fools who want me to think I’m somehow less than human, undeserving of equality and respect, because I’m gay. Today of all days it seems appropriate to say, maintain the rage.

The battle against party drugs and drug-fuelled nights on the town, for many gay men, won’t be won by society coming down ever more heavily on the drug users themselves. It’ll be over when gays and lesbians are fully accepted – not tolerated but accepted – members of society. Till then there will always be those who think they need drugs to help them feel good about themselves – our job is to understand and help them through, keep them alive, not condemn them.