Bruce Duncan.

Palestine: The Separation Wall, MissyKel. flickr cc.

World leaders are still struggling with the implications of the Trump Administration. They are watching closely to see how firmly the new US President sticks to his campaign pledges, and how much he is prepared to listen to experienced advisors.

Trump caused confusion with his recent disjointed remarks to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but it was not clear if Trump was abandoning a two-state solution for the Palestine issue. Our own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a chance to reiterate Australia’s support for a two-state settlement for Palestine when Netanyahu briefly visited Australia, but instead attacked UN resolutions against Israel for its contravention of international law. This SPC newsletter looks at these issues in its lead article.

Social Policy Connections has been delighted to have two prominent speakers at its recent public forums.

Bill Armstrong. Genuine development: what it involves

Bill Armstrong AO spoke on 22 February on how aid and welfare are no substitutes for genuine development, either in Indigenous communities, or overseas. He was critical of how government funding for some aid agencies had resulted in their agendas drifting away from direct community development and community-to-community collaboration, and instead towards involvement in Australia’s perceived national interests in business, trade, and security issues. He insisted that the best results for genuine development come from long-term collaboration with local communities in ways which empower them to stand up for their rights and shape their own futures. See Bill Armstrong: Volunteering with Attitude, by Robin Davies. SPC captures some of Bill’s incisive address on Youtube.

Bill has vast experience in development work. An apprentice fitter and turner, Bill worked for five years with the Young Christian Workers Movement (YCW) before beginning a career in international development with the Overseas Service Bureau, later named Australian Volunteers International, in which he was CEO for 20 years. In the 1970s, he was national coordinator of the Churches International Development Education Program, Action for World Development. He was president of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) from 1993 to 1997.

He is currently co-chair of Indigenous Community Volunteers, and has had a long involvement with Timor Leste, for three years chairing the City of Port Philip’s Friends of Covalima/Suai in Timor Leste.

Josh Cullinan. Exploited workers demand just wages

Another splendid speaker for SPC was Josh Cullinan, who has been prominent in exposing the massive exploitation of low-paid workers in major retail and fast food outlets. Josh spoke on his campaign at SPC on 30 November last year, and sections of this are posted on Youtube. Josh has worked in the Australian trade union movement for 15 years, and his work for casual workers won him the ACTU Best Workplace Campaign of the Year Award in 2013. He has campaigned for workers at Bakers Delight, Hungry Jacks, 7/11 stores, and Coles. He honed his leadership skills in the Young Christian Workers movement between 1996 and 2002.

Josh was dismayed at the deals made by the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association with major employers, including Coles, Woolworths, and McDonald’s, at the cost of workers’ wage entitlements. He has launched a new union to represent these workers, the Retail & Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU). More than 250,000 workers have been short-changed at a saving to big business of some $300million.

The new union is strongly opposed to the recent cuts in penalty rates for many young workers. Its volunteers and supporters are making contacts with employees in hundreds of workplaces around Australia.


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