23 November 2005


United Nations data showing Australia's level of greenhouse gas emissions had increased by more than 23% in the period 1990-2003 was presented at the Catholic Earthcare Conference held in Canberra last weekend. Despite reassurances from the Federal Environment Minister, other speakers at the conference expressed alarm at the figures and concern that too little was being done to address the issue. Other speakers warned that Global Warming was also likely to result in large numbers of 'environmental refugees' in our region.

In a statement “Climate Change: Our Responsibility to Sustain God’s Earth” issued at the conference the Australian Catholic Bishops Committee for Justice Development, Ecology and Peace acknowledged that "Rapid climate change as the result of human activity is now recognized by the global scientific community as a reality" which raised "serious moral and spiritual questions, not just for Catholics but for all Australian citizens and leaders, and calls for change in our way of life".

The Bishops went on to say that "as pastors of more than a quarter of the Australian population, we urge Catholics as a matter of conscience to cooperate in facing global warming as one of the major issues of our time and take roles of responsibility proper to them"

Those concerned about this issue may be interested in participating in one of the many Walk Against Warming walks being organized around the country as part of the International day of Action on Climate Change on 3rd Dec.


The final global day of action for the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 is due to take place on Dec 10th and coincides with the World Trade Organization Meeting in Hong Kong.

Actions are planned around the world to again put pressure on governments to make the necessary decisions to end poverty for good. Leaders meeting in Hong Kong have the opportunity to address issues of fair trade, one of the key areas along with debt cancellation, increased aid and good governance needed to eliminate global poverty.

All readers of this bulletin are encouraged to support this campaign and to wear a white wristband on Dec 10th.

Those in Melbourne may care to join the Trade Justice Walk scheduled to commence outside the State Library of Victoria on Friday 9th December at 12:45pm. The walk will then travel from the State Library via Swanston and Bourke Sts to the Honorary French Consulate and then via Collins St to the UK Consulate. At the Consulates a symbolic dumping of agricultural products from a caravan of donkeys will occur and a presentation made to Consulate staff in protest at the European Union trade policies. The walk will conclude around 1:45pm at near Treasury Gardens.

Similar actions are planned in many cities around the world as part of the campaign.


In recent years, terrorist attacks around the world have consistently been linked to the religion of Islam. Recent arrests of suspected terrorist groups within Australia together with the debate about the proposed anti-terrorism laws currently before Parliament have further reinforced the link between people of the Muslim faith and terrorism in the minds of many Australians.

Unfortunately this association ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are loyal, law abiding citizens of this country and that their religion is one that preaches peace, human rights and tolerance.

The Edmund Rice Centre in Croydon (NSW) has recently published a document that challenges some of the common misconceptions about Muslim Australians and Islam


This will be the final Justice Bulletin for the year as I am about to leave for India to take part in the Flare Up Like a Flame Social Justice Symposium to be attended by about 130 members of the Edmund Rice Network from all around the world, in Kolkata commencing later this month.

Wishing peace, joy and blessings to all readers of this bulletin and their families for this Christmas season.

It is intended to resume publication of the bulletins in late Jan.

9 November 2005


The impending execution of Van Tuong Nguyen the young Australian convicted of drug trafficking in Singapore has aroused considerable public interest and media attention. His youth, the absence of a previous criminal record and his apparent motivation, a desperate attempt to pay off his twin brother’s debts, have aroused widespread sympathy and again focused attention on the issue of capital punishment.

In the past, Catholic teaching has permitted the taking of life in certain exceptional circumstances such as self-defense and capital punishment. In more recent times successive Popes have spoken out against executions and current teaching argues that circumstances that would justify the execution of offenders are "practically non-existent".

Amnesty International has long campaigned against capital punishment arguing that
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
It violates the right to life.
It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments."

At the global level the number of countries that have effectively abolished capital punishment has increased steadily each year to the point where they form the majority. At present it is used in 75 countries in the world.

Information about the campaign to save Van Tuong Nguyen, including an online petition for clemency to the Prime Minister of Singapore can be found at the GetUp - Action for Australia website


The details of the Australian Government’s Industrial Relations reforms were finally tabled in the Federal Parliament on Nov 2nd. The draft WorkChoices Bill and accompanying notes totaled more than 1200 pages, however time to debate the Bill in Parliament is very limited. For example the Senate committee appointed to review the Bill has invited submissions from the public but the deadline for such submissions has already passed.

One wonders why the legislation is being pushed through Parliament in such haste at a time when the electorate is distracted by a concern over possible terrorist threats.

Prior to the tabling of the bill a saturated media advertising campaign promoted its alleged benefits, however the key concerns relating to the relative bargaining strengths of employers and employees appear not to have been addressed.

Some of those concerns were highlighted by Polmin in a Senate submission where it was pointed out that the changes clearly strengthen the position of the employer whilst putting people in positions where they may be forced to bargain for conditions such as penalty rates and public holidays or risk losing their jobs.

PolMin also expressed concern that the changes will leave low paid and unskilled workers vulnerable to exploitation, which will have the effect of driving wages down and increasing the pool of working poor.

The plight of outworkers under the new legislation was highlighted in a separate submission from Fairwear

Fairwear is concerned that the range of laws and award provisions built up over many years to protect vulnerable outworkers from exploitation, will not be maintained under the new provisions. This is likely to happen given that under the legislation outworkers will be deemed to be 'independent contractors' rather than 'employees' without the corresponding rights and entitlements, but who will be 'free' to enter into contracts for as little as $3-$4 per hour. As most outworkers are migrant women with limited English skills and financial resources they are extremely disadvantaged in the new workplace regime.

Those attending this weeks 'Justice in the Pub" were provided with extensive information about this issue by guest presenter Daisy Gardener from Fairwear. Daisy also spoke about the ongoing Fair Schoolwear campaign which aims to involve students and school communities in the campaign to ensure their school uniforms are made in non-sweat-shop conditions. Details of this campaign can also be found at the Fairwear website.

Fairwear is also looking for supporters to assist in their participation in the rally against the Industrial Relations reforms next Tuesday. Those interested in holding banners etc are invited to meet at 9am at the Cnr of Swanston St and Collins St.


As we are about to enter the pre-Christmas season the spending and consumer patterns of Australians is questioned in an article published on the Edmund Rice Centre website.

Despite enjoying the highest material living standards in history it seems from a recent survey that even many of the richest amongst us believe they did not have enough money to buy everything that they really need.

The belief that spending money on an infinite variety of products and services is one way to happiness seems to have become deeply entrenched in our society. At the same time the signs are that this has not led to greater contentment, and as well, we are producing and consuming at such a rate that resources are being depleted and cannot be replaced.

The easy availability of credit means that debt has reached record levels, Australians are building ever bigger houses whilst the size of families continues to decrease and we are working longer and longer hours in order to pay off debts and afford purchases. The justification for the new industrial relations provisions seems to be that they are necessary to sustain economic growth. The desirability or sustainability of continued, unlimited economic growth seems never to be questioned.

Perhaps now is a more important time than ever to re-examine our lifestyles and spending patterns. Perhaps the approaching Christmas season is a good place to start.


During Refugee Week, Amnesty International launched a campaign against the Temporary Protection Visa system introduced by the Australian government in 1999.

Those issued with these visas are permitted to live in Australia and are entitled to a range of entitlements and benefits including work rights and access to Medicare etc. Criticism of the TPV system has focussed mainly on the issues of the right to family reunion and on the temporary nature of the visa which leaves an often already heavily traumatized person living in a state of uncertainty and anxiety that they may be returned to a situation of danger and persecution.

Many refugees are separated from their families for four or five years, first in mandatory detention and then when they are granted a TPV. Husbands are separated from their wives, children from their parents. Women and children are left stranded in camps overseas where their human rights are threatened.

If they attempt to leave the country, the Australian government will cancel their visa. It doesn't matter why they are leaving, even if they are looking for lost children or visiting sick parents, they cannot return and therefore they lose their protection in Australia. The personal stories of some TPV holders can be found on the above website.

It seems somewhat ironic that whilst the current situation prevails the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (described by some commentators as the ‘department for the others’) has embarked on an internal education campaign for its employees around the theme 'People – Our Business'

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?