A decision to grant $5,000 to the V-Zone underage gay and lesbian Mardi Gras night party has caused a rift at South Sydney Council.

After council voted to give party organisers the money, councillor John Bush was interviewed by Philip Clark on 2GB.

Bush argued in council the V-Zone party (formerly the Velocity party, for gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer teenagers aged 13 to 17 years) was nothing more than a way of introducing school kids to the world of nightclubs and drugs.

And on 2GB he called the idea of the party stupid and a joke.

It’s not only plain stupid, but -¦ I really want ratepayers of these areas where this sort of funding is going to stand up and start objecting, he said.

We have acts of absolute wastefulness of ratepayers’ funds going towards things like a dance party, when we couldn’t even get them to spend the same money in putting that money to drought relief.

Clark agreed: It’s ridiculous, isn’t it. School kids, $5,000 worth of ratepayers’ money being given to a schoolchildren’s gay and lesbian dance party, for heaven’s sake. Whether or not the ratepayers of South Sydney should be supporting these sorts of activities for school kids, I very much doubt.

Deputy mayor Peter Furness has defended the decision, calling it a safe and responsible move.

This function provides a safe place for young people, after the parade, to celebrate and affirm the diversity of their emerging sexual identities, Furness said.

There’s a great need for this kind of event. It’s a safe environment for young gay people to meet. School-age, for want of a better term, people go to the parade, or go in the parade, and where do they go then? The only other responses I’ve heard to this decision have been positive.

V-Zone producer Charlotte Hodges defended both the party and the gay community against the suggestion of drug abuse.

He’s made the statement [on radio] that it’s basically encouraging people to enter the drug scene, she told the Star.

But it’s just not true -“ this is an alcohol-, drug- and smoking-free event and anyone who appears at all intoxicated will be told to leave, or not allowed in.

There’s a real misconception that people who do go to the parties all take drugs. But it’s not true. Just because we’re dancing for hours doesn’t mean we’re taking drugs.

Former mayor John Fowler also voted against giving the grant to party organisers.

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