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How is it that Australia – which recently outperformed other OECD countries by recording 25 consecutive years of economic growth – could have such a significant number of waged employees falling under the poverty line? Among the 36 OECD countries, we are but a middling performer when it comes to poverty rates, yet, as the ‘lucky country’, we should expect to be lucky. Wages policy and FWC determinations clearly play a part, but they are not the full story.
According to Andrew Leigh and Adam Triggs in their blog article A few big firms, it’s hard to come up with Australian industries which are not dominated by a few big players. They found that, generally, the four biggest firms dominate 80% or more of their respective markets (the beer market, for example).
It’s a depressing fact that market dominance does not translate into responsible market behaviour – big, yet benign. Quite the reverse. Fewer and bigger businesses than ever use their enhanced market power for anti-competitive purposes. Those affected are not just consumers, but also small businesses, and workers.
A cursory scan of just about any set of prisoner demographics quickly reveals a catalogue of social disadvantage. Our prison populations show disproportionately high numbers of people with health problems including mental illness, addictions, intellectual disability, and acquired brain injury.
Other over-represented groups reflect lifelong social barriers, such as coming from a place of geographic disadvantage, or being part of a family living through inter-generational poverty. Homelessness can intersect with and exacerbate many of these risk factors.
Across Australia, one in four prisoners is homeless upon entering prison and almost one in three expects to be homeless on leaving. Unsurprisingly, prison doesn’t fix the problems associated with homelessness – it increases them. This isn’t just an indictment on our correctional or housing systems, it represents a major risk factor for recidivism.
Despite opposition from the networks of right-wing media and thinktanks aligned with and funded by major corporations, Pope Francis has reiterated many times his attack on extreme free-market ideologies, and, in part, blames them for growing inequality. He acknowledges the huge benefits of well-regulated markets in lifting millions out of poverty, but laments that markets have often been perverted and corrupted by special interests, diverting the gains to small elites rather than benefitting the many.
The social views of Francis have resonated profoundly with many others. There has been rising outrage in many countries against the neoliberal policies fanning extravagance and greed among elites, while austerity policies have caused widespread unemployment and severe hardship. The resentment has been sweeping through Europe and even the United States, helping to explain the election of President Trump and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Reviewed by Bruce Duncan
Robert Murray, Labor and Santamaria (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2017) pp. x + 103, Foreword Graham Freudenberg.
Veteran political journalist, Bob Murray, has produced a lively short account of the traumatic events of the great Labor Split of the 1950s in a way which makes the story readily accessible to readers today. Having known many of the players in this script personally, Murray has made them come alive for readers, detailing their personal idiosyncrasies and blemishes, as well as their hopes and struggles.
Murray wrote his classic book The Split in 1970, and it has remained the most significant political chronicle of those tumultuous years. It was based largely on Murray’s interviews with the key characters, bolstered by years as a political journalist doing the rounds in Labor political and union circles. He understood the Labor culture intimately, and was a close observer of ambiguity and human foibles.
Ten years ago this month, the then prime minister, John Howard, and his Indigenous affairs minister, Mal Brough, launched the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) into remote Indigenous communities.
With no warning and no consultation, the federal government moved swiftly to seize control of many aspects of the daily lives of residents in 73 targeted remote communities. It implemented coercive measures which would have been unthinkable in non-Indigenous communities.
From The Conversation.
What future for West Papua?
Louise Byrne & Revd Peter Woods
Wednesday 2 August 7:30-9pm
Yarra Theological Union Study Centre
Enter via 34 Bedford Street Box Hill
Street parking available. Entry by donation. Refreshments available afterwards.
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In the early 1960s, West Papua was a Dutch colony, with a well-funded well-organised self-determination program, legislated by the Netherlands Parliament, and signed-off by Queen Juliana, with independence scheduled for 1970. By the end of the 1960s, West Papua was an Operational Military Zone within the Indonesian Republic. What happened, and what’s going on now?
What is the role of Christians and the churches in West Papua’s struggle for self-determination?
Louise Byrne is an experienced political activist, underpinning her work with academic analysis and the principles of self-determination, sustainability and good governance. She was taught liberation politics by Eritreans under siege, who put her to work with their only dentist, alongside Fred Hollows’ eye clinic. Close to home, she worked for the East Timorese until their liberation in 1999. Indonesia assumed sovereign control over West Papua in 1963, and Louise has devoted her energies to supporting the indigenous people of West Papua.
Peter Woods taught for ten years in theological schools in West Papua and Java in the 1970s and 1980s, revisiting the region a number of times since. As an Anglican priest, he has advocated for the church and the Australian government to support the recognition of West Papua’s right to self-determination. As a visual artist, he has held three exhibitions of his paintings depicting the struggle of the men, women, and children of West Papua.
Books for sale through SPC
Bonded through Tragedy, United in Hope. The Catholic Church and East Timor’s Struggle for Independence. A Memoir (Garratt Publishing). Therese and Jim D’Orsa, with Hilton Deakin.
$25 plus postage, or at the SPC office.
SPC Video Selection
Professor Paul Smyth
The nexus of wages & welfare
Race Mathews & Paul Smyth
Cooperatives as a means to fight inequality