22 June 2005
After fifteen years of constant lobbying and campaigning, the Jubilee campaign is poised to claim a significant achievement when, as is expected, leaders of the world‘s richest nations will confirm plans to totally cancel the debt owed by eighteen of the world’s poorest nations at their meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland early next month.
Although still far short of what many recognize is needed to address the problem of debt or of global poverty, it is nevertheless a significant step that deserves to be welcomed and celebrated. For an analysis of the G8 debt relief proposal visit the website of Jubilee Australia
Again whilst many would point out that the changes modify rather than reform a fundamentally immoral policy that still needs to be overturned, the recently announced reversals in policy and practice, if implemented, represent a significant back down by the government. They also bring hope and relief from suffering for some of those people either still held in detention or living in uncertainty under the existing temporary protection visa regime.
For an initial analysis of the proposed changes and what they mean visit the website of Amnesty Australia
The Victorian State Government has recently announced its intention to introduce a Mandatory Code for Retailers – a step which FairWear, along with other members of the Ethical Clothing Council, has urged for several years.
The proposed legislation sets outs conditions that retailers must follow to ensure that homeworkers receive fair conditions These steps include making the supply chain transparent from the homeworker right through to the retailer. The conditions of the mandatory code also include the retailer providing supplier lists and details of contracts to the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union. In addition to this, the union has right to inspect the retailers' records.
(a) Generally our political leaders follow public opinion, or worse, seek to exploit it to retain power. Rarely will a leader take an unpopular stand based on principle. It follows then, that often change will only occur when enough people demand it.
(b) If we are to bring about change in the world we need to convince those around us of the need for that change, and in order to do that we need to:-
- ensure we ourselves are first open to the possibility and need for change;
- inform ourselves about the issues that need to be changed;
- share our concerns and insights with family, friends and colleagues;
- exercise our democratic right and responsibility and write or speak to our parliamentary representatives to point out the need for change
- network with others to work for change
Hopefully the recent developments described in the posts above will provide further encouragement and motivation to readers of this bulletin to continue to work for the building of a more just world – the 'kingdom' which Jesus preached and for which Edmund Rice and his followers have laboured.
A momentum for change is building. Now is the time when your voice can be most effective. Write a letter, send an email, wear a white wristband, sign a petition or take some other action, no matter how small.
As Pope Benedict reminded us recently "… the just destiny of peoples is the main concern of those who have accepted to administer public affairs, not for themselves, but for the common good. Our heart cannot be in peace when we see our brothers suffer for lack of food, work, housing or other fundamental goods."
"The Church," said the Pope, "will never cease to remind people that all men must be attentive to a human fraternity made of concrete gestures, at the level of individuals as well as at the level of governments and international institutions."
8 June 2005
One simple definition describes social justice as "right relationships between people".
Over the last century there has been a growing understanding of the need to see these "right relationships between people" in global terms rather than just in our local area or within our own nation.
According to Catholic Social teaching the struggle to build a world based on "right relationships" is based on a number of principles that have been developed over time. The following summary of those principles is taken from the website of the Social Action Office of the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in Queensland.
1. The Dignity of the Human Person
Human beings are created in the image of God and, therefore, are endowed with dignity. This inherent dignity carries with it certain basic rights and responsibilities which are exercised within a social framework.
2. The Common Good
While the dignity of the human person is affirmed, individuals live in common with others and the rights of individuals must be balanced with the wider common good of all. The rights and needs of others must be always respected.
Human beings are social by nature and do not exist merely as individuals. When considering the human community it must be remembered that it consists of individual and social elements.
This principle recognises that society is based on organisations or communities of people ranging from small groups or families right through to national and international institutions. As a rule of social organisation, subsidiarity affirms the right of individuals and social groups to make their own decisions and accomplish what they can by their own initiative and industry. A higher level community should not interfere in the life of a community at a lower level of social organisation unless it is to support and enable.
5. The Purpose of the Social Order
The social order must uphold the dignity of the human person.
6. The Purpose of Government
The purpose of government is the promotion of the common good. Governments are required to actively participate in society to promote and ensure social justice and equity.
Individuals and groups must be enabled to participate in society.
8. The Universal Purpose of Goods
The world's goods are meant for all. Although the Church upholds the right to private property this is subordinate to the right to common use and the overall common good. There is a social mortgage on private property.
9. The Option for the Poor
This refers to seeing the world through the eyes of the poor and standing with the poor in solidarity. This should lead to action for justice with and on behalf of those who are poor and marginalised.
10. The Care of Creation
The Earth is God's gift and all species have a rightful place in it. Humans share this habitat with other kind and have a special duty to be stewards and trustees of the Earth.
He reminded the Brothers that ministry to the poor is not primarily about doing things for them but it is first "seeing the world through their eyes and experiencing the compassion of a God we never knew"
In speaking of the recent establishment of a Congregational Justice Desk with its focus on the "rights of children" Br Philip asked the Brothers of Oceania to identify the children whose rights need to be upheld in our part of the world and the issues that most need attention in the allocation of resources.
"The problem is not that we have little power. We do not use the little power that we have got" he said.
"The Bills represent a compassionate and welcome change to Australia's detention policy and deserve the support of all MPs" said Bishop Joseph Grech Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the Anglican Bishops of Melbourne in a letter published in the Melbourne "Age". Pointing out that they have "consistently called for a review of Australia's inhumane immigration and detention policies" and emphasising the "destructive effects of these policies on individuals, young children and families" the Bishops indicated their strong support for the proposed Bills and welcomed the fact that some Coalition parliamentarians were now giving voice to these ethical concerns.
Calls for changes to the current detention system have regularly been made by the Uniting Church and a wide range of community and international organizations such as the Australian Medical Association, Amnesty, the Refugee Council of Australia and various UN bodies.
Acknowledging the messages of support they had received, the Liberal parliamentarians backing the Bills have stressed the importance of ordinary Australians making their opinions known to Members of Parliament. As Judi Moylan, one of the supporters of the Bill, indicated in her reply to my letter "Once again, I believe that the greatest chance for success rests in the weight of public opinion and anything you can do to encourage others to make their views known will be very helpful." A major groundswell of public opinion has the potential to force some significant softening of the current policies and practices of the government, even if it is unlikely to overturn the policy of mandatory detention.
Contact details for all members of Parliament can be found at the Parliament of Australia website.
A research paper published on the St Vincent de Paul Society website shows that more than 8 million Australians have disposable incomes of less than $21,000 a year, with a further 4.5 million living in households with a total income of less than $400 a week. It also shows that in the decade from 1994 to 2003, real mean incomes for the poorest Australians grew at a slower rate than those on higher incomes.
The report also points out that the recent federal Budget tax cuts were likely to increase the gap between rich and poor with those on incomes of $20,000 p.a. receiving a benefit of $280 (1.4%) whilst those on an income of $100,000 p.a. receiving a benefit of $3252 (3.3%)
"Given the huge bias in Government largesse towards those on higher incomes, outlined in the May 2005 Budget, there is no doubt that income inequality will grow even further once the tax cuts and welfare reforms are implemented," the report said.
The paper went on to point out that inequality in income leads to inequality in access to health services; housing; education; transport and communications; care and social amenities.
The paper concluded that the nation faced a choice. To continue down the present path would inevitably lead to the creation of a "second Australia" where disadvantage and inequality is entrenched, and where Australia would be characterized by sharper division, discord, increased crime and urban deterioration.
On the other hand we could first admit the problem and then mobilize all levels of government to produce a solution. The nation is wealthy enough to lift all of its citizens out of poverty the fact that we do not do so "is a matter of choice not affordability"