An exceedingly good experience at Volkspower

Sep 28, 2012

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

Sep 27, 2012

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

Queer Jewish Crisis

by: Michael Barnett

September 25, 2012 – Family, Religion – Tagged: , , 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.

Sep 24, 2012

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

Sep 21, 2012

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

Sep 21, 2012

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

Sep 20, 2012

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

Sep 18, 2012

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.

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