29 August 2008


One Trillion Four Hundred Billion Dollars $1 400 000 000 000 is spent every year on keeping the world's militaries armed and deadly.

It seems that Australia is anxious to benefit from this lucrative trade.

The Asia Pacific Defence & Security Exhibition (APDSE) is an international arms fair scheduled to be held in Adelaide, Australia in November 2008.

The choice of Remembrance Day (Nov 11th) when much of the world remembers the millions who have died in armed conflicts especially in the last 100 years as the date for the opening of the fair seems somewhat incongruous.

The fair is being promoted by the South Australian Government as providing "terrific business and investment opportunities" (the words of the SA Premier)

Some points made by the organizers of the fair to attract exhibitors include the following:-
- in 1994-2006 the Asia-Pacific region was the only region globally with an increase in defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP.
- The Asia-Pacific region is forecast to overtake Europe and the Middle East as the largest military market in the world
- A$131 billion of military projects are scheduled in the Asia-Pacific region in the next decade.
- Australia will spend A$31 billion over the next ten years on military projects.

More information and details of a campaign to oppose the exhibition can be found at the Asia Pacific Defence and Security Exhibition website.


This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the first universal statement on the basic principles of the human rights to which peoples of all nations are entitled.

The theme "Reaffirming Human Rights: The Universal Declaration at 60" has been chosen for the Annual Conference organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the NGO community. This year’s conference is being staged with the assistance of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government of France.

Paris, the capital city of France, is also the place where the Declaration was signed some 60 years ago. It is therefore fitting, that it will be the host city for the premier NGO event of the year, at UNESCO's Headquarters, attracting more than 2,000 NGO representatives including members of Edmund Rice International

The aim of the Conference is to highlight effective ways in which civil society, in partnership with others, can contribute to the advancement of human rights at the international, regional, national and local levels. A major feature of this conference will be its emphasis on active participation which is intended to generate greater awareness of human rights issues and strengthen commitments to address them among diverse stakeholders worldwide.


The national Climate Torch Relay organized by Get Up Australia is arriving in Melbourne this week.

The aim of the relay is to mobilize as many people as possible at the local level to press for immediate, effective action on climate change.

In a related action the Make Poverty History coalition has released a response to the initial draft of the Garnaut Report - the most comprehensive Australian review of the climate change issue and one which contains important recommendations for the Australian Government.

The full text of the response is available on the above website along with a free Climate Change Action Kit which contains stickers, posters, a petition, media and letter writing guides and a 15 minute DVD that sums up the climate crisis facing Australia’s neighbours in the developing world.


The announcement of Senator Joseph Biden, a practising Catholic, as the running mate of the Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama in the forthcoming US presidential election has re-awakened the debate about the position of Catholic public figures who depart from official church teaching.

Senator Biden has on a number of occasions voted in favour of pro-choice positions in regard to abortion.

It is not my intention to comment on the issue of abortion or indeed on the dilemma of politicians who may find themselves in a position where they feel compelled to support the 'party line' even against their own conscience.

Rather my concern is why a single issue such as abortion seems to be singled out as the measure of a candidate’s Catholic orthodoxy?

What of the Catholic politician who supports involvement in an unjust war? who supports the use of torture? who supports economic policies that condemn millions of people around the world to live in poverty? who supports an immigration policy that violates fundamental human rights?

The Catholic Church has a vast reservoir of important teaching on social justice (sometimes described as its 'best kept secret') and has a proud record of standing up for justice at various times in particular situations.

Unfortunately it sometimes appears that charity and attendance to personal religious devotions are seen to be more important than justice and social action except on selected issues.

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