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The trend to increasing inequity in income and wealth in Australia is not somehow an accident of history. It is as a result of a mix of policies, in large embraced by both major parties. So, if, as we commence this new parliamentary period, the major parties are speaking of a bipartisan spirit to budgetary reform, let us first see bipartisan recognition that a major threat to our economic future and our social cohesion lies in passive acceptance of growing inequality in Australia.
Prime Minister Turnbull promised us centrist and fair policies, but the Treasurer Mr Morrison appears to be playing a politics of resentment against people receiving income support. On 25 August, he declared, “There is a new divide – the taxed and the taxed-nots”.
This sounds suspiciously like ‘lifters’ versus ‘leaners’, and implicitly blames the country’s debt on those on benefits, particularly the poor. Dr Helen Szoke, chief executive of Oxfam Australia, was alarmed that the government seemed to be demonizing the poor, while saying nothing about large companies avoiding taxes of billions of dollars.
This sounds like the old dog-whistle politics of generating resentment against others with the misleading perception that ordinary taxpayers are being exploited by people on benefits.
There is growing evidence that inequality is increasing not only in Australia but internationally within the advanced industrial economies. The age of endless growth in prosperity for everyone is a distant memory of a more hopeful age.
Australia, the land of the fair go, has in the past presented a bulwark against the ugly inequality which has openly disfigured US and UK society, and is increasingly evident throughout Europe. But this week’s Chifley Research Centre report on inequality reveals how far Australia has slipped from its ideals of fairness and equity.
The blame game is on. With well-politicised debate erupting about the Murray Goulburn (MG) dairy cooperative saga and what went wrong, fingers are inevitably being pointed in all directions.
So far, fingers have been directed at a globally ambitious Murray Goulburn, its assertive CEO, regulatory failures, passive farmers, and Russian sanctions. It’s even been suggested you and I might be to blame each time we buy that $1 milk at the supermarket. But, whatever the causes, the reality is global over-supply of dairy products, with the result that, despite allegedly insatiable Chinese demand, plummeting prices have caught MG off-guard.
Fortune magazine ran an article in March 1934, claiming it had cost the US Treasury $25,000 to kill an enemy soldier in 1917-18: ‘Every time a burst shell fragment finds its way into the brain, the heart, or the intestines of a man in the front line, a great part of the $25,000, much of it profit, finds its way into the pocket of the armament maker.’
But is the US arms industry subject to public scrutiny today, asks Richard Broinowski?
Sometimes, if we are to understand highly complex human tragedies like WWI, we begin by reducing them to the personal. And sometimes, because of our interest in a single person, we are driven to discover a bigger and more abstract context, one that helps us understand what happened, and why.
‘So I start with Jack, my father’s older brother’, wrote Kevin Peoples in his account of his uncle Jack’s involvement in the tragedy of the Great War.
Learning to understand & respect
Islamic cultures & religion
Dr Herman Roborgh
Wednesday 7 September
Yarra Theological Union Study Centre 34 Bedford Street Box Hill
Entry free. Donations welcome. Refreshments afterwards.
Download the flyer.
He completed his BA at Monash University, before moving to Indonesia, where he taught and became keenly interested in inter-religious relations. He later undertook Islamic Studies at Birmingham University, and moved to Lahore in Pakistan, where he learned Urdu and Arabic, and set up an interfaith library. He gained his PhD from Aligarh Muslim University in India with a thesis on an Urdu commentary on the Qur’an. He later taught in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
After 2007, Dr Roborgh lectured at Melbourne University for six years on Islam in the Modern World and on the History and Theology of Christian-Muslim Relations. Since 2013, he has been researching and writing on Islamic texts at Melbourne University’s Asia Centre.
“My passion is to learn from other religions and cultures, so as to appreciate theirtraditions, their values, and their practical wisdom.
I strive for deep understanding of other religions to develop deep friendships across religious and cultural boundaries.”
Pope Francis, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the leaders of many other churches are inviting us during September to celebrate God’s creation and deepen our commitment to care for it.
The Season of Creation runs from 1 September until the feast of St Francis on 4 October.
See the Season of Creation website for resources and video messages from Pope Francis, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
The World Council of Churches for the Season of Creation has further resources here.
The Australian Columbans have also produced resources for Sundays in September.
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