Thursday, 23 June 2011

Homophobia and rape of lesbians in Africa places pressure on FIFA over Qatar

FIFA is proud of its record in addressing racism in football. The Say No to Racism and Fair Play campaigns have been publicised around the world. Despite this, a report in yesterday's New York Times has shown that homophobia is still rife, and FIFA has not progressed.

Lesbians routed from Nigerian World Cup squad

The NY Times article, In African Women’s Soccer, Homophobia Remains an Obstacle, reported on the entrenched anti-lesbian attitude of the Nigerian national coach, Eucharia Uche, who "used religion in an attempt to rid her team of homosexual behavior, which she termed a “dirty issue,” and “spiritually, morally very wrong.”".

Even more damning is the removal of players from the Nigerian team by former technical assistant for Nigeria, James Peters, who said he had "removed some players from Nigeria’s women’s team last year, “not because they were not good players, but because they were lesbians.”"

"Corrective rape" of lesbians is condoned in South Africa and Zimbabwe but the Chosen FEW are a shining light

The article reports that lesbians are beaten and raped in South African and Zimbabwe, as "corrective treatment". One particularly shocking example was the attack on Tumi Mkhuma, of Johannesburg's Chosen FEW, who was raped and left pregnant. "After losing her baby, she said she twice tried to kill herself.

The South African organisation, the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) was established in 2002 to support LBT rights. Their football team, the Chosen FEW, is comprised of 25 young black lesbian women from townships in and around Johannesburg, who are all activists for the rights of lesbian women in South Africa You can read more about this fabulous side and support the FEW here.

Shocking prevalence of corrective rape is placing pressure on FIFA

ESPN's E:60 program also investigated the issue of corrective rape in South Africa, and uncovered some shocking facts. 80% of South Africans believe homosexual sex is wrong, and they use this as an excuse to rape lesbians. Last year, a women's support group reported that there are 10 new cases of corrective rape each week in Cape Town alone.

Mvuleni Fana was raped in a stadium after
practice when she was 16 because she is a lesbian
The ESPN program (watch here) interviewed a number of inspiring, strong South African women who had been raped. But it is the story of Eudy Simelane which has attracted most notoriety. Eudy was 31 years old, a former national player, a respected coach and openly gay. She was gang-raped, and stabbed to death. Her friend is of no doubt that the crime was committed because she was a lesbian. And the chilling interviews with young men who said such things as "Lesbians get raped because men want to correct them and put them in the correct direction" leaves you in no doubt that Eudy's rape and killing were deliberate and homophobic.

Within this context, there were calls for FIFA to use the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to make a similar stand against homophobia as it has against racism. The Women's World Cup starting in Germany this week is being used as another opportunity to press this case.

But FIFA - what will you do about Qatar?

With this pressure starting to build on FIFA, President Sepp Blatter has been asked to justify why Qatar would be awarded the 2022 World Cup when same-sex relations carries a 5 year jail penalty. On one hand, his response was encouraging:

“It’s another culture and another religion, but in football we have no boundaries. We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings, being on this side or that side, left or right or whatever. Football is a game that does not affect any discrimination. You may be assured … if people want to watch a match in Qatar in 2022, they will be admitted to matches.”

But, on the other hand, when he was asked what gays should do to avoid being sent to prison, he replied:
"They should refrain from any sexual activities.”

Surely President Blatter, if there is no discrimination, all people should be allowed to have sex after a great match they have watched at the World Cup - gay or straight

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Monday, 20 June 2011

Greek crisis reminds us to keep a steady ship

The crisis confronting Greece at present is a salient reminder that our country's central bank and government must do whatever is necessary to keep the economy on an even keel, over each economic cycle.

Last week, the governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, gave a speech to the Economic Society of Australia in Brisbane.  He made the important point that - although some parts of the economy had some slack, overall, the Australian economy is very strong.  As a result, monetary policy will be set to meet the needs of the whole economy.

Strong economic decisions allow us to succeed

This will always mean that there are some winners and some losers.  The alternative is to satisfy only the needs of a few small groups within the economy.  This failure to take appropriate decisions when they need to be taken is what leads to economic disasters such as those in Greece, Ireland, Iceland, and to some extent even in the United States.

When good economic decisions are taken such as movements in interest rates, careful government spending, or introduction of sensible policies like a carbon tax or mineral rent tax, these create an environment in which businesses and workers can be confident.

Ironically, the failure of the Greek economy may slow down Australia's enough to avoid an increase in interest rates until later this year.

Sensible decisions from the Reserve Bank, sensible taxes such as carbon tax and mineral resources rent tax, all assist in making Australia the world's leading western economy. 

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The law is an ass - rape is rape

Credit must go to the Herald Sun for their front page story today, Sleeping woman rape trial sparks fury.  This story details how the Victorian Court of Appeal set aside a conviction for a man, Tomas Getachew, who raped a women who was asleep, who had twice rejected his advances, before passing out drunk.

The Court ruled 2-1 that the trial judge had erred in his instructions to the jury.  The minority judge, Justice Lex Lasry got it right when he said:

"The complainant had made clear her rejection of the applicant on two occasions before this incident occurred. When penetrated by the applicant, the complainant was in a position consistent with her being asleep. There was no positive conduct by the complainant which might have led Getachew to conclude that his sexual approach was now being welcomed.''

This is what the Slut Walks are for - to stop rape

Recently, as a man, I was proud to attend the Melbourne Slut Walk, where women joined others at Slut Walks around the world and proudly chanted "Whatever we wear, wherever we go—yes means yes, and no means no!".  As a man at this very civilised protest, it struck me that this message cannot be repeated often enough.  So many men have been brought up in a misogynistic world where they believe that "women are asking for it".

The key message of the Slut Walks is that "women retain the right to say no, and to be heard".

And this is why the decision by Justices Peter Buchanan and Bernard Bongiorno is so perpelexing, and wrong.  The victim of the rape by Tomas Getachew had said "no".  She had said "no" again.  Then she had fallen asleep.  To argue - as the learned Judges have done - that there is any way that she changed her mind after she fell asleep drunk, simply defies logic.

Remember the key message of the Slut Walk - once she said no, she had the right to be heard.

Whatever we wear ... or whatever we drink ... rape is never OK

The Toronto policeman who blamed women for the way they dress could just as easily have blamed them for getting drunk.  It's certainly been an argument put to blame victims many times.  It is simply wrong.

Worryingly, a psychology study in 2006 even found that: Juries blame women for 'drunk rape'.  The study found that jurors:
- decided it was 'reasonable' to assume there was consent even if a woman was too drunk to give it".
- blamed drunk rape victims for 'bringing it on themselves'.

So, it seems that two of our learned judges, who should not be influenced by the same biases as ordinary people, have the same views on victim-blaming that the Slut Walks are trying to highlight.

Let's hope the prosecution appeals to the High Court - and wins

In the words of the wise Home Office spokesperson on learning of these study results: 'We need to tackle the myths. Rape is never the responsibility of the victim.'

The prosecution is considering appealing to the High Court.  They should do so, and should win.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Safe injecting rooms - a necessary step towards harm minimization

Drugs is an emotional issue. At one extreme are those who argue for a zero tolerance approach. At the other extreme are those who argue for legalization of all drugs. In between - where most people can agree - is the need to minimize harm.

When it comes to minimizing harm from heroin use, safe injecting rooms are a proven solution.

Research findings now show the value of safe injecting rooms

In Sydney, Vancouver, Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, safe injecting rooms have been a success.

Insite in Vancouver
  • Decreased public injection
  • Reduced dangerous syringe sharing
  • Reduced HIV risk behaviour
  • Reduction in publicly discarded syringes
  • Increase in addicts seeking treatment and detox
  • Reduction in measures of public disorder
  • Less bacterial infections such as cellulitis and endocarditis
A major cross-national study by Australian and Dutch universities showed that:

Findings ... have been encouraging. In some areas public nuisance has been minimized, the number of overdose deaths and complications from non-fatal overdoses have decreased, BBV risk behaviour has decreased and health and social functioning of clients have improved.

The Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre has also published statistics over its decade of operation that confirms the value of the facility:
  • 3,500 overdoses managed without a single fatality
  • Publicly discarded needles and syringes has halved
  • 80% reduction in ambulance call outs to Kings Cross
  • More than 8,500 referrals to health and social welfare services.
The Australian and Dutch study identified a range of measures that should be adopted to minimise harm from heroin use.  They concluded:

The trial of supervised injecting centres in Australia represents just one new intervention within a much broader existing harm reduction framework. Additional and complementary interventions may include the distribution of naloxone to drug users, low threshold methadone, needle and syringe exchange in prison, pre-release methadone programmes for prisoners, the facilitation of IDUs to move to non-injecting routes of drug use and the expansion of opioid pharmacotherapies. 

So with so much evidence, why is there opposition to safe injecting rooms?

Based on the facts, politicians, lawyers, health professionals, police, and even church leaders support at least a trial of safe injecting rooms. (Read more from The Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform)

So why is the Sydney facility the only one in Australia?

Perhaps it is because the only political party to treat drug issues as a core policy is the Australian Sex Party

A key Sex Party's policy is to Legalise and increase the number of medically supervised injecting rooms.  

Given all the evidence, this just seems so sensible.

So, who would oppose harm minimisation and safe injecting rooms?

The FCV doesnt' represent
the views of learned churchmen
such as Rev Harry Herbert
Well, at present, there are two main opponents - the Family Council of Victoria and the Victorian Liberal Government.

The FCV is a collection of anti-abortion, anti-drug, radical Christian groups. They do not represent the mainstream view of the churches in Australia. In fact, the Sydney injecting room is run by UnitingCare, and headed by the Reverend Harry Herbert.

So, the Victorian Liberal government is choosing to align with a radical group of Christians, who don't represent the majority of churchgoers, so that Ted Baillieu can say: "We haven't supported injecting rooms, we won't support injecting rooms"

It just doesn't make sense.

Harm minimisation should be a core focus of any public policy.  Safe injecting rooms are critical to minimise harm for drug use and should be introduced without delay.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Monday, 6 June 2011

Business models change. Industries must adapt or die.

Although we are now well into the 21st century, I'm still surprised at how often there are calls to protect certain dying industries in Australia. Protectionism is simply bad economic policy. All it does is delays the inevitable.

The foreign competition argument for protectionism is growing from Bob Katter

Most arguments in favor of protectionism focus on the threats of foreign competition. Bob Katter and his new Australian Party are now leading the charge to "protect" Australia from China, Thailand, Philippines and Singapore. Of course, Bob is just pandering to those who see themselves as under attack from foreigners.  He is drawing on a potentially potent mix of short-term self interest and misguided patriotism, verging on xenophobia.

The Australian Party is committed to providing support and protection to Australian industries and reversing this madness - Bob Katter

Technological change is more important than foreign imports
Horse & buggy, Port Melbourne c.1900

The most important argument against protectionism is actually about technology change. Technology is not new and it will continue forever.

Let's take transport as an example. At the turn of the 20th century, the horse was the most common form of urban transport. But when the motor car was invented, jobs for blacksmiths and farriers declined sharply.  Yes, it was an economic problem for those employed in the horse-related industries.  On the flipside, the motor car created a whole new range of employment opportunities.

The same is happening in the early part of the 21st century.  Technological change from improved manufacturing processes have reduced items that were highly technical to mere commodities, and made them unprofitable.  That's the reason some forward thinking companies such as GE have moved on from manufacturing appliances to focus on higher value products such as medical equipment.

It's (the appliances business) a low-margin low-growth company being attacked by foreign competition

Those appliances are still being made - but by lower cost labor in emerging economies.

Technology change from the Internet is more dramatic

Over the next few years, the Internet will accelerate the pace of change of existing industries.  For example, already the development of Google Maps has rendered the old map making business model obsolete.  And this is just the start.

The big change is that services which used to be provided by experts will now be accessed by individuals themselves.  Instructions and systems are popping up all over the Internet, to do it yourself:

  • Do it yourself wedding stationery - is fast making printers obsolete
  • Do it yourself will kits - reducing the role of the family solicitor
  • Digital photography and Facebook - cutting deeply into the professional photography market.
  • A Google search - reduces the need for the average computer technician
  • ETrade - means most shareholders no longer need a stock broker

If you are a wedding stationery printer, family solicitor, stockbroker or professional photography there is a natural desire to call for some protection for your industry.  Yet, that will only delay the inevitable.  Your industry is changing - you need to change with it.

Create the infrastructure for the layman.  The democracy of Google.

Industries that are currently serviced by experts will slowly become the realm of the layman.  One by one, professional services will be simplified, codified and made accessible to everyone.  It's democratisation by Google.

In 1985 when I was first trading shares, I never thought I'd be able to transact myself.
In 1990 when I was audio taping focus groups, I never thought it would be possible to video tape and edit them on a laptop computer.
In 1991 when I published a book via a publisher, I never thought I'd be able to self publish online.
In 1996 when we built our first website, I never thought I'd be able to create a website.

Instead of each of these services providers being paid for the labor, now we are happier that their knowledge has been transferred into infrastructure that we can tap into as we want.

Consultants and professional services are like manufacturers - be ready for the change

In 2011, there are a lot of things that I still need an expert for, but that won't be the case in 2020.  Consultants and professional services will become more and more accessible.  The change will be towards more and more automation, and online access.  I'm one of those consultants, and I'm enthusiastic about the change.  If you are a manufacturer, you should embrace it too.

If you are in an industry facing change, embrace it.  Specialise, innovate, develop infrastructure.  Just don't ask for protection.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Baillieu is taking Victoria back to 1875 - truly Victorian - truly fucking outrageous

Please be advised that this blog contains swear words (like the one in the title).  Small children and Mr Baillieu are advised to please not read it.

Baillieu as a 19th century Victorian: it looks like the
Sex Party Vic election video had it spot on
With a one seat majority on the floor of the Victorian Parliament, wouldn't you think that Premier Ted Baillieu would want to govern for all. Instead, he is leading the most dramatic charge towards social conservatism this State has seen for a very long time.

He says it's about law and order.  Let's take a look at Baillieu's own rap sheet after only 6 months in office.

Rejection of safe injecting rooms

Despite overwhelming evidence of the value of safe injecting rooms, and the support of the local community in Richmond, Ted Baillieu said "We haven't supported injecting rooms, we won't support injecting rooms, and I don't support the normalisation of any of this sort of behaviour."

It is clear that his focus isn't on law and order with a decision like that.  In fact, law and order is much better served by having a safe injecting room. Mayor of Yarra, Alison Clarke and Councillor Stephen Jolly understand their community.

Cr Jolly said "We can't just put our head in the sand and close our eyes to harm minimisation approaches. It's not good enough."

Well, Ted Baillieu is happy to act like an ostrich on that one.

Passing discriminatory laws

Only yesterday, I wrote about the Victorian Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill 2011 that allows churches and other faith-based groups including religious schools to discriminate.  They don't have to justify discrimination as an inherent requirement on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status or gender identity.

It was yesterday's blog, so I won't repeat it, but you can access it here.

This Bill certainly has nothing to do with law and order, and everything to do with very outdated social policies, particularly those associated with the old fashioned church.  Ted's upbringing at the Anglican Melbourne Grammar has obviously influenced him.  According to the school's own website, its second Headmaster, Edward Morris chose the motto "Pray and Work" in 1875, and supported the principle that education and religion go hand in hand.

Thanks to Mr Morris, we are now able to date Ted Baillieu's philosophy to 1875.

On the spot fines for swearing. 

Fucking hell, of the three examples this is the most absolutely outrageous. The Attorney-General Robert Clark and Ted Baillieu seem quite proud of their $240 on the spot fines for “Uses profane indecent or obscene language or insulting words”.

When this trial was introduced in 2009/10, there was a 67% increase in offences.  Well, fuck me, if that isn't just a $1.34 million money grab.

88% of offences were males aged 18-59, and since most of the offences were on the street, it's clear that young males will be the most targeted, as they are the ones out having a good time.

Even the director of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is taking a wait and see approach.  As comedian Will Anderson tweeted, "Suddenly my show is going to cost me a lot more next year."  Can you really imagine the MICF without a decent smattering of fuck and cunt - some of which is directed at the audience!! "I'm sorry Rich Hall, but that's profane and indecent - Officer, please hit him up for $240"

Tim Minchin sings "Fuck the Poor" at the MICF gala
In IndiaTorontoJerusalem, and New Zealand, and other locations around the world this decision has been reported and is turning Victoria into a laughing stock.  What, those nice Australians who swear all the time, and even launch major tourism campaigns with "Bugger"...!!

Stop fucking up Melbourne - we are proud of who we are

Melbourne is one of the most vibrant and interesting cities in the world. We are a city of culture, edginess and spirit. This is one of the most livable cities on the planet.

Ted Baillieu doesn't trust the good people of this State to create and maintain an outstanding society that is envied by the world. He wants to impose nanny state restrictions and 19th century morals.

Wake up We've moved on to the 21st century because what we have built for ourselves is better than some nostalgic view of the time of Queen Victoria.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Disgrace. Baillieu Government votes for discrimination rights against LGBT and mothers

Let's not beat around the bush on this one.  The Victorian Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill 2011 allows churches and other faith-based groups to discriminate.  They don't have to justify discrimination as an inherent requirement on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status or gender identity.

This Bill reflects the views of the noisy Christian Lobby, hot on the heels of their equally disgraceful campaign against the Rip and Roll campaign in Queensland.

Baillieu ignores Parliamentary rules to pass discrimination bill

What is even more galling is that this Bill was reintroduced to Parliament for a vote after it had already been defeated.  Instead of abiding by the normal rules of Parliament, when Mary Wooldridge missed the vote the first time, the Premier decided he didn't like that outcome and didn't like the rules.  The defeat of the Bill the first time should have been the end of it.  This cynical rejection of the rules is as unacceptable as the Bill itself.

Mothers will suffer - not just gays

This Bill will open the door to discrimination against mothers.  I've been proud at the last two companies I have worked for that two wonderful women have been promoted to senior roles, while they were on maternity leave.  Most likely, single mothers will be singled out. This terrible Bill will turn back the clock and justify religious groups and religious schools in ignoring all of the gains that have been made in equal rights for women, as well as for all people based on sexuality, sex and gender identity.

March in the streets.  Lobby your MLC. We are as mad as hell.

This week when the Australian Christian Lobby campaigned against Rip and Roll, the equal rights communities responded strongly.  With credit to AdShel, they reversed their original decision to take down the posters.  Campaigning does work.

With this discrimination Bill having passed the lower house, we must lobby Victorian Upper house members.  The Government has a majority in the Upper house, and the Bill will most likely pass, but we can't go down without a fight.

Lobby your legislative council member.  March in the streets.  If equality is worth fighting for, this is the first battle.

The passing of the discrimination Bill by the Baillieu government highlights a desire by some sections of society to return to the past.  We cannot let progress by overturned by bully boys and the Christian right. 

Let me know what you think.

Mark S

ABC: Fury as Vic government retakes lost vote
SMH: Vic govt casts rules aside for revote
Equal Opportunity Act 2010
Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill 2011

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

R18+ computer games makes sense. Support the new classifications. Fill in the survey.

This week the government announced the draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.  The government media release stated that "Extensive public consultation in 2010 on whether there should be an R18+ category for computer games revealed overwhelming support for its introduction."  The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) will decide whether to approve an R18+ classification for games at their July meeting.

This is a call to arms! Support the R18+ classification.  Fill in the survey

Let's all get behind these sensible and mature changes to the classification of computer games. As TV, movies, websites and computer gaming all merge into one, there is no sense in discriminating.

As part of the engagement process, the Australian Government has released a survey to register your opinions to these new classifications. PLEASE FILL IN THE SURVEY HERE

Kudos to the Australian Sex Party for a committed campaign

The Australian Sex Party has run an excellent campaign to promote these changes to computer games classifications.  It was the only political party to campaign on these issues at the recent Federal and State elections.  Without parties such as the Australian Sex Party, there would be little debate on these issues.  Or worse, the loud voice of the Australian Christian Lobby would be heard over the voices of the many.

As the Attorneys General stated, there was overwhelming support for this change to the classification - yet the only political party to voice the thoughts of the majority was the Australian Sex Party.  This is democracy in operation.

The Australian Sex Party's media release on the new classifications can be accessed here.

Let me know what you think

Mark S