27 October 2005
Seeing the reforms as an attempt to put money ahead of humanity, the Social Action Office, a body sponsored by the leaders of Religious Congregations in Queensland, has launched a campaign to raise awareness and promote discussion about the effects of the changes.
The SAO is concerned that the proposed changes will impact heavily on the rights of the most vulnerable workers and their families - especially those on low-incomes, those who work part-time and casual hours. The SAO expresses particular concern regarding the vulnerable situation outworkers may find themselves in.
All information relating to the campaign can be found at the Social Action Office website where several lobbying strategies are suggested including an online petition to the Senate and postcards to Senators.
The presentation noted that in looking to meet the challenges facing our national economy in the future such as
- the provision of health and social security benefits to an ageing population,
- maintaining employment levels in the face of increasing global competition , and
- meeting the future demand for increasingly scarce and expensive resources (including energy requirements)
governments were adopting policies and strategies aimed at reducing welfare spending (eg tightening eligibility criteria) , reducing labour costs (hence the proposed IR reforms) and increased privatisation (extending the ‘user pays’ principle)
The paper suggests that behind these strategies lie a number of assumptions about the human person, human rights and the common good that are at variance with Catholic social teaching.
In particular it is suggested that the following widely held assumptions deserve to be questioned
- Poverty is inevitably an issue about fault and inadequacy (It’s all the fault of the individual)
- Poverty can be avoided or alleviated by the individual taking more responsibility (If they took greater and more focused initiative, their circumstances would improve)
- Poverty is the result of a person abrogating their personal responsibility. (They should not expect others to take responsibility for their own failings)
- Poverty is a result of people lacking in specific skills which, if taught, will alleviate and probably transform personal circumstances (low income people don’t know how to shop appropriately, or how to make their meagre resources work best for them; they don’t have financial management skills; they frequently miss-spend on inappropriate luxuries)
- Low income people don’t know how to save money. (a more specific version of the above assumption)
- Specific items of clothing, or particular resources should not be owned or purchased by low-income people. (this includes items such as mobile phones; motor vehicles; and brand names of clothing)
- Specific services should not be used by low income people if they cannot afford it (this could include services such as telephone, and internet, and some could even suggest access to particular utilities)
- Ongoing poverty is a result of poor motivation (Education and encouragement will address this problem)
Mr Sullivan went on to say that "The report clearly demonstrates that governments and private health insurers restrict access to services for the mentally ill purely for financial reasons" with the result that "basic human rights are being denied to desperate and vulnerable people."
"Despite thirteen years of national initiatives mental health services are embarrassingly inadequate, people with dual diagnoses are left abandoned, young people at risk are isolated and bureaucratic 'duck shoving' has become an art"
The full report can be viewed at the Mental Health Council of Australia website.
Student readers of this bulletin who have participated as volunteers on the St Vincent de Paul Soup Vans as part of their Amberley Ministry Retreats would have some appreciation of the plight of some of the mentally ill in our community.
The next Justice in the Pub night will be on Tues 8th Nov at 'Bridie O’Reilly's', cnr Sydney and Brunswick Rds, 7.30pm for 8.00pm. Guest presenter will be Daisy Gardener from Fairwear. Realising that many Australian school uniforms are still made in overseas sweatshops, an aim of the night is to highlight how the switch to “No Sweatshop” certified school uniforms can be made. Fairwear also have an easy to follow "School's Kit" which will be presented. All welcome, especially those involved with schools.
Marist Justice Festival
The 2006 Marist National Justice Festival "What if?…Justice is Possible" for young adults will be held in Ballarat from 11th-15th Jan. People can register online, get information about the Festival or view photos of NJF 2004 by clicking on the Marist Young Adult Ministry website.
Some sponsorship is also available to attend the festival through the Youth and Young Adult Edmund Rice Network (YERN).
Email Brian Bond or Gerard Brady for further information.
13 October 2005
About 250,000 job seekers in Australia have not had significant work for over a year.
About half a million families have no members in paid work and
each night, about one hundred homeless families cannot find places in refuge.
These are some of the facts about poverty in Australia being highlighted in Anti-Poverty Week.
The facts and figures in relation to global poverty are even more disturbing.
Anti-Poverty Week aims to strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship. It also aims to encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.
The week coincides with the UN's annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17. During this time there are a range of events concerning the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals and families in Australia and around the world.
Information about events being planned as well as basic fact sheets, promotional material and links to sources of information and ideas about ways of reducing poverty and hardship can be found at the official Anti-Poverty Week website
Anti-Poverty week is also the major focus of the latest edition of Ozspirit
At the same time she was heartened by the coming together of like-minded groups from a broad range of civil, business and development agencies with a common commitment to move towards the creation of a more just and secure world.
"What is needed now is concerted effort to fill the gaps that our leaders have left. Civil society, re-energized by the mass protests around the G-8 summit this summer; businesspeople with the vision to see that a secure and healthy world is a better place in which to operate will be critical actors in the times ahead." she said.
"The United Nations is too often blamed for the faults of the governments that constitute it. 'We the peoples of the United Nations,' begins the famous charter. Taking the UN back to the people should be the guiding principle now - letting their energy reshape it for the 21st century." she concluded.
Key presenter was Valli Mendez from Project Respect an Australian non-government organisation which challenges exploitation of and violence against women in the sex industry.
Some points made by Valli included:-
The women (mainly from South-east Asia) are enticed by the prospect of earning money to support their families by working in Australia.
Most women trafficked into Australia are unaware of the nature of the work they will be asked to do.
The women are brought to Australia on valid visas (eg tourist visas) but are then assigned to work off the exorbitant 'debt' allegedly incurred by their traffickers in bringing them to Australia, by working illegally in licensed or unlicensed brothels.
Violence, intimidation and the threat of exposure to either the government or their families (who are usually unaware of the nature of the work they are engaged in) together with their isolation and ignorance of the language, laws and customs in Australia ensure compliance.
When women have outlived their usefulness to the traffickers they are frequently reported to the Department of Immigration who place them in detention until they are deported. Not surprisingly those facing deportation are unlikely to be willing to testify against traffickers who may be part of organized crime networks.
Whilst the government had moved to legislate to address the problem, present measures are clearly inadequate and further legislation is required. The next test of the adequacy of these anti-slavery laws is in the case due to come before the courts in Melbourne early in 2006.
It was also pointed out that it was men’s demand for such services that created the problem in the first place and hence there were implications for our society in how we educate in and nurture healthy human relationships.
For more information about the global nature of this problem visit the website of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
To sign an online petition in relation to sexual slavery in Australia click here
Highfield spoke mainly from the perspective of the media where he highlighted the relative lack of outrage about the 'cash for comments' issue whereby popular radio presenters had been paid to present the activities of various corporations in a favourable light, and the threat to the search for truth posed by the prosecution of two Melbourne journalists for failure to disclose their sources of information.
He also drew attention to the army of media consultants employed by governments and other organizations to create spin and manipulate the flow of information. This coupled with the failure of political journalists to adequately question the information put out by governments can mean that the public is not adequately informed and that this therefore represents a threat to "true democracy and openness"
He attributed this decline to the fact that "people have turned inwards on themselves and therefore become disengaged from the political process, partly because of the pressure of their own personal problems like the mortgage, investments and their superannuation."
The solution he suggested lay first with us, the public, demanding higher standards in public life, but also could be addressed through developing professional associations with a strong moral sense and the power to enforce standards within their own industries. He also believed there was a need to strengthen protections for whistle-blowers.