26 August 2004
Whilst acknowledging the positive effects of the partial cancellation of the Third World Debt that followed the Jubilee 2000 campaign the letter went on to point out that:-
“millions of people remain imprisoned by unjust debt service payments. This unjust debt burden is overwhelming and servicing this debt literally takes food, shelter, health care, education and social services directly from the people that need them most, effectively denying economic and social human rights to the world’s majority”
The letter called for full unconditional cancellation of debt owed to international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank and a re-direction of resources to fight HIV/AIDS and achieve the Millenium Development Goals,
The full text of the letter can be found at the website of the Congregational Leadership Team
Certainly the indication that the Australian government is willing to negotiate about all of the oil and gas fields in dispute is a step forward, however it does not represent a final resolution of the issue. The next round of talks between East Timor and Australia is due to take place on September 20th and will be very significant.
Those urging a just sharing of these resources are encouraged to continue to press political leaders and candidates on this matter. The danger is that by appearing to make concessions a political party can take the “heat” out of an issue prior to an election without being committed to a fair and genuine resolution of the issue.
Regular news updates and suggestions for campaigning for a fair outcome for the East Timorese people can be found at the Timor Sea Justicewebsite.
Similar reservations have been expressed about the recent announcements moderating Australia’s harsh treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. One wonders if the decision to allow TPV holders living in working in marginal seats in rural areas (where they have become valued members of local communities) to apply for permanent residency while denying the same opportunities to those living in the major cities is motivated by justice and compassion or political expediency?
Bishop Joseph Grech, the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Migrants and Refugees welcomed the decision to allow TPV holders living and working in regional areas to apply for permanent residency but pointed out that it did little for refugees residing in cities – indeed it created yet another class of refugee.
He went on to say that the Church “will always welcome any changes to government policy which allow genuine refugees to apply for permanent protection, but will continue to press for ongoing protection for all refugees, no matter how they arrive.”
The full text of Bishop Grech’s statement can be found at the website of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Nevertheless the achievement of athletes from African countries such as Kenya, Ethiopi, Tanzania and Chad have been rightly acknowledged particularly in the light of the disadvantages they have had to overcome in order to succeed. At various times during these Olympics the world has been united with shared feelings of warmth, admiration and goodwill.
But as Stewart Mills of Jubilee Australia asked "For how long?" He went on to point out that "6,000 Africans die from AIDS each day and yet sub-Saharan countries are paying $34 billion in debt repayments each year, whilst just receiving US$13 billion in aid. This process where Africans give back to the rich nations $3 for every $1 they see in foreign aid is an outrage."
Jubilee Australia is part of an international movement to free poor nations from the burden of unfair debt. The hope is to keep money in the country so as resources can be directed to better health, education and environment services.
Oxfam / Community Aid Abroad is also currently campaigning to improve the conditions of sportswear workers making Olympic sportswear and uniforms. Poor women in developing nations make most of our sportswear. They work long hours of both paid and unpaid overtime with no job security. They work long shifts, up to 18 hours a day 7 days a week and get paid as little as 30 cents an hour. As a consequence they suffer poor nutrition, housing and health care.
This is taking place because big brand name companies use their market power to squeeze the best price with the quickest turnaround from manufacturers in developing nations. These manufacturers then put the squeeze on their workforce with the types of wages and working conditions described above.
To find out more and to participate in the campaign visit the Oxfam website
Following the successful Reconciliation Week activities reported in an earlier bulletin, members of the group attended a Social Justice Day at ACU in June which led to the establishment of links with justice groups in neighbouring schools, most notably Our Lady of Mercy College in Heidelberg.
The group is currently planning some activities for Just Cycle Week beginning on 9th Sep and will also be raising awareness and funds for a project for street kids in the Philippines. Students from Parade continue to act as volunteers in the after-school homework tuition program for children from refugee families through the Edmund Rice Centre in St Albans.
The group has fifteen active members and we look forward to hearing more news about the activities of the group into the future.
Students at other schools are encouraged to pass on news of social justice activities in their school for sharing with the wider Edmund Rice Network via this bulletin
13 August 2004
This is the outcome of the recent Australian High Court decision to allow the indefinite detention for stateless asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected – a decision that has been widely condemned during the week.
The decision that also places Australia in violation of international covenants to which it is a signatory has re-ignited the calls for Australia to have a Bill of Rights and reinforces concerns that individual freedoms long taken for granted in this country are slowly being eroded.
The decision also highlights the deficiencies of Australia’s immigration laws and highlights the importance of the Polmin campaigns for a complete overhaul of the 1958 Australian Migration Act and for the establishment of a mechanism to ensure Australia’s laws comply with the United Nations Conventions that Australia has signed.
Further information about these and other Polmin campaigns can be found at the Polmin website.
In the past year the cost of education has increased by three times the inflation rate, housing costs by more twice the rate of inflation and the cost of hospital and medical services has increased by more than three times the rate of inflation. This continues a trend that has been in evidence since 1990.
"Over 3.5 million Australians are struggling to make ends meet. They are the ones who most acutely feel the sting of rising costs for essentials while their more prosperous fellow citizens enjoy the benefits of falling prices for luxury items (down by over eight times the rate of inflation)" said St Vincent de Paul spokesman Terry McCarthy recently
The full text of the statement can be read at the St Vincent de Paul Society website.
The site also contains advice and assistance for participation in the letter writing campaign on poverty in the lead-up to the next election.
A coalition of Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Church agencies has also launched a pre-election campaign to get the issue of poverty back on the national agenda. Click on the link for information about the No More Poverty campaign
Key health standards for indigenous Australians were below those of poor countries such as Sudan, Sierra Leone and Nepal and Aboriginal health standards were not improving and, in some areas, declining, despite years of national prosperity she went on to say.
It was also pointed out that the life expectancy of the Aboriginal population was about twenty years below the Australian average and the gap was increasing.
The issue of Aboriginal health was featured in the most recent edition of Ozspirit in an article in which it was suggested that the present situation is as a sign that the current government policies were not working.
No doubt many factors contributed to the reaching of this decision, but it might also indicate that the message of concern about this issue from ordinary citizens who wrote, emailed or signed petitions was heard by politicians.
The improved outcome for the people of East Timor should give encouragement for all those concerned about the creation of a more just world to maintain their efforts on behalf of our disadvantaged and marginalized brothers and sisters.
Further information including an education kit with information sheets, liturgical resources and ideas for action can be found in the Christian World Service section of the National Council of Churches Australia website.