woensdag 9 maart 2005

Australian Call Center Service

Being a Non-Australian Citizen, I took over a business in Nimbin. I contacted the Taxation Office to apply for a Tax File Number and an ABN number. It would be illegal to run a business without a TFN and an ABN. And many suppliers don't want to deal with a business without an ABN.

The Taxation Office has one access number, so you always have to queue. "All our operators are busy; please hold". After some time – if you have enough patience - you will be connected with an operator, arbitrary settled in Perth or Adelaide or Sydney ….. , always operating anonimously. Generally these operators are very friendly and polite. Obviously they have been trained very well in customer treatment; unfortunately not in knowledge of taxation matters. In stead of knowledge they are using a computer system. Likely the operators can answer 90% of the incoming calls correct. But what happens with the other 10%? Are they not answered? No, the operators will make all efforts to keep the customers satisfied, and so they will answer the questions ……. of course incorrect. This can result in hilarious situations.

When there was no progress after 20 telephone calls, I lodged a complaint. The friendly girl wrote down my complaint, told me a reference number, and explained that I would receive a response within 48 hours. Three days later I called to ask about the progress. I told the nice boy my reference number: it was unknown! So I lodged a complaint about the follow up of my first complaint. I received a reference number again, and I would hear within 48 hours. Of course I never got any response on both complaints.

Then I asked a friendly operator to make an appointment with an officer in person at the Taxation Office in Brisbane, to discuss how to apply for a TFN and an ABN. The operator told me that it was not possible to make such an appointment, because I was not eligbile to apply for a TFN and an ABN! Only when I told him that I would go there anyway, and throw a stone through the door to get in, he agreed to make an appointment: next Tuesday at 2 pm sharp at counter number 3. On Tuesday I entered the office at Adelaide Street. A lady welcomed me. I told her about my appointment at 2 pm sharp at counter3. She said that it was impossible, "we don't have counters, and we don't make appointments. Everybody can walk in at any time. Cup of coffee?" 5 Minutes later the special application form (!) for non-Australian owners of an Australian business had been filled in, and I left the building with a lot of useful booklets, that – to her understanding – should have been sent to me immediately after my first call.

Are the call center operators to blame? Not at all. It is a classical misunderstanding that the front office has to be staffed by the less experienced, less trained employees. The result is that all unusual cases are processed wrong, and that they reach the senior officers in the back office with a lot of delay (or never). If the phone would be answered by seniors with knowledge these unusal cases would be adressed right immediately, and the juniors could work on these cases (and on their own education at the same time) in the silence of the back office.

The Taxation Office is just one example of this misunderstanding. It seems to me that all Australian gouvernemental organizations and lots of Australian businesses are using this procedure. The call center operators of the Department of Immigration must have the hardest job: they are trained to be friendly and polite; but this does not agree with the policy of their employer.

(Nimbin Good Times, maart 2005)

donderdag 20 januari 2005

Tolerance, indifference and confusion in Dutch society

Dutch society has a reputation of tolerance that dates from centuries ago. Holland is not just a country of pot smoking pornographers, but also a nation that is hospitable to refugees and immigrants, that has freedom of speech and freedom of religion as basic rights, and that does not discriminate because of gender or sexual preference.

In Holland of 17 million inhabitants now 1 million are Muslims, and approximately 50,000 of them are supposed to be young man sensitive to fundamentalist ideas. They are raised by parents who grew up in the Moroccan Rif mountains or in Turkish Anatolia, and who are living in Holland without speaking the language. In their families arranged marriages and the abuse of women are not exceptional. In some mosques the imams tell them that apostates don’t have the right to live, and that homosexuals should be thrown from the highest buildings (with their head down). It must be confusing to live in a country like Holland.

In 2002 Pim Fortuyn (writer and failed professor in social science) decided to take part in the elections, with only one goal: to be our next prime minister. Fortuyn did not have any political experience, he did not have a program of principles. He was an independent thinker with opinions that covered the whole range from left wing to right wing policies. And he was extrovert and honest. Fortuyn’s opposers (politicians and journalists) did not know how to handle him, and started emphasizing his right wing idea’s (especially his disapproval of Muslim fundamentalism) and calling him fascist. Fortuyn warned them in public: “if I will be killed, it will be because of the atmosphere of hate that you created”.

During the final election debate on television Fortuyn was explaining how the government policy forced poor, badly educated Moroccan boys into crime. The labour leader (the predicted winner of the elections) interrupted: “you are living in a wealthy suburb, how do you know about Moroccan boys?” “I often have sex with them”, Fortuyn responded. The labour leader’s face grew pale, he could not speak for several minutes, and he only mumbled some words during the rest of the debate. He lost the elections, and then resigned. Holland was heading towards a fancy dressed prime minister, always accompanied by his two lapdogs, who had declared in a talk show on television that he could tell from the flavor of the sperm of his boyfriends if they had been drinking alcohol the night before. Pim Fortuyn indeed was the big winner of the elections, but he was a posthumous winner. On 6 may 2002, two weeks prior to the elections, he was shot by a confused left wing activist for animal welfare.

After the Pim Fortuyn murder another independent opinion leader continued to utter his aversion to Muslim fundamentalism. Film director and writer Theo van Gogh (related to painter Vincent) used to talk in very plain language like Pim Fortuyn did: he used to call Muslim fundamentalists “goat fuckers”.

In July 2004 Alaan Hirsi Ali (a young female refugee from Somalia, who renounced the Islamic faith, and now is a liberal member of Dutch parliament) and Theo van Gogh produced a short film telling the story of a Muslim woman forced into an arranged marriage who is abused by her husband and raped by her uncle. In one scene the film showed an actress in see-through garments with Koranic script written on her body, which also bore whip marks. The film was broadcasted on Dutch television. The next day Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh received death threats. Hirsi Ali now is living in secret “safe houses”, guarded by body guards day and night. Van Gogh refused protection. “Who would kill the well tempered village fool of Amsterdam?”, he said on television.

On 2 November 2004 Theo van Gogh was on his way to his office to attend the final meeting on his last production, that will be released in December: a film about the Pim Fortuyn murder! In a busy street in the center of Amsterdam Van Gogh was slaughtered. A Muslim extremist shot him, Van Gogh fell down from his bicycle, the goat fucker cut his throat, and left a five page letter with death threats to several politicians, pinned by a knife in Van Gogh’s chest.

Within a few hours everybody in Amsterdam knew, lot of people were feeling sad or angry, but also small fights between Dutch people and Moroccan immigrants were taking place in the streets. Choppers in the air, police in the streets, parliament building defended by police and soldiers. The major of Amsterdam, the prime minister, and even the queen immediately used the local and national networks to express their sorrow, and to call people not to fight but to be united in expressing their horror. “Van Gogh certainly would not have liked a silent celebration”, the major said. Only few hours later 20,000 people with instruments, horns, pots and pans and spoons gathered on Dam Square.

In the next weeks several mosques and churches have burnt down, a network of terrorists have been arrested, a camp of the Kurdish PKK (where people were trained to fight in Armenia) was dismantled, and a murder attempt on Hirsi Ali and another member of parliament was defeated.

Now everyday politicians, opinion leaders and journalists in newspapers and on television are asking: Where did it go wrong? Why didn’t we change our attitude after 11 September and after the Bali and Madrid bombings? How is it possible that the Kurdish PKK, which is worldwide known as a terrorist organization, has diplomatic admission in Holland? How did our tolerance change into indifference?

In 1997 a book titled “Against the Islamizing of our culture” was published. A quotation: “Caused by their advanced individualization Dutch people are not aware of their cultural identity and its achievements: the separation of church and state, the position of women and the position of homosexuals. Their indifference makes Dutch people an easy and vulnerable prey”.

In 1997 nobody took any notice of these words. The writer was Pim Fortuyn.

(Nimbin Good Times, januari 2005)