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Racism in Australia: Taxi driver refuses singer

Multi-award winning blind Indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu has been refused a cab on the basis of the colour of his skin, according to his managers.

Gurrumul was leaving The Palais in St Kilda on Tuesday night after performing with Missy Higgins when the incident occurred.

When the taxi driver saw them, he said, ‘Oh no, don’t worry about it mate,’ and just drove off. 

He was making his way out of the venue after the concert with his partner, Bronwyn, and the help of security staff while his co-manager, Mark Grose, went to hail him a cab.

Musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.Musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.

Grose said he hailed a cab out the front of the Palais and asked Gurrumul’s co-manager and double-bass player, Michael Hohnen, to wait with the cab outside until Gurrumul exited the building.

“When the taxi driver saw them, he said, ‘Oh no, don’t worry about it mate,’ and just drove off,” says Hohnen. Hohnen says that the cab had not been told of their intended destination and therefore would not have refused the fare on that basis.

“I was half way between the building and the cab just imploring the cab driver to wait a second,” says Hohnen, who is reluctant to describe the taxi driver, other than to say he looked about 45 years old.

“I think that just sort of draws negative elements into the whole story,” he says. “All I know is that he saw Gurrumul and Bronwyn come outthe door and said, ‘Nup, I’m not taking them.'”

Grose told ABC radio this morning that the driver was subcontinental in appearance.

Hohnen angrily yelled after the cab as it drove off, but did not tell Gurrumul that he thought the driver’s reaction had been motivated by racism.

“I said it just drove off. He and Bronwyn were laughing at me because he never hears me yell.”

It was a bitter end to what had been a great night, Hohnen said.

“Missy Higgins had tweeted that the song she’d performed with Gurrumul was a career highlight, and we were all on a high and then we come out and this happens.”

He says it’s not the first time it’s happened. “We work with a lot of Aboriginal artists and you see it happening all the time.”

An incensed Grose called the ABC this morning to report the incident, which is earning Gurrumul sympathy and support on Twitter and Facebook.

Gurrumul himself is yet to comment. “He would have heard about it by now, I’m sure,” says Hohnen. “He doesn’t really express a lot, he’ll process it for a while I’d say. He’ll probably watch how everyone else reacts before he makes up his mind.”

The Victorian Taxi Directorate is investigating the claims, but spokesman Steve Bright says it will be “very difficult” to track down the driver without a taxi number or license plate.

“Otherwise it’s just one of 6000 taxis on the street,” he said.

If caught, the driver could be charged $305 for a first offence, said Mr Bright.

“Depending on the seriousness, the accreditation may be reviewed, he may get a warning, he may get his accreditation suspended, or even cancelled entirely.”

Mr Bright said the directorate gets about 300 to 400 fare refusal complaints a year, but that “zero” complaints in the past year have been made on the basis of race.

Anyone with any information on the incident is encourage to call the VDT complaints line on 1800 638 802.


Carbongeddon, Clean Energy and an Electric God

Tomorrow the World will end! Australia is putting a price on the carbon contained in hydrocarbon fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas.  $23 a tonne of emissions on 294 organisations that emit 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or the equivalent in greenhouse gases. And if you believe Tony Abbott that means Carbongeddon will destroy Australia and probably be the end of the world. Town’s like Whyalla are believe to be the first to sink beneath the earth with the rest of us to follow.

All class is our Tony….

But I don’t believe Tony Abbott, I find him to be a man of limited ideas, fewer policies and a desire to wreck the place if he can’t run it. I think both you and I will wake up just fine tomorrow and go about our regular Sunday routine. With the added plus of knowing Australia has taken a bold step in reducing pollution and doing our part in protecting the planet. I will leave the economics to those far more qualified (I struggle to even get my taxes right) and leave the politics to the politicians.

The goals of the Government are these – Firstly, the establishment of a carbon price. Secondly, support for renewable energy. Thirdly, to support improvements in energy efficiency. And fourthly, to store carbon through changed land-use practices.

The second and the third of these are to me the most exciting, it fires in my belly something we can all relate to and promote the one thing that is guaranteed to create jobs and build a sustainable economy. Innovation!

Aussies are an innovative bunch by nature, from the Hills Hoist to the Victa Lawn Mower we have found ways to do things in a more efficient way. But we also do it in our every day lives, from the Ancient Indigenous Axe head recently found that was over 35000 years old shaped from a simple stone to the coat hanger aerial in the shape of our nation we find a way to solve our daily problems by thinking outside the square and having a little fun with it too.

In May 2006, 10% of the Bega Valley Shire turned up on Tathra Beach to form a human sign. I was in the O.

Transport is obviously a key area that must be addressed in reducing pollution and finding more energy efficient ways of moving around. From Gas to the newer Hybrid vehicles like the Australian built Camry or the world renowned Hipster car the Prius technology for moving around has become greener and cleaner.

But for many these cars are boring, they still use petrol (at a lesser rate than a conventional vehicle) and thus don’t really solve the long term problem. Hydrogen is an exciting prospect but the technology is still in its relative infancy before it could be mass produced, although in the long term it is one of the best solutions. Electric vehicles are another excellent alternative as they offer the chance to reduce running emissions to virtually nil when charged by renewable power such as Solar, Wind, Wave etc.

But what if I told you about the potential for a vehicle that NEVER needed to be recharged or refueled, no gas, no petrol, no emissions and no pollution at all. And to further sweeten the deal this was no boring vehicle with all the sex appeal of a Dunlop Volley, this was a race machine, that looked amazing and left most vehicles in its… well sheer lack of smoke!

Meet the future, the Mugen Shinden – The Electric God!

The Mugen Shinden (Electric God) is a vehicle with such a potential. Mugen a Japanese company founded by the son of Mr Honda of automotive fame is known for its innovation and now with the Shinden they have entered the clean energy future. This particular bike was raced at this years Isle of Man TT in the electric bike race and took a close second with TT legend John McGuiness on board. Lapping the famous mountain course at an average speed of 160km/h this is not for the faint hearted. But what makes this bike different to the winner of the race and other electric bikes is its ability to recharge its batteries on the go. So how does it do it, mobile fuelling station, Jerry can strapped to the back of the rider? No the Shinden captures the energy created when braking and then regenerates it into usable power to top up the batteries. While far more powerful and complicated, think of it as you would your car’s alternator charging up your battery. Imagine if you only filled up your tank as often as you replaced your battery!

Producing 120hp and a huge amount of torque as soon as the throttle is cracked this engine could power small and medium cars and as Mugen engineers told me during the week of the TT the engine is only working at 40% of its potential. All they have to do is turn the dial and this 200kg motorcycle could be pushing out the sort of power your average HSV V8 owner is more than proud of, with far more torque.

The power regeneration system is still being developed and as a race bike it was only designed to cover 60km. But when you reach speeds close to 300km/h economy was not the aim of the day. What makes this even more remarkable is that the regeneration system is less than 6 months old. Mugen Engineers hope by next year to double the distance the bike is capable of and halve the weight. In a commuter application the technology could carry a rider across Australia without the need for either a fueling stop or an exhaust pipe.

The potential is not just there, it is becoming a reality. Cars and Bikes that you and I could own that would have you waving to the Service Station attendant as you drive on past, only needing to replace the battery once or twice in the life of the vehicle and NEVER having to charge it. Imagine now if an Australian company making vast wealth from the mining boom & especially ones paying the Carbon Price decided to offset this by investing in such technology. So instead of waiting on the German’s or Japanese we were building such vehicles for everyone right here in Australia. Thousands of jobs, a strong/diverse economy, drastically reduced emissions even when accounting for the manufacturing process and a product to export to the rest of the world.

I don’t see the Carbon Price as the looming Carbongeddon that Abbott does, because unlike Tony I believe in Australia’s ability to innovate like we have done a million times before. Tomorrow we don’t wake up to a wiped out Whyalla, we wake up to a new dawn of both a cleaner environment and an exciting future. Bring it on!

Racism in Australia, it still exists!

No words required.

The Truth on #AsylumSeeker Numbers!

Gay Men Have Been Going At Things Backwards – #MarriageEquality

For all the advancement we have made in a 2011 Australian society it seems strange that marriage equality remains a debate we need to have at a national level. The ruling ALP will go to their national convention with the issue a major talking point and I can only help but feel it is not the message that is the problem, but the way it’s been delivered.

For decades the LGBT community have rightly pointed out that their rights have been infringed. Across many areas of law they have been treated as lesser citizens and as couples denied rights available to everyone else. Now comes one of the final hurdles, the right to marry just the same way as a heterosexual couple. But we all know the issue, the arguments and that it’s absurd in this day and age a citizen of a “first world country” is still discriminated against based on their sexuality.

So perhaps the message is just not being tailored in a way that makes sense to those who oppose. While we should never have to convince persecutors of basic human rights, the reality of the real world is that we do. Given that most of those who oppose marriage equality do so on the basis of religion it is time some of the argument was tailored to meet their needs. And what exactly is religions problem with same-sex marriage? Is it that some weddings might no longer be conducted in the Church, Temple or Mosque? No, that ship has long since sailed with people choosing all manner of wedding locations and celebrants. The real problem you ask? They are worried it just might encourage more people to have sex in the naughty place. And no I don’t mean parked in some dark lane on the rear seat of mum’s car.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the way we have used sodomy laws to effectively outlaw much of sexual activity between gay men. Currently the age of consent is 2 years higher for anal sex in Queensland and it was outlawed entirely in Tasmania until 1997. Many countries that actively persecute the LGBT community do so not by outlawing anything but the acts of sodomy or “adultery” for women, which in many cases by the way includes making being raped a crime. If you really “have” to be gay they’d rather you just abstain and live a miserable life. Is that the sort of thing we wish to sign up to, aligning ourselves morally with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Al-Shabab controlled parts of Somalia? Of course this all goes back to the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which God apparently destroyed because the folk there were doing it, sodomy that is. You see in 2011 Australia the only kind of discrimination we really advocate and embrace is the religious based kind or against the first Australians. Forget that Jesus himself never uttered a word about homosexuality, but a religious organisation with its tax exempt status can call you every name under the sun and lobby politicians, often with great success against common sense.

If the ALP Government fail to pass Marriage Equality legislation then the LGBT community need to become a religion. Cloaked behind that religious veil you can practice and preach almost anything you like. Evangelical pastor Danny Nalliah preached that the Victorian bushfires were caused by the states abortion laws and the Queensland floods were a result of questioning Israel on Human Rights. Say that as any ordinary citizen and you better run for the hills, say it with religious tax exemption and you can print flyers with it on to raise money and increase your following. What about Scientology with accusations of abuse, slavery and cult like behaviour you’d think the Government would pull their support via tax exemption, but no  “75 million years ago Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling DC-8” and while you can’t marry the person you love they can raise money to preach that without paying a cent in tax on the profits.

But it is unlikely that Pastor Danny or Tom Cruise will make an appearance at the ALP convention, the push back (excuse the pun) will come from the right-wing of the ALP. Perhaps before entering the conference they need to be reminded that the ALP is supposed to be a left of centre party of the working class. But for many in that faction their direction will come from their belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Given the scandals involving the church in the last few decades you’d think they’d avoid issues of “sexual deviancy” as they see it. The same might be said of politicians who themselves have been caught up in rape trials, spousal abuse and corruption. But no, along with the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) they are the chief opponents of Marriage Equality. Visit the ACL website and you will find they are running three campaigns. Tackling poverty perhaps, supporting Asylum Seekers, feeding the homeless? No, the far more pressing issues to them are Gay marriage, Gay Adoption and Prostitution. What did I say about the naughty place! Much of the Christian model on such things is broken anyway. A study of US teenagers who took part in a Christian run Abstinence program found that while some did abstain, compared to their class mates who didn’t take the pledge, “abstainers” were 6 times more likely to perform oral sex and 4 times more likely…, anal!

To get the issue passed Gay men need to form a Nunnery of Two! It is the only way to send a message the ACL and others will understand. Anal Sex is no longer sodomy, it is a religious duty performed by two followers of the new religion. They may not agree with it, but they will support your right to perform it. Take Holy Communion, you eat the wafer to represent the Body of Christ and drink the wine to symbolise his blood. Now outside of an organised religion this may appear to be some kind of build up to Canabalism, but inside the Church it’s an important part of remembering Christ. And good luck to them, they aren’t hurting anyone, it brings them closer to their God and is important to them. But just as I would defend their right to perform such an act I cannot look the other way while they involve themselves with the denying rights to another.

This is not an attack on religion, this is an attempt to explain just how absurd it is that in 2011 two adults who love each other cannot stand in front of their friends and family and promise to spend the rest of their lives together. Shot gun weddings, Child brides and Kim Kardashian devalue marriage. Two folks in dresses holding hands at the altar is just another day at a Scottish Wedding. Whether that be two men, two women or a man and woman should only depend on them both being consenting adults. The rest is no business of the Government, the Church or Xenu from out of space.

So why as a heterosexual male do I care when might rights are firmly intact? Because as a human rights advocate it is my job to ensure you get that right and I don’t want to live in a country that allows me to do things my friends can’t just because of who they are. Marriage equality is about the right to love, it really is that simple! The ALP and all parties must vote not just with their conscience, but with rights and respect for all in their minds. The naughty place is not sodomy, the naughty place is a parliament that continues to discriminate!

To Violence against Women & Children, does Australia say No?

In recent years there have been increased campaigns and awareness of the issues of Domestic violence and child abuse, yet the horror stories continue.

If you were able to sit through the entire episode of the recent 4 Corners on the abuse of disabled children you would have seen one of the most pressing issues we must tackle. But flipping open the papers the following day it was clear that Australia does not take seriously enough the issue of abuse and violence against the vulnerable. The ABC show chronicled the  shocking story of sexual abuse of intellectually disabled children attending a Catholic school in Adelaide and the way it was covered up.

Domestic Violence and the sexual abuse of women and children is not a new issue to anyone, but perhaps this exposure of the horrific assaults on disabled children highlights more than ever the need to tackle this issue. People much wiser than I have written about the issue for decades, campaigns have been waged, community workers battled and some funding allocated. But the inroads into the issue are simply not good enough for what is an epidemic size problem. Of the figures on child abuse that all Australians should find the most alarming. It is widely believed that before they are 18 years old 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused. Think about those figures for a moment…

To understand them more easily imagine a typical Australian classroom of ten year olds in year 4. In that classroom of between 20 and 25 children, 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18; if they haven’t already. We would not tolerate a situation where we look at a classroom of kids and accept that 5 of them will die of cancer before 18, or 5 of them will be killed in motor vehicle accidents or 5 of them would die from a preventable disease such as Malaria. We have tackled these problems either wiping them out in the case of preventable diseases, increasing survival rates for cancer and educating about driver safety. We did all of these things when as horrible as they are none of those problems ever reached the level that child abuse is at.

This is a National disgrace, a failure of leadership and an all to eager approach of sweeping things under the carpet and failing the victims and the support workers and organisations. Victims of child sexual abuse are NEVER responsible for the suffering they endure. But if we are to accept, and we do, that these figures are accurate then more alarming is the number of abusers that exist in our community. We have been quick to point the finger at Indigenous Australian’s and took the bizarre step of sending the Army into the Northern Territory. We have often marginalised minority groups as oppressing their women or having a culture where it is inherent. But there is a truth we must admit as all Australian’s, we have a national crisis in child protection and we have failed past and present generations. If we do not act decisively now then we will be failing the future generations whose protection we hold right now in our own hands.

Faced with figures of 1/4 of all Australian girls and 1/6 of boys I will not accept that the War in Iraq, the childish approach to the asylum seeker debate or even the economy are more important issues than the protection of children. Yet those issues are front page on a daily basis, they attract billions of dollars in funding and are part of every election campaign. When has a politician ever gone to an election with child protection and well being even in their top five policies? It just doesn’t happen. If children were voting do you believe this would be the case?

But children can’t vote, so we must take the responsibility as adults, as parents and citizens of our National community to speak out and act on their behalf. Figures show that of the female children abused under the age of 18, 92% of the perpetrators will be men. The figure is only moderately lower for boys and generally when a female is involved they are accompanied by a male perpetrator as well. Meanwhile the support industry and community sector that help run women’s shelters, domestic violence support, family support and other key services are dominated by female workers.

It is NOT a generalisation to say the problem is not women and children, its men! The figures clearly back it up and it is time we, the men of modern Australia take a stand on this most important of issues. We are the first to beat our chest and say we’d deal with a child abuser, we write letters to editors about how we’d love just five minutes in a dark alley with a paedophile and we tend to think pretty dimly of those who raise their hand to their partner. But what are we actually doing about it? The problem isn’t getting better and it wont on its own.

It is time for a national dialogue on domestic and sexual violence, particularly among men. It is unacceptable that we continue to allow the children, in particularly of our society be victims to such abuse and stand idly by and do nothing. This is not about being a vigilante and confronting with bare knuckles the first man you suspect of being an abuser. This is about opening the door so the conversations can take place, so the support can be provided and so we get this issue on the political map.

Our first step must be the ability to speak openly and honestly within our circle of friends that abuse of any kind is unacceptable, criminal and should be reported to the police and community services. We need to create a culture of fathers, uncles, older friends, sports coaches and others speaking together and with children that they don’t have to suffer this crime. We need to drop the attitude that any woman or child ever “deserves it”. Nobody deserves to be abused, no court in the land would accept such a view and it is morally reprehensible.

The toll of abuse on our community is immeasurable, many victims suffer a life time of mental anguish and illness, drug dependency, such low levels of self-esteem that the abuse continues into adulthood or sadly become abusers themselves. This is a vicious cycle, a snow ball gathering pace and with it the number of victims. It is time to push back and we must begin the conversation now, man to man about what WE are going to do about this issue.

Men my challenge to you is this, speak about this issue not just with your female friends but with your male friends. Make it a priority that you become a facilitator to addressing this issue and not a silent witness. As you read this piece a child, many children and women are being abused in our country. The question is, are you going to speak about it so that tomorrow can be a better day for us all? You are not less of a man to think and speak out against abuse, it isn’t a “female” issue to be left to women’s groups. This is about men pulling their weight and understanding they have a vital role in protecting our society, not with violence, but by opposing it!

What to do with a bad parent?

What sort of parent you ask? What sort of parent sends their child to an unknown country, unaccompanied, to a life in a detention centre. A life without rights, a life without education and a life with no future. It’s hard to watch and it is even harder to know what to do. When it’s the bad parent across the road from home we can talk to the neighbours, say something to the teacher at school and when things really get bad make that annoymous call to the police or community services.

But this is different, who do you call on this bad parent? Who do you call when you know a child is going to live behind razor wire, witness acts of self harm and suicide and potentially face sexual assault. Who do you call when the bad parent is the Immigration minister of Australia Chris Bowen and the child is a refugee?

Under Australian law those children who arrive in Australia unaccompanied, by plane or boat, are placed under the guardianship of the Immigration Minister of the day. Guardian’s just like parents (who are the legal guardian of their children) have a responsibility to the personal and property well being of a child. The law does this because as a society we believe children are incapable because of their age to do so for themselves and understand the need for children to be cared for in a proper and appropriate manner.

Today we learn Chris Bowen has become the guardian for 14 new children who have arrived in Australia by boat. They are unaccompanied, they aren’t with their parents and they have nothing at all. So how will he care for them and protect their interests?

This is where we are sending children, on their own!

They’ll be herded onto a plane by the AFP and sent to a detention centre in Malaysia where they will have no rights to work, access to education facilities most inner suburbs people wouldn’t send their dog and face an uncertain future. These children will have most likely lost their parents to war, famine or disease. They will have witnessed things that are unspeakable and that would have you or I in therapy and reaching for the Xanax by the hour. And now their new parent, their new guardian, Chris Bowen will not assist these vulnerable children rebuild their lives, but send them to a third world country where their life will almost certainly be ruined beyond repair.

For unaccompanied children  there is an extra danger in Malaysia. It isn’t the malnutrition, it’s not the lack of education or health facilities, it is not being locked behind razor wire or having no future. It is the prospect of being forced into the seedy  world of child exploitation, slavery and the sex trade. Malaysia acts as a hub for both the internal distribution of child sex slaves and also the exportation of children from Malaysia to countries both in Asia and Europe for the child sex trade. Children with no guardian, on their own, with no rights and nobody to protect them are easy targets for those who would trade in the most vulnerable of all commodities. What would you do if you knew a parent in your area was selling their daughter to men for sex?

It cannot in any way, shape or form be considered the responsible actions of a Guardian. It is not what a good parent would do and it goes against all the ethics and morals we hold so dear as a Nation. This is not a “fair go”, this is not what a first world democracy does with unaccompanied children. We are talking about lives, lives just as precious as any other child anywhere else on earth. Just as important as our own. What would you think about the trafficking of children into the sex trade being done by your Government, in your name? It is not just what you think, it is what will you do!

We urge you to contact the office of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and respectfully ask him NOT to send any unaccompanied children to Malaysia.

Tel: (02) 6277 7860


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