22 February 2005


The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in the Archdiocese of Brisbane has issued an information booklet of energy saving tips for households to mark the coming into force of the Kyoto protocol. The Commission decided to focus on practical and positive steps that individuals can make to reduce global warming rather than to criticise the Australian Government for its failure to support the protocol.

At a time when scientists around the world are expressing an ever growing concern about the problem of global warming, many would see the measures outlined in the Kyoto protocol as being too little and too late to avert a future disaster for our planet. Others have welcomed the implementation of the Kyoto agreement as a small but significant first step in addressing the problem. The agreement aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% of 1990 levels by 2012. Australia and the USA are the only industrialized western nations that have refused to ratify the protocol.

Calls for Australia to sign the Kyoto protocol and support endeavours to address global warming have recently been made by the chairman and the Executive Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia a body sponsored by the Australian Bishop’s Committee for Justice Ecology and Peace.

"The Kyoto Protocol asks that developed countries pledge to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by just on 6% by 2012, but the best science available tells us that what is needed is more like a 60% reduction. Therefore for the sake of our children and God's Earth, Australia should stand alongside the large number of countries who have signed and ratified the agreement, which would, in any case, be just a first step," said Bishop Christopher Toohey the Chairman of Earthcare.


Jubilee Australia is again urging its supporters to become active in campaigning on behalf of the world's poor. Pointing out that the number killed in the recent South-East Asian Tsunami is the same as the number of children who die in one week, mostly from preventable causes such as malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory infections Jubilee has again called for developed nations such as Australia to honour their pledge to address poverty by the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

In its latest communication Jubilee Australia points out that despite recent media attention, "the reality is that only 10% of the debt cancellations called for by the international Debt Justice and Jubilee campaign has been undertaken. This falls short of the promises made at the G8 summit in Cologne in 1999. The Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) mechanism, adopted by the Paris Club (of which Australia is a member) to deal with poor country debt, provides no permanent solution to this global problem. It is too short sighted, leaves out entire countries (such as Indonesia, whose debt repayments constitute more than 30% of government expenditure) and forces countries to accept austere IMF programs"

Highlighting the imbalance between debt repayment and aid, attention is drawn to the 2003-2004 financial year where World Vision Australia gave A$167 million to overseas projects, whilst EVERY DAY Sub-Saharan Africa spent $US 35 million on loan repayments (whilst not being able to pay a further $US 91 million owed for that day).

The Australian Government was also criticised for continuing to downplay the role that debt cancellation and aid play in poverty alleviation. The Government instead refers to trade and governance as the sole factors required for reducing poverty rather than recognizing that concerted action on all possible fronts is required to address the ongoing scandal of why so much of the world's population continues to live in misery and degradation.

Suggestions for action can be found at the Jubilee Australia website.


The Edmund Rice Centre, Oxfam and the Board of the A Just Australia campaign have recently re-affirmed their partnership in continuing to work for reforms to Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policy and practice.

The decision is in response to a perceived hardening of the government’s attitude towards refugees in the post-election climate but encouraged by the renewed scrutiny of Australia’s detention regime in the light of the Cornelia Rau case and the apparent willingness of some within the government’s own ranks to publicly criticise the current policy.

In the meantime more than 200 people continue to languish in Baxter Detention Centre where one of them Peter Qasim is well into his seventh year of detention, despite having not committed any crime and being universally recognized as not being a threat to anyone. Following the High Court ruling last August that his continued detention was not in breach of Australian law, he now faces the prospect of being detained indefinitely - an absurd and tragic situation. Surely by itself this example points to the need for a complete reform of the current policy in regard to refugees and asylum seekers.

The issue of refugees and asylum seekers will be the major focus of the next Edmund Rice Schools Justice Seminar at St Bernards College Essendon on March 4th


Publicity has been given to the development of free trade agreements in recent times. In theory free trade aims at the abolition of tariffs and the opening up of markets making trade easier by allowing market forces to balance needs, supply and demand.

In practice the outcome can be very different. Quite apart from the fact that many developed western nations presently seem to wish to retain a range of subsidies and tariffs, it is also true that developed nations and multi-national corporations are best placed to take advantage of any freeing up of world trade.

The advantages of international trade are not visible to all people in the world. For small farmers, access to market or price information is difficult and as a result, many become increasingly dependent on middlemen and receive smaller and smaller returns for their work. In bad times, many lose their only property - their land - and thus, their livelihoods. Similarly many plantation workers endure low pay, unsafe working environments and poor living conditions. To often they lack the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives on the plantation. The way that many products are produced, traded and consumed is unjust and a major cause of continuing world poverty.

For a comprehensive discussion of trade related issues visit the Global Issues website. For information about how you can support the implementation of fair trade visit the website of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand

10 February 2005


The well-publicised story of Cornelia Rau the Australian mistakenly held in immigration detention for ten months highlights several disturbing features of Australian society.

Leaving aside the questions around the lack of liaison between various state and federal government departments, police forces etc, the whole affair highlights the lack of compassion and concern for those who suffer mental illness and for those who are held in Immigration Detention. It also offers a further demonstration of the extent to which respect for human rights in this country has been eroded.

Of further concern is that after reluctantly agreeing to hold an enquiry into the matter, the Australian Government has announced that it is to be a secret enquiry with only the outcome to be made public - no doubt to try and ensure the well-documented neglect and mistreatment of those in detention is again covered-up.

It is interesting to note that in contrast to those charged with the care of Cornelia Rau, the two groups of people who did demonstrate some care and compassion for her by bringing her plight to the notice of authorities and the media, were members of the Aboriginal community in Queensland and her fellow detainees held in Baxter, respectively.

At least the case seems to have prompted Liberal parliamentarian Petro Georgiou to call for an end to the policy of mandatory detention and the granting of permanent residence to those on Temporary Protection Visas – the first member of the government to do so publicly. Readers of this bulletin may care to email him congratulating him on his stance.

You may also care to join the call for an open enquiry with broader terms of reference that will consider the treatment of all those held in detention. For more information about the issue and the campaign for an expanded enquiry visit the Project Safecom site.


This week marks the beginning of Lent, a time when Christians are traditionally encouraged to reflect on their lives and open their hearts more fully to the call of the gospel. As a practical expression of that change of heart they are also invited to support Project Compassion the annual appeal conducted by Caritas the Catholic Agency for Overseas Aid and Development.

In 2005, the theme for Project Compassion is "The Challenge is Poverty, the Time is Now!"

The funds raised during Project Compassion 2005 will contribute towards the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals thereby benefiting those families and individuals who are the poorest and most marginalised in the world through the support of a total of 83 ongoing projects around the world.

The Project Compassion campaign also provides funds that enables Caritas to respond immediately to any emergency. In the days that followed the Tsunami Caritas Australia was able to pledge $500,000 of immediate support from funds raised through Project Compassion.

Details of the work of Caritas can be found at the website above.


At long last there is genuine hope that the issue of world poverty may be addressed rather than ignored.

The recently concluded World Economic Forum offered hope that issues such as poverty and climate change may finally be recognized as priority issues for world leaders. Participants in the annual meeting of world political and business leaders called for the implementation of a series of concrete measures designed to yield immediate and long-lasting results, including the adoption of technology to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the creation of a fund to accelerate financial aid to the poorest nations and the removal of trade barriers that deprive developing countries of the dividends of global economic growth.

Tim Costello, the chief executive of World Vision Australia, in a letter to the Melbourne "Age" welcomed the outcomes of the meeting and commended the call of Prime Minister Howard for the elimination of trade barriers erected by western countries (which would also significantly benefit Australia).

However as Mr Costello pointed out trade is just one of the four issues that along with debt cancellation, aid and improved governance, need to be addressed together if the Millenium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015 is to be achieved. It was therefore disappointing to find that the Australian Prime Minister was the only world leader to speak against the proposal to grant debt relief - even more disappointing given the declining and dismal level of aid provided by Australia in recent years (usually with conditions attached).

It is difficult to escape the suspicion that the Australian government is motivated more by self-interest than a genuine desire to improving the lot of the world's poor.

As momentum builds for action at the global level to address the issue of poverty, the current moment provides a crucial opportunity for all of those concerned with the building of a more just world to at least lend their voice to support the current campaigns.

Why not let your representative in the Australian Parliament know your views on this issue?


For the first time finance ministers from the world’s wealthiest nations have agreed to support plans for the total cancellation of the debt owed by the world’s poorest countries. Whilst the Feb 5th announcement was welcomed as a significant breakthrough by those who have long campaigned for debt relief, it was noted that there is still no agreement on how the relief will be provided.

Campaigners were therefore urged to maintain the pressure on world leaders to ensure that this agreement will be translated into action that will benefit the world's poor.

The next significant discussion of this issue will be at the World Bank/IMF meeting in Washington on 17 April, followed by the annual G8 summit 6-8 July in Scotland.

Visit the Jubilee Australia website to find out more about the campaign to drop the debt and to support the campaign that calls for Australia to let Indonesia keep the A$93 million it owes Australia in debt repayments this year and instead use it for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

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