24 March 2007


Over the past few weeks, Zimbabwe has plunged more deeply into crisis with many of those opposing its government or calling for the restoration of human rights and democracy undergoing intimidation, beatings or even murder.

The recent dramatic intervention of the Australian diplomat Mark Lynch to defy the Zimbabwe government and help injured activist Sekai Holland escape from armed guard in an Harare hospital to the safety of South Africa is an indication of the seriousness of the current situation.

It follows the recent declaration of the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube that he is "ready to face bullets" in joining an anti-government street protest. Archbishop Ncube stated that Zimbabweans must take to the streets over rights abuses by Mugabe's government. "The biggest problem with Zimbabweans is they are cowards, myself included, but as for me I am ready to stand in front, even of blazing guns" he said.

The latest campaign organised by AVAAZ takes the form of a petition to the leaders of Zimbabwe’s main trading partners South Africa and the European Union, urging them to take action against President Mugabe and his top aides.

Avaaz is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. Their aim is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people, and not just political elites and unaccountable corporations, shape global decisions.


On Sat Mar 31st the leader of the major Opposition Party in Australia, Kevin Rudd, is convening a National Climate Change Summit in Canberra.

Representatives of Get Up have been invited to participate in the summit and are inviting submissions from ordinary Australian citizens that can be presented directly to members of the alternative Australian government.

This is a crucial opportunity to influence and support real climate leadership inside a major political party, and represents a rare chance to have your voice heard by a significant group of our parliamentary representatives.

The recent global petition on climate change organized by Avaaz and promoted through this bulletin, succeeded in attracting more than 100,000 signatures and was an important influence in German Chancellor and G8 President Angela Merkel’s announcement that Climate Change would be the major agenda item at the next G8 leader’s summit in June. Another demonstration that when people act together they can make a difference.

An online petition to maintain the pressure on G8 leaders can be found at the above website.


One of the student readers of this bulletin Sarah Jupp is seeking support for the "MAKE POVERTY HISTORY World's Biggest Banner Record Attempt".

To demonstrate the desire of the public for concrete government action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Oxfam Youth leaders of Victoria and Tasmania, of which Sarah is one, are asking active supporters to organise their place of worship/school/community group/family to make an individual banner which can be joined with others to make a single gigantic banner in July at Southbank and Alexandra gardens in Melbourne.

July of this year marks the half-way point to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Whilst some progress has been made, much more remains to be done. It is more important than ever that that governments commit further energy and resources to achieve these goals through fairer global trade rules, debt relief, and more and better aid, combined with reducing the effects of climate change and political corruption.

As part of the goal to halve extreme poverty by 2015 Australia, along with other developed nations of the world, pledged 0.7 per cent of GNP (Gross National Product) as aid. Sadly, as this bulletin has regularly reported, in practice Australia’s commitment has fallen well short of the level promised.

Participation in the Biggest Banner Record Attempt is a way of reminding the government of its commitment.


Last month an Australian naval vessel intercepted a small boat carrying 83 Sri Lankans and took them to Christmas Island. After first apparently considering either returning the men to Sri Lanka or handing them over to Indonesia (either action would have been a contravention of the refugee convention) the Australian Government decided to send them to Nauru.

Refugee advocates have long criticised this ‘Pacific Solution’ as a fundamental violation of human rights. The consequence may well be that even if the 83 men are determined to be genuine refugees (as has been the case with the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers who have reached Australian waters) they are likely to languish indefinitely on Nauru.

This unjust treatment and lack of compassion extended to asylum seekers was recently justified by the newly appointed minister for immigration Kevin Andrews on the grounds that it would deter others.

Leaving aside the dubious morality of punishing the innocent in order to deter others, it is also worth remembering that whilst most developed countries typically receive 50,000 to 100,000 unauthorised arrivals each year, Australia’s geographic isolation means that the number of such arrivals is relatively small. Over the life of the current government it has averaged around 1000 per year. Hardly justification for one of the harshest ‘border protection’ regimes in the world.

9 March 2007


Students from Edmund Rice Schools in Victoria gathered at St Josephs College Geelong recently for a social justice seminar. The theme for the day was around our response to global warming and climate change in regard to future energy sources, with particular consideration given to the advisability of adopting the nuclear energy option.

Students listened to a presentation from Jim Green from Friends of the Earth asked questions and then met in school groups to decide what to do in their school communities to raise awareness around this issue.

As a practical example of the potential of the Edmund Rice Network to lobby for change, a number of students signed a letter to the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources urging greater government action to promote the use of renewable energy sources rather than than to rely on coal or nuclear options for our energy production.

The letter expressed concern at the government giving priority to the economy over the preservation of the planet and also argued that "Given the dire warnings that continue to be issued by the scientific community and the catastrophic consequences if their predictions are correct, it seems obvious to us that the prudent course of action would be to assume the worst in our efforts to come to terms with the problem rather than to gamble with our future as it seems your current policies are doing.”

Get Up has also just launched an appeal for a Climate Action Campaign Fund in an attempt to build a grass roots movement to demand action on climate change and to counteract the influence of the wealthy mining and business lobbies that currently appear to have the ear of the government.

Some participants in he Climate Change Student Seminar


In the lead up to International Women’s Day which was celebrated this past week, the Holy See's permanent observer, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, reminded the United Nations that women "bear the brunt of the world's child prostitution, sexual exploitation, abuse, domestic violence, child labour and human trafficking".

In continuing call to governments to honour their commitments to achieving the Millenium Development Goals organizers of the Make Poverty History Campaign this week also drew attention to the fact that women also disproportionately bear an unjust burden of economic hardship. This is revealed by the fact that:-

* Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70% are women.
* Two-thirds of children denied primary education are girls, and 75% of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women.
* Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, and yet earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property.

On the same website can be found a letter writing guide encouraging Australia to increase its support for the Global Fund for Aids, TB and Malaria - an extremely important area of development work.

The Australian Government is currently developing the 2007-2008 budget. This is an ideal time to contact politicians and urge them to make a greater contribution to achieving the MDGs especially given the Government’s performance to date has fallen short of what is required.


While most women in Australia can expect to live to an average age of 82 years, an Indigenous Australian woman can expect to live to only 64.8 years. The situation is even worse for Indigenous men whose life expectancy is only 59.4 years. From injury, to road trauma, to diabetes, to cancer, to respiratory disease and infant mortality, Indigenous health lags behind that of most Australians and is often comparable to that of the world's poorest nations including Mozambique and Bangladesh.

In response to this shameful situation Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) and Oxfam Australia have commenced a campaign called Close the Gap which calls on Australian governments to take action to achieve health equality for Indigenous Australians within 25 years through :-
- increasing annual Indigenous health funding by $450 million to enable equal access to health services
- increasing Indigenous control and participation in the delivery of health services
- addressing critical social issues such as housing, education and self-determination which contribute to the Indigenous health crisis

You can support the campaign by signing the online pledge at the websites of the respective organizations (see links above)


Within the past few days the newly appointed US Commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus admitted that there was no military solution to the insurgency in Iraq, and that a final resolution of the conflict would require the engagement in political discussion of militant groups responsible for the violence.

Recently the Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson also conceded that there will be "no such thing as victory in Iraq" and that IRAQ will remain beset by sectarian violence and terrorism even after coalition forces leave it.

The war in Iraq is now estimated to have cost the United States over 370 thousand million dollars with some economists predicting that the final cost will be between one and two million, million dollars. (see the report in the respected British newspaper The Guardian

Australia’s small commitment has so far cost an estimated two thousand million dollars.

These sums are almost too large to comprehend but by contrast it is estimated that the annual cost of eliminating starvation and malnutrition globally is nineteen thousand million dollars and as noted in the previous post less than a quarter of Australia's expenditure on the Iraq war would enable indigenous people equal access to health care services.

In the wake of the catastrophic failure of military intervention in Iraq the visit of American Jesuit priest and peace activist Fr John Dear is timely. Fr Dear is currently visiting Australia at the invitation of Pace e Bene preaching a message of creative non-violence as an alternative means to bring about social change.

Full details of his visit can be found at the above website.

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