An exceedingly good experience at Volkspower

A trip to the garage to have a noise in my car fixed turned into an exceedingly good experience.

I had the best experience yesterday.

I was out driving when my car started making some concerning noises.  I pulled over, checked under the bonnet and quickly saw where the issue was.  However not knowing enough about the intricacies of the engine I felt an urgent trip to the trusty team of mechanics at Volkspower in Burwood was necessary.

A slipping clutch was making the noise.

I’d been a customer of theirs for a few years but I hadn’t taken my car to them for it’s most recent service.  I arrived there, parked and was walking to reception when one of the mechanics ran out of the garage at top speed and yelled in my direction “Maaate! Maaate! Congratulations! I saw you on TV!

I was a little taken aback, not expecting quite this level of fanfare on arrival.  It quickly dawned on me though that he was referring to my appearance on Adam Hills in Gordon St earlier in March.  I said “You’re talking about Adam Hills?”  He nodded affirmatively and said “I was watching and realised I knew the guy on the screen and wanted to tell you but hadn’t seen you in ages.

I was chuffed.  That made my day, despite having a problematic car to deal with.  Brett then disappeared back to the garage.

A fuse turned out to be the culprit.

The annoying noise turned out to be a slipping clutch on the air-conditioning.  Between Brett and (the very hunky) Ricky they found the underlying problem was due to a fuse in the battery controller block that dirty contacts.  This was preventing sufficient power delivery to the car.  Ricky replaced the fuse, plugged the car into his computer and found that everything was now working ok.  This very simple fix averted a potentially expensive repair.

Thanks to the great team at Volkspower for an exceedingly good experience.

Queer Jewish Crisis | The Stirrer

When is a crisis not a crisis?

Check out “Queer Jewish Crisis“, my first contribution on The Stirrer.

Queer Jewish Crisis

by: Michael Barnett

September 25, 2012 – FamilyReligion – Tagged: JewishKeshetsuicide – 3 comments

I recently attended a talk by Keshet Australia aimed at getting its message out to the Jewish community.  The local Keshet, based on its USA counterpart, advertises itself as “a Jewish GLBTIGQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, Intersex and Gender Queer) movement to better educate Australian Schools on how to educate a Jewish child on GLBTIGQ.”

At this talk a flyer was distributed, the opening paragraphs of which described a crisis of Queer[1] departure from the Jewish community and how Keshet is placed to address it.  As a seasoned activist this crisis was news to me, with my priorities centring on reduction of isolation, self-harm and suicide.

Legitimate crises in the local Jewish community include the state of aged care and the entrenched and chronic covering up of child sex-abuse.

Other community crises surround alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poverty, private school fees and intermarriage.  The cost of keeping kosher is even of concern to some.

Another almost ignored real crisis is the rate of self-harm and suicide in the Melbourne Jewish community.  Rough figures were published in 2011 claiming approximately two people a month attempt suicide or self-harm.  Taken together with the alarming rate of suicide amongst same-sex attracted people and this issue should be given elevated priority.

My experience of coming out as gay in the Jewish community was one of compassion at best and indifference at worst.  I was not strongly religiously observant, but I continued to attend an Orthodox synagogue for some years and my friends and family accepted me and continued to include me and connect with me as they had always done.  In fact, for a number of years after coming out my Jewish “identity” actually strengthened.

Individual experiences will no doubt differ to mine, depending on the attitudes of the person’s family, friends and religious community.

I have made a number of observations about what happens when people self-identify as other than heterosexual.  If their religious context is accepting, they will open up to their peers and live a full life merging their sexuality and their cultural context.  If their religious context is intolerant they will more than likely find a context to express their sexuality at a safe distance from their cultural community, keeping both alive but separate.  I have not yet experienced many who give up their entire religious community simply to allow unhindered sexual self-expression.

And so I challenge this perceived “crisis”.  I feel it is a phenomenon that is alarmist, unfounded and exaggerated.

If a person departs their Jewish identity due to peer intolerance when they “come out”, it may potentially induce a situational crisis for their friends and family due to a sense of confusion, bewilderment, loss and even grief.  But keeping a sense of perspective, these situations are not ubiquitous or universal.

There may be legitimate grounds for concern over people leaving the Jewish community but the reasons for this are potentially varied and complex.  One mid-20’s community-minded gay woman recently told me that her university and career choices took her away from much of the Jewish surrounds that she was immersed in during her secondary school years.

Disengagement from the Jewish community may occur for ideological reasons, lack of need for a connection, or prioritising a connection with a different community.  All reasons are legitimate.

People leaving the Jewish community is not a crisis or even a problem if they make these choices voluntarily, free from duress.

If a situation arises that drives many away from a community, the crisis should be identified as the underlying reason why people are leaving rather than the fact that people are leaving.  We invariably seek the path of least conflict.

As to Keshet’s claim on their flyer “We need to keep Jews, Jewish”, I disagree.  We need to keep people in the Jewish community happy and alive.

 [1] GLBTIQ / same-sex attracted / gender diverse, etc


You’re the best, Charlie Gleason.

Charlie Gleason is well dressed, frustrated and a cool champion for marriage equality. Check out his web sites.

Charlie Gleason is well dressed, frustrated and a cool champion for marriage equality.

Check out his web sites:

Colin Rubenstein, setting his Zionist agenda for the ABC

If Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council wishes to dictate to the ABC who they should not have on Q&A, perhaps he might like to relocate to somewhere like China, North Korea or Iran.

In this week’s Australian Jewish News the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said the ABC should not have invited Ilan Pappe to appear on Q&A:

“The decision by Q&A to frame a program around an individual whose single claim to notoriety is his defamation and demonisation of Israel – a longstanding advocate for Israel’s demise and a man repeatedly caught misusing historical sources to push his openly declared ideological vendetta – is an extraordinary example of contempt for the intelligence of viewers,” Rubenstein said.

I’d like to put it to Colin Rubenstein, and those who concur with his point of view, that the viewers of the ABC, myself included, are intelligent enough to make our own minds up as to whether the ABC should have invited Ilan Pappe to appear on their show and that we don’t need pro-Zionist moral guardians to make our minds up for us.

If Colin Rubenstein wishes to censor the ABC he can take himself off to somewhere like China, North Korea or Iran and open his own state media outlet and not invite Ilan Pappe, over there.  In the meantime, in Australia, he should respect the independence of the ABC and the intelligence of its viewers.

Michael Danby, supporting Jews over Gays

Michael Danby calls out Q&A as being anti-Jewish but won’t call out his political party, the ALP, as being anti-gay.

Michael Danby is the Federal MP for Melbourne Ports, an electorate that has sizeable Jewish and gay populations.  He has taken a swing at ABC’s Q&A for hosting a show with Israeli content on the Jewish New Year, at a time when many in the Jewish community chose not to watch television due to religious observance.

Tony Jones, the host of Q&A, explained to that segment of Australia’s population that Q&A focusing half of its program on Monday night on Israel was because he could not get his guest Mr Pappe other than that night. Irving Wallach did a brave job on the program. But I question Mr Jones; the ABC managing director, Mark Scott; and indeed the new chairman, Jim Spigelman. This was a studied insult. Having an academically undistinguished extremist on Rosh Hashana is like having someone from Hizb ut-Tahrir advocate the abolition of Christianity and Australia on Christmas Eve.

At the same time Danby is a member of a political party that is led by the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, who believes gay people should not have equal rights before the law.  He also has colleagues, including the leader, who actively voted against the rights of gay people this week.  Conveniently, Danby was absent during the vote.

I have yet to see a single word of support from Michael Danby for marriage equality, despite him being apparently supportive of it.  Further, I have yet to see a statement showing Michael Danby’s outrage at the lack of support from his political colleagues for voting against their party platform.

20120921 Michael Danby on Marriage Equality
Australian Marriage Equality – Where Your MP Stands: Michael Danby

Michael Danby.  Put up or shut up, but don’t have it both ways.

Blow Up The Homophobes

Senator Nick Xenophon’s support for marriage equality was one glimmer of hope in two days of depressing federal politics.

Two days ago I wrote a letter to Senator Nick Xenophon asking him to vote in support of the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012.  Yesterday Senator Xenophon announced his support for the bill and today he voted in support of it.

In a rather bleak two days where two Federal Marriage Equality bills were voted down, Senator Xenophon’s support of marriage equality was one glimmer of hope and sunshine.  Thank you Nick Xenophon.

A letter to Nick Xenophon

A letter to Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, asking for him to support marriage equality.

From: Michael Barnett <>
Date: 18 September 2012 01:20
Subject: A letter about helping families
To: Senator Nick Xenophon <>

Dear Senator Xenophon,

It was in the late 1990’s that I discovered an Australian band called the Whitlams.  It didn’t take very long before I was hooked on their music.

In many ways I found something special in each of their songs.  They all had a different story to tell.  A different part of someone’s life.  Sometimes happy, sometimes not.

And so it was that Tim Freedman wrote “Blow up the pokies”.  Yes, you probably know it well.  “There was the stage, two red lights and a dodgy P.A.”  And so the tune goes.

That song moved a nation.  It’s sad, it’s poignant, and it laments the loss of a friend, someone dear, at a time in their life when they were out of control.  Without knowing Tim’s friend Andy I can’t say why he took his life, but we do know it was because of his gambling.

And so I come to you, a passionate advocate for poker machine reform.  You know that this form of gambling ruins peoples lives, destroys families, drives people to the depths of despair, and sometimes even as far as suicide.  I sense there is a deep compassion within you that wants to turn around the hurt, turn around the disease and put the victims back on a better path, where they can live happier and healthier lives.

It’s because of this care for the community and your personal integrity that I am writing to you, Senator Xenophon.

There’s another sickness in society that is similarly taking people’s lives.  I don’t have the figures to show you this minute but the problem is significant.  Youth suicide is a serious problem around the country, especially in rural and regional areas.  One of the more vulnerable or at-risk groups are same-sex attracted youth.  Recent research has shown that these young kids attempt suicide at rates of 3.5 to 14 times higher than their heterosexual peers.

Marginalisation of same-sex attracted youth – kids who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual – especially when they are in small communities, and when exacerbated by strong and intolerant religious ideology, is a recipe for disaster.  The rates of mental health issues, self harm and suicide that these vulnerable youth experience is alarming.

It’s when society sends a message that the relationships these people get into are taboo, sinful or simply inferior that it can drive home feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing.  These feelings contribute to poorer mental health outcomes and possibly self-harm.

I come to you asking you to draw from the concern you have for the victims and families of poker machine addition and carry that over to the victims of attitudes intolerant of diverse sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  I ask you to think about the devastatingly high rates of suicide that these misunderstood people experience.

The difference you can make to these people’s lives, a positive and powerful difference, is by endorsing their relationships, endorsing the love and commitment they want to share with that someone special and affirm to the rest of the nation that they are equal in every way to those people who are attracted to the opposite sex.

In particular, the most expedient and effective way you can help turn around this devastation and destruction is by putting your name to marriage equality.  You will be telling every young person who is struggling with their sexuality or their gender identity that they can love another person, and be in a relationship with them and not need to be concerned about the gender of their partner.

There is a wealth of credible evidence on the harmful outcomes of this intolerance.  You can view the Doctors 4 Equality web site if you want to research this any further.

The power to help make this difference for our community lies in your hands.  It’s a big responsibility and if used properly has the potential to save many lives and restore happiness to many families.

Please contact me if you wish to discuss this any further.  I would also appreciate a personal reply to this letter.

Most sincerely,
Michael Barnett.

A letter to Joe Hockey

A letter to Joe Hockey asking him to hold true to his values and support marriage equality.

From: Michael Barnett <>
Date: 14 September 2012 01:18
Subject: A letter on an important issue, for your consideration
To: Joe Hockey MP <>

Dear Mr Hockey,

Please find attached a letter for your consideration.

I hope you have the time to afford a frank, personal and most importantly considered response.

Michael Barnett.

September 14, 2012

Dear Mr Hockey,

Sixteen years ago this week, on a Tuesday afternoon in Canberra you delivered your first speech to the house.  Please allow me to take you back to that day.

You spoke of wanting to make a difference:

I am in Canberra today because I want to make a contribution to the future of Australia.

You told us about your connection to the ANZACs who fought in Beersheba.  You spoke of a country with a proud heritage and a strong connection to this past, and of leadership:

Our leader, General Harry Chauvel … had no choice but to infuse these young men with the belief that the future of the free world lay in their hands.

You told us why they were fighting, what it was they were putting their lives at risk for:

Their charge was more than courage. It was more than defiance against oppression. It was an act of pure faith in the future—and perhaps our finest illustration of that quality that we call the Australian spirit.

You quoted former Australian Prime Minister, George Reid on respect and vision:

There is no country in the world where the people are less paralysed by reverence to the past. There are no people in the world who have fewer fears for the future.

You pondered the connection between the ANZACs and those yet to be born Australian, and told us of the eternal nature of the spirit these brave men upheld:

One might ask what relevance that charge on Beersheba has on the Australians of today. I feel proud to be able to stand here and tell you that its spirit can still be touched by every Australian. I feel proud to think that future generations can have that same defiant spirit surging through their veins.

We heard you tell us never to give up, never to accept second best:

In many ways, Beersheba defines what it is like to be an Australian. To believe in yourself, to believe in the seemingly insurmountable, and to challenge the future.

You spoke of the uncertainty of the future, of changing attitudes and changing values:

Mr Acting Speaker, that future is all around us. The new millennium is approaching at a blinding pace and change is occurring exponentially. I suppose it is understandable for many that this change might be accompanied by growing uncertainty and angst. After all, family life is under increasing social pressure. Long accepted practices and traditions are constantly being questioned.

And then you spoke of the ideology you brought to public office, the ideology you believed would offer a way forward:

Perhaps many of us have forgotten the lesson of Beersheba. That is why I come to this parliament with the inherent belief that the answers to the challenges of the future lie in modern liberalism.

And told us of the values most important to you:

In an age where closely held beliefs and political ideology are frequently scoffed at, I wish to place on record the principles of modern liberalism that I hold dear. These include, firstly, the recognition of the inalienable rights of the individual; secondly, a belief in parliamentary democracy; thirdly, a commitment to improve our society through reform; and, finally, equality of opportunity for all of our citizens.

We heard about the formalisation of individual rights and the government’s place in securing this:

The first principle which recognises the rights of the individual was expressed in 1689 by the father of liberalism, John Locke. He wrote that the very substance of government should be the protection of individual rights, including specifically the rights of life, liberty and property.

And about social justice, liberty, disadvantage and giving a voice to those who were without one:

Despite the work of liberal and social philosophers such as Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Jean Jacques Rousseau, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the concept of social justice was introduced by John Dewey. He wrote that liberty is that secure release and fulfilment of personal potentialities which take place only in wide and manifold association with others. As part of the privilege of enjoying our individual rights, we have an obligation to protect and enhance our community. That includes helping the disadvantaged, caring for the sick, speaking for the voiceless and protecting the weak.

Then you told us about “new and improved”:

The third principle of modern liberalism is our belief in reform. Liberalism has traditionally steered a course between the extremism of the far Left and the reactionary conservatism of the far Right. Liberalism is most comfortable when it is developing new ideas and setting new goals.

And how important equality was to you:

The final finger on the hand of modern liberalism is the classic doctrine of equality of opportunity.

You spoke of your disdain for discrimination, of wanting to ensure future generations were free from it and of how this is a fundamental principle of the Liberal Party:

We cannot afford in our modern and complicated world to tie the hands of our children before they are born, because discrimination from the cradle will lead to discrimination until the grave. Equality of opportunity is a part of modern liberalism that will be most aggressively defended by my Liberal Party. It is the reason why so many of my colleagues in the class of 1996 are here from all parts of Australia. That is what I believe in; that is modern liberalism.

We heard of opportunity, human dignity and how important it was for you to involve your electorate in your journey:

A true Liberal was described by Sir John Carrick in 1967 as someone who was always concerned about the welfare of the individual, for the creation of opportunities, for the preservation of human dignity and the development of human personality. I have no doubt that these modern Liberal principles will benefit all Australians in the days ahead. Most particularly, I want to ensure that the electorate of North Sydney has a prominent role in defining that future.

You spoke of impediments to equality by way of the struggle for women’s rights:

One of these challenges is in the way our community continues to treat women. We should abandon the politically correct platitudes about equality, and honestly acknowledge that there remain entrenched societal and institutional impediments to women’s equal and active participation in either or both the home or work communities.

You spoke of generosity:

The Jesuits have taught me the value of community service and the spirit of giving.

And intellectual rigour:

And my friends and legal colleagues at Corrs Chambers Westgarth have taught me the lessons of professionalism, intellectual discipline and sheer hard work.

You spoke from the heart about your values, and those of Australians past, and their sacrifices, and their spirit:

Over the days of my career I am sure that the principles I hold dear—such as integrity, honesty and loyalty—will at times be sorely tested. But, at those times, I will recall the deeds of the men of Beersheba. I will recall their courage and their fortitude. I will recall the sacrifices that they made for our nation. And I will recall that great Australian fighting spirit.

And in closing you told us of your desire to do the best for all Australians:

Together with the support and encouragement of my colleagues and the inspiration and direction of modern liberalism, we will all begin our journey. We will charge our Beershebas and we will rebuild them—and this we will do for our children and for the generations of Australians ahead.

Mr Hockey, the values and vision you brought to office on September 10, 1996 were exemplary.

In having just relived your afternoon 16 years ago I now ask you to consider your position on marriage equality.  Please keep reading.

Last December you said:

JOURNALIST: Do you support same sex marriage?


JOURNALIST: So if there was a conscience vote you would be voting against it?


JOURNALIST: What are the reasons behind your thinking on that?

JOE HOCKEY: I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman.

You are entitled to your beliefs, but Mr Hockey, in light of what you said in your maiden speech, about your grandfather who fought in Beersheeba alongside the other ANZACs, fighting for a free Australia, how can you justify this position?

You told us about Australia being a place of opportunity for all citizens, of having new ideas, of vision, of equality, of human dignity and of fighting oppression.

You spoke of the need for a defiant spirit, of reform, an opportunity for all of our citizens, for protection of individual rights and challenging the future.

You invoked the sacred legend of the ANZAC.  You related their sacrifices and spoke of their spirit.

You spoke of questioning long accepted practices and traditions.

You spoke of the obligation to protect the community.  Denying those who are not attracted to the opposite sex the same rights as everyone else further entrenches the belief that we are less worthy.  This attitude has been proven to contribute to worse mental health and welfare outcomes for us.  How is your position on marriage protecting the community in light of this?

Mr Hockey, I ask you how you can stand up before the people of North Sydney, of whom in 2010 69% were not opposed to marriage equality (49% “in favour”, 31% “against”, 20% “don’t care”) and say that you are representing their interests.

How can you honour the ANZAC legend when you uphold the removal of individual rights, liberty and equality?

Mr Hockey, I implore you to rethink your position on marriage equality.  When you stand up as a representative before the people of North Sydney, and the people of Australia, and in the absence of intellectual rigour you subscribe to a position that is against the majority of your electorate and against every value you hold dear, you are not only just betraying yourself but you are betraying the values of the Liberal Party and the values of the entire nation, and in the worst possible way.

Mr Hockey, be generous.  Support marriage equality.

Michael Barnett.

AJAX Football Club must say “No to Homophobia”

I have invited AJAX Football Club to join the “No to Homophobia” campaign.

From: Michael Barnett <>
Date: 9 September 2012 10:09
Subject: Asking for AJAX Football Club to support AFL’s “No to Homophobia” campaign
To: Ian Fayman <>, Ronnie Lewis <>, Mark Feldy <>, Peter Kagan <>, Michael Sojka <>, Bernie Sheehy <>, Darren Seidl <>, Gary Blusztein <>, Gary Blieden <>, John Rochman <>, Adam Slade-Jacobson <>
Cc: Jason Ball <>, Rob Mitchell <>

Dear AJAX Football Club,

I am writing to ask for your club to support “No to Homophobia”.  Please read this story in The Age and consider distributing it, along with the associated petition, to the members of your club.

Story: ‘I didn’t know any footballers who were gay’
Petition: I’ve experienced homophobia in Aussie Rules Football first hand — now it’s time to end it.

In addition, please consider issuing a statement of support from the AJAX Football Club.  It would send a strong message and support your clubs aims:

Ajax will assist in the development and improvement of its members, not only by requiring and facilitating the highest standard of physical fitness and skills associated with Australian Rules Football-but also general aspects of life and community to further their careers.

AJAX shall strive to achieve the most successful onfield team performances at all levels whilst maintaining its unique Jewish identity.

I have copied Jason Ball on this email.  He would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.  Additionally I have included Rob Mitchell, who has a close connection to the AFL and takes a keen interest in these matters.

Lastly, I’d like you to read this blog I wrote after meeting Olympian Daniel Kowaslki:

I urge you to bring this matter up with Maccabi Victoria at your earliest convenience, as it is in the best interests of the welfare of all members of AJAX FC and Maccabi Victoria.

Michael Barnett.