20 February 2012


This article appeared in the Fairfax media over the weekend of 19 February 2012.

Rob Mitchell tells how there is no change in homophobia in footy games in Australia after years and years of trying to get changes!

AFL needs to man up on homophobia issue
Rob Mitchell
February 19, 2012

Andrew Demetriou: says the AFL is educating players on gay issues. Photo: Paul Rovere

THE head of the AFL, Andrew Demetriou, ought to take his colleague Jeff Kennett out to lunch.

Along with his credit card, Mr Demetriou might want to take a notepad. If events this week are any guide, he could learn a lot from Mr Kennett.

Earlier this week, Mr Kennett was on radio talking about depression. As chairman of the national anti-depression outfit beyondblue, and after a long stint as president of the Hawthorn Football Club, he is adept at using his high media profile to destigmatise depression and suicide.

The interview took an unexpected turn. While talking about depression in professional footballers, Mr Kennett went on to say that approximately 5 per cent of professional AFL footballers are gay, and the fact that none of them were publicly ''out'' was a major cause for concern because having to hide their sexual orientation - particularly in the goldfish bowl of AFL football - was highly detrimental to their mental health.

Mr Kennett's track record with gay issues has been troubled - he ended up at loggerheads with his previous chief executive, Dawn O'Neil, over comments about gay parenting - but his 5 per cent figure is a reasonable assumption. Research undertaken by beyondblue shows that in men aged 25 and under, some 10 per cent will identify as same-sex attracted. Given that half of the 800-odd professional AFL footballers are aged under 25, that would suggest about 40 players are gay in that age group alone. The research also tells us AFL is regarded as the most homophobic of all the football codes.

Naturally, Mr Kennett's comments were later put to Andrew Demetriou, who, as luck would have it, was already well and truly in diversity mode at a function spruiking the AFL's credentials in respect towards women.

Mr Demetriou assured the media that the AFL was ''ahead of the game'' when it came to ensuring the code was inclusive of gay men, not only because discrimination based on sexual orientation was now included in the AFL anti-vilification code, but also due to the fact that all footballers have seen a video of gay Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski talking about his own experience in coming out.

Who's he trying to kid? The cold hard reality is that the AFL has as little to do with the gay community as it possibly can. The rule change that Mr Demetriou referred to only occurred after some 18 months of intensive lobbying by the gay community, and when finally sexual orientation was included in the anti-vilification section of the AFL rules, it was 10 years after the same provision was placed in Victoria's Equal Opportunity Act.

And while it's useful for footballers to watch a video on what it is like to be an elite gay swimmer, surely that pulls up well short of the kind of education we can reasonably expect the AFL to give its players.

The AFL has also conveniently forgotten to mention that it is paid more than $400,000 a year from the Australian Sports Commission to make the code more inclusive.

Truth is, there are no ''out'' gay AFL footballers because they refuse to self-identify in an environment that they perceive to be toxic. The responsibility for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the administrators. Not the players. Not the fans. Not the umpires. Not the coaches.

The drivel that is put forward from the AFL about coming out being ''a personal choice'' is precisely that. For the AFL to say that all their gay players are ''choosing'' to remain in the closet is ridiculous.

It beggars belief that a gay AFL footballer would not want his partner to be involved in events like the Brownlows. Not because they are looking to be activists, but because they want to be able to be honest with everyone around them. Why does the AFL not get that?

Further, the AFL as administrators refuse to make any effort to help their gay players, not because they lack the resources - the AFL earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year and pays no income tax - but simply because they don't want to. And they don't want to because, despite the lip service, diversity and inclusion is not regarded as core business.

If the AFL wanted to, it could transform the issue of homophobia in football in a heartbeat. When the AFL Players Association ran a ground-breaking project for the International Day Against Homophobia two years ago, the AFL took notice and was getting ready to run a diversity round to highlight the value of inclusion in sport. Then along came Jason Akermanis with his infamous ''Stay in the closet'' newspaper column, and the wheels fell off. As a result, the AFL decided, again, to put gay in the too-hard basket.

While the AFL refuses to address the issue of homophobia in the code, it's never going to get any better. It's not an unreasonable expectation for the AFL to do equality equally. Now would be a good time to start.

Rob Mitchell is a member of the Victorian Department of Sport governance and inclusion project.

17 February 2012


Michell Grattan is a journalist of long standing, but, as with so many other people of uncertain age, they reach a situation where their politics take a turn to the right with disastrous consequences, particularly if they are journalists and/or politicians.

Julia Gillard is not my favourite politican, and the Australia Labor Party (sic) is not my favourite political party, but to her credit Gillard has stood firm against the non-stop negativity of the attacks by Abbott and his gang and Grattan and her gang, and to date she has actually had a few political breakthroughs.

It may not occur to Grattan, or perhaps she hopes her attacks on Gillard will bring it about, but does she realise that with each of her assaults she brings Tony Abbott closer to becoming the next Australian prime minister.

It is to be hoped that the Coalition will wake up to the fact that Abbott is actually one of their biggest liabilities and that without him they may actually achieve much better electoral results., but one has to hope that this is just a nightmare scenario from which we will all wake up one day and we achieve a more democratic parliament thatn the one we currently have.


Have you noticed how homosexuality has taken over as the most hated feature in political life in the USA, particularly for the conservative parties who are even to the right of the Democrats and its allies.

Hate pours out of the utterances of all those who would become the next president of the United States, and althought there have been significant advances for gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS (GLTH) communities in that country, homophobic hatred is rampant.

More and more young people are bullied at schools with the authorities closing a blind eye to what is going on and these young people between the ages of 12 to 20 being driven to suicide under frightful circumstances.

Equality is still a long way off and we have a great deal more work to do.

The situation is just as bad for older people in the GLTH communities who are driven back into the closet when they have to enter aged care or hospitalisation and suicide becomes an option for many of them who are lonely, ill, poor and desperate.

The situation will become much worse with the election of a right-wing reactionary conservative. religious bigot to the White House.

The challenges are enormous, but "La Luta Continua" or words to that effect!


There comes a time when one discovers that those one thought were sound in their political analyses actually let one down completely by losing the plot and in effect shouting over the top of those trying to have rational discussions with them.

A few days ago I received my usual daily email from Mondoweiss which always has some very intersting items listed.

This particular one had a video of Norman Fikelstein doing an "interview" with a man called Frank, I believe. The "interview" lasted half an hour and was full of Finkelstein trying to talk down the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as being related to a cult.

This is not only insulting but it is also false. Whatever ultimately brought down the South African apartheid regime, BDS was a major contributor and helped in a major way to bring to the world's attentions the brutality and evil of the police state regime in South Africa.

The modern BDS movement, started by a Palestinian group which saw that the armed struggle against the brutality of Apartheid Israel's ongoing attacks on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem was not making sufficient progress and needed another focus to help the world realise the evils of the Israeli zionist regime.

There have been some significant achievements in the few years during which the campaign has been running, with some large companies and orgnisations leaving Israel and divesting from the state.

Finkelstin suddenly argues about the lawfulness of Israel's right to exist as a state and defends a great deal of the zionist state's abuses of Palestine and its indigenous inhabitants and states that there is no possibility of a one-state solution, nor a two-state solution and retain the viability of the Jewish "democratic" state of Israel.

It is not possible for Israel to be Jewish and democratic because a Jewish state would turn the country into a theocracy, a poit which it is rapidly reaching with an influx during the last 20 to 30 years of fanatical religious Jews from the USA. Most of these are now living in settlements stolen from the Palestinians who are daily treated to appalling conditions in thioe own country by the colonisers.

The origins of the BDS movement against South Africa are fascinating.

The paragraph detailing the story comes from:

No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000 Edited by William Minter,
Gail Hovey, and Charles Cobb Jr.
Published by Africa World Press.

"The Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was founded by workers at Polaroid in 1970 who discovered that Polaroid film was being used for the pass system in South Africa. The two key activists were Ken Williams and Caroline Hunter, and their protest gained national prominence."

Finkelstein should be aware, with his intellectual ability and academic experience that mass movements do not happen overnight and a great deal of grassroots activism takes place before issues become public and attract the attention of masses of people world-wide.

IF BDS started in 1970 in the USA, it took until 1990, 40 years later, for the dramatic collapse of the South African apartheid regime and even then another 4 years passed before South Africa's first ever democratic elections were held for all its citizens, black, white and everything in between.

If Finkelstein believes in Israel as a viable demacratic entity he should leave the comforts of the USA and move to live there to defend his Jewish homeland. Reality might then hit him in the face and he might wake from his current stupor!

The interview on video is insulting and degrading to the person doing the interview and Finkelstein needs to make a public apology to him.

10 February 2012


I am not a supporter of Julia Gillard. She represents a political party which has lost its way, is allied to the United States of America for all the wrong reasons, and is guilty of everything which is wrong with the Liberal/National Coalition.

Journalists from Michelle Grattan onwards on all sides of the so-called political spectrum are attacking Gillard in ways which would be unthinkable if Gillard was a male.

Gillard was put in the position she is in by a party which has lost its way, and is thus subject to vituperation from so-called left, right, centre and all shades between.

The personal attacks are unwarranted because they are none of them giving reasons why she is being attacked and the so-called elephant in the room is the media's fondness for saying Rudd is in the wings waiting for the next opportunity to challenge for the leadership once more.

This is the media's and Opposition's attempts to keep up the attack in the hope of destabilising an already very fragile coalition which is holding together by the skin of its teeth.

It is possible that all this negative assault will have a reverse effect and backfire on all those who are gearing up for an Abbott win at the next election.

Even for those on the Coalition side of politics, the idea of Abbott as the next prime minister of Australia must be a prospect too horrifying to contemplate.

Gillard should be attacked for the Australian Labor Party's policies on practically everything from asylum seekers to uranium, but not for what she looks like, how she sounds, what clothes she wears and other personal nonsenses which Rudd, Howard, Keating and Hawke were never subjected to.

If our governments are a reflection of the population at large, then once again, as Alan Paton could have said in an Australian context, "Cry the beloved country"!

If you think we have been subjected to a media beat-up over the events of invasion day and a political beat-up by the Opposition, taking place over a period of the last 18 months, then you are right.

A beat-up which is a waste of time, money and resources, which could be better spent on fixing the economy and the policies which are failing this country so lamentably!

The letters below were in the Sunday Age on 12 February 2012 in response to the hypercritical - or should that be hypocritical - Julia Gillard articles in the Sunday Age on 5 February 2012.

Shallow approach

THE article ''Julia Gillard is the least impressive prime minister since Billy McMahon. Discuss'' (5/2), illustrates the obsession we have with image, appearance and impressions rather than achievements, accomplishments and outcomes.

We use the ''image'' of a person and how we ''feel'' about them as a measure of their success or capacity to deal with problems (in this case the prime minister). This indicates a serious misconception about what is needed to solve current problems at home and abroad. Having the ''right look'' does not guarantee the job is done. Rather, employing an intellect and applying unfashionable scientific approaches such as analysing, measuring, calculating and quantifying are what will solve problems.


Negativity triumphs

LAST week's front-page story by Misha Schubert deliberately gives the impression that Julia Gillard is ineffective and out of touch. Like Michael Duffy and Michelle Grattan, Schubert has continued the negative reporting which seems designed to undermine our elected government … When will you start reviewing and contrasting opposition policy rather than just playing the man? The tall poppy syndrome is alive and well. What a pity our first female prime minister has to endure the media's wish to see her dragged down.

BILL NEALE, Ferntree Gully

Ragbag of opinions

THE article on Julia Gillard was dismaying for a national newspaper. Made up of a ragbag of opinions masquerading as measured argument, it maintains the male Australian tradition of breaking on the wheel those women who dare to aspire to high office. Robert Manne's statement about the need for the Prime Minister to create ''a narrative compellingly told about how Australia should chart its course'' harks back to another era.

Unsurprisingly, Tony Abbott, that ''ordinary'' man (Extra, 29/1), applies Manne's dictum to promote his own depleted and deprived ''narrative'' for Australia. Gillard's leadership, in fact, signifies a shift into a new era of more mature politics, one in which flexibility and negotiation have already achieved some remarkable outcomes. This is a sign of her political strength, not weakness.



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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm