25 September 2007


The Australian Catholic Bishops have identified five areas of challenge that confront Australians as global citizens in their annual Social Justice Sunday statement which was launched recently.

Entitled "Who is my neighbour – Australia’s role as a global citizen" the statement highlights the issues of:-
- Foreign aid and development assistance.
An increased foreign aid budget can relieve poverty, develop infrastructure and provide education and training in poorer countries.
- Military alliances and interventions.
Whilst our alliances may be important to our security any military intervention that is proposed requires a thorough assessment of its morality and broad international approval
- The UN and international financial institutions.
Whilst in need of reform the UN continues to offer the best hope for peace and co-operation between peoples.
- Climate change and energy policy.
Australia is uniquely positioned to promote alternatives in energy use that reduce carbon emissions.
- Border protection and refugees.
Our current harsh border protection policies fail to provide protection for genuine refugees or humane treatment for all who come here.

Copies of the statement are available from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council


The seventy-two Sri Lankans who have been detained on Nauru for more than six months have now been recognized as genuine refugees.

Despite this finding they face the prospect of indefinite detention on Nauru because of the Australian Government’s policy which refuses to allow them to be settled in this country. Instead the government will seek to persuade a third country to accept them. This is likely to prove difficult given that other countries already have their ‘own’ refugees and because given that they were picked up by the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean the refugees are seen as Australia’s responsibility.

The situation has been condemned by critics of the harsh and expensive so called ‘Pacific solution’ such as the Refugee Council of Australia and A Just Australia.

Nevertheless rather than being shamed by the exposure of its selfishness and lack of compassion, government spokesmen continue to defend the policy on the grounds that it is effective in deterring those fleeing persecution from seeking asylum in Australia.


The results of recent studies have increased concern that global warming may be occurring at a faster rate than previously predicted.

A report issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported that sea ice is at its lowest level since satellite record-keeping began and separate reports have confirmed that the fabled north-west passage linking Europe and Asia, has become navigable for the first time in recorded history.

This has prompted some scientists to suggest that the Arctic will be ice-free by 2040, thirty years before the previous estimate given by United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Such reports add weight to the call from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that the time for doubt has passed and an immediate breakthrough is needed in global talks to sharply reduce green house gas emissions. He made the call in his address to world leaders assembled this week at UN Headquarters in New York.

Unfortunately President Bush and Australia’s Prime Minister Howard chose not to be present, an indication of their continued resistance to the setting of emission targets which they think might harm their respective national economies, although as the Secretary General pointed out "Inaction now will prove the costliest action of all in the long term."

In the meantime it is also reported that Pope Benedict XVI is expected to use his first address to the United Nations to deliver a powerful warning over climate change and to stress that action on climate change is a moral obligation. It is also thought that his next encyclical letter will also address this issue.


In recent days the world has witnessed a growing non-violent protest by the people of Myanamar (Burma) against the brutal military dictatorship that has oppressed them for several decades.

There are growing fears that the dissent may again be violently crushed as it was in 1988 when thousands were massacred.

So far the regime has hesitated to act apparently because the Chinese government, the principal supporter of the military junta, is concerned about world opinion in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.

For this reason Avaaz is attempting to mobilize support for the Burmese protestors through an online petition to be delivered to Chinese premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council.

You are invited to add your name to the petition at the above website and to encourage others to do the same.

12 September 2007


As many readers of this bulletin would be aware I have recently accepted an invitation to be part of the Christian Brothers community in Geneva, Switzerland for the next three years.

The community is being formed as part of the move to establish Edmund Rice International at the UN for the global promotion of social justice and human rights.

At this stage I plan to arrive in Geneva in late October and whilst I would like to think I might be able to continue to produce a justice bulletin from Geneva, even if not as regularly and perhaps with a more international focus, I won't know if that is possible until I take up my duties in Geneva.

In the meantime I intend to continue to produce the bulletin and will keep readers posted about developments as they unfold.


Australians have never experienced a time when housing has been less affordable. Currently 1.1 million low to middle income households are paying so much in mortgage or rental costs to be living in "housing stress". This is a massive 1 in 7 households struggling with housing costs.

In the past decade, the median house price in Australia has increased from 4 times average incomes to 6-7 times average incomes.

357,000 families with children have insufficient money for food, clothing, heating and transport after they have paid for their housing.

Over 400,000 households are in 'housing crisis'. They spend more than 50% of their low incomes on housing. This is one in every 20 households.

Nationally, more than 100,000 people are homeless on any given night.

The above are some of the facts quoted by Australians for Affordable Housing (AAH) a coalition of a group of community organizations, (including MacKillop Family Services which originated in an amalgamation of child welfare organizations of the Sisters of Mercy, Christian Brothers and the Sisters of St Joseph) with a national focus, concerned at the declining levels of access to good, secure and affordable housing in Australia.

AAH has developed a five-point plan to be implemented over ten years to address the housing crisis. The plan together with other policies and media releases of AAH are available at the above website.


If you are concerned about climate change, and if you would like to do something more to make a difference then you find a range of simple, effective actions at The Big Switch

The website also contains background information about the issue of climate change and as we move towards a Federal election in Australia an analysis is presented of the policies offered by all parties in relation to greenhouse gas reduction targets, renewable energy, future energy, transport and land use, incorporating pollution costs into fossil fuel use, ratifying Kyoto, international aid and the building of nuclear reactors.

You can also search out your electorate and see the response of your local member to a simple survey on climate change and find some suggestions for issues that can be followed up in an email or letter with that member, including issues of particular relevance to your area.

You will also be invited to sign an online pledge to make some simple but effective changes in your personal lifestyle in order to offset climate change.


One subscriber to this bulletin with a demonstrated commitment to sustainable living is Paul Fogarty. Paul is a member of the team promoting the concept of a Permablitz which aims to build community networks and share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living particularly through the development of edible gardens.

Paul is a member of the team offering a two day introductory course in permaculture on the weekend of Sep 22-23 at CERES (the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) in suburban Melbourne.

Permaculture adopts techniques and principles from ecology, appropriate technology, sustainable agriculture, and the wisdom of indigenous peoples. The ethical basis of permaculture rests upon care of the earth by maintaining a system in which all life can thrive. This includes human access to resources and provisions, but not the accumulation of wealth, power, or land beyond their needs.

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