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I can’t help but think we are living in some Alice in Wonderland moment, in which things are all upside-down. Around us, we are hearing regular commentary on increasing inequality in Australia, and acknowledging that measures are required to improve the circumstances of those at the low end of the socio-economic scale. Some economists even tell us increasing wealth concentration actually works to reduce the rate of growth of economies.
This week, we have witnessed the passing of legislation to reduce the company tax rate, at a cost to government tax revenue of $27 billion over 10 years. The justification for such largess is that it will create investment and growth. Remarkably, the the whole political brouhaha which has preceded this outcome, no evidence has been presented that this argument is valid, or, if it is, that it is cost-effective.
The current government’s election policy platform, Our Plan: Real solutions for all Australians, stated one of its aims as delivering “a decent and respectful society which gives a ‘fair go’ to all, and encourages people to thrive and move ahead”.
But, as Jenny Begent writes, a ‘fair go for all’ means continuing to invest in those within our community who are most in need, to ensure they are able to participate fully in and contribute to our society. It is, therefore, imperative that the federal government considers the needs of those who are disadvantaged determining fiscal priorities in the next budget.
We should never aim for the restoration of the nation’s budget at the expense of the basic human rights of individuals and families.
According to John Buchanan in The Conversation, deepening inequality, “much of it originating in the labour market”, is retarding the demand necessary to sustain output and employment growth.
If people’s real earnings fall, their spending reduces, causing demand for goods and services to fall, and, in turn, also the demand for labour (jobs). This is why a cut in wages for low-paid workers will not create jobs; rather, it will reduce living standards. Cutting wages for the lowest-paid will only make these problems worse.
Until recently, there has been a lack of political appetite and bureaucratic capacity for a coordinated approach to tackling rough sleeping. However, the creation of the Rough Sleeping Taskforce in Victoria has finally been translated into a practical approach which will work towards a statewide solution, rather than to a Melbourne city-specific approach.
According to Jenny Begent, rough sleepers are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society. They deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance. They may have suffered relationship breakdown, bereavement, or domestic abuse. People need long-term dedicated support to move away for good from the streets.
Ideologies, the self-interested bankers, accountants, and lawyers persist with their fixation on privatisation, despite the fact that it is failing in one area after another, and that the electorate shows very clearly that it does not want it.
The latest political example was in the WA election, in which the part-privatisations of Western Power was an important factor in the defeat of the Barnett government. Opinion polls showed that 70% of West Australians did not agree with selling Western Power.
Frances Pennington writes that Donald Trump’s proposed budget in the United States would greatly reduce US foreign aid and cut funding to a host of organisations which support and protect people in poverty, their healthcare, and their children.
It’s easy to be overrun by bad news, by reckless and callous policy decisions, and by stories of conflict and horror. But it is important to remember that change is happening, and that progress has been and will continue to be made. This year’s letter from Bill and Melinda Gates is a reminder of this. It is a thoughtful and reflective call to optimism in our attitudes and approach to global health, foreign aid, and philanthropy.
Dr John Falzon: One-term Tories
In a stunning interview with Emma Alberici on ABC TV on 13 March 2017, Dr John Falzon said the blame for unemployment must not be placed at the feet of those who are unemployed. It’s a societal and structural problem within Australian society. Yet our government has cut $3 billion from support services. People don’t want to rely on charity, but when someone who is not working is forced below the poverty line and receives $37 a day, what chance does that person have even of making it to a job interview?
Close colleague of Pope Francis, Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, talks about Óscar Romero and liberation theology
The preferential option for the poor is not a communist idea, but comes from Jesus in the Gospels. Moved by the sufferings and killings of his people in El Salvador, Archbishop Romero resolutely defended the rights of the poor, and for this was himself killed 25 years ago. The Church has extolled his stand, with Pope Francis intending to declare him a saint and martyr.
Interview by Matthew Howard of commonhome.tv for Redemptorist Communications Melbourne, published 23 March 2017.