Lake Hume at 4% 2007.
Tim J Keegan. flickr cc.

Climate crisis: not so slow-burning now.


Future generations will struggle to understand why key Australian politicians and sections of the media refused so long to recognise that global warming was an immediate threat to Australia and the world.

January 2019 was the hottest month on record in Australia, with the nation’s mean temperature above 30C for the first time. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, it was the warmest month on record for maximum and minimum temperatures as well.

MTV-Sponsored Show Raises Awareness on Human Trafficking in Asia. United Nations Photo. flickr cc.

I don’t want slaves working for me

Sarah Puls

One of the most courageous people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know is a woman named Mary (not her real name), who was a victim of human trafficking…

When Mary was brought to Australia, she was held captive, deprived of food, and subjected to physical and sexual violence by multiple men every day for almost two years. Before I met Mary and heard something of her experience, I could never have imagined a human being could subject another human being to such inhumane, violent, horrific treatment.

Regularly in my day-to-day life, I bump up against the edges of the world of trafficked people. Here in Australia, we all do. The distressing truth is that it is easy for me – and all of us – to be complicit in systems and processes which allow human trafficking to be a growing problem in our world. Though not abusing people directly, our choices every day connect us with systems and supply chains in which people are used as objects, in which the life of a person is worth very little indeed.

Everyday purchases like clothing, food, and technology connect us with supply chains in which slavery and labour exploitation are endemic. The choices I make reflect my values, my commitment to human rights, and my ability to recognise every person as having equal dignity and value.

If Bill Shorten becomes the next Australian prime minister, he will have much on his side, but will need to be wary of low voter trust in politicians. Lukas Coch/AAP.

A Shorten government could shift the country on important issues, and show a little spunk.

Frank Bongiorno

A Shorten government would regard climate change as the most pressing challenge of the age. But, unlike Rudd, Shorten understands that he will be unable to change his mind about that importance when the going gets tough, as it will. A Shorten government will resume the task of creating a carbon market – which it won’t call a tax – and it will hasten the take-up of renewable energy.

It will be rightly preoccupied with issues of gender equality, exploiting its competitive advantage over a Coalition hamstrung by a perception that it is unsympathetic and uncongenial to women. It will attempt modest experimentation around Indigenous recognition and a voice to parliament, and it might flirt with a treaty and a truth-telling commission. It will set out a roadmap to a republic, probably ending up in the usual bog as soon as talk of models begins. It will engage in as much or as little cruelty toward those seeking asylum as it feels necessary to keep the boats out, the votes in, and the feral commentariat off its back.

Paul Smyth

How to sustain prosperity with justice

Paul Smyth

Inspired initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the Commission on Economic Justice in the UK consulted with academics, business, and labour groups, as well as with civil, church, and community networks and individuals. Its final report, Prosperity & Justice:A Plan for the New Economy, with its 70 Recommendations, was published in September 2018, and heralds a new phase in our conversations about social policy and the economy.

The moral vacuum created by the latter-20th-century construction of economics as a ‘science’ has long been the butt of academic critique, but only lately has it become an issue for the mainstream. Addressing the role of the welfare state in reducing inequality, Joseph Stiglitz, in his 2018 chapter on ‘The Welfare State in the Twenty-First Century’ rehearses supporting economic arguments. He even invokes Rawls’s theory of social justice, before concluding, tellingly, ‘It even goes beyond standard arguments for social justice. We must ask ourselves: what kind of society do we want to live in, and what kind of individuals do we wish to be?’

Forida, who earns about 35 cents (AUD) an hour as a garment worker, subsists on watery rice when her family’s money runs out so her son may eat better. GMB Akash/Panos/OxfamAUS, author provided.

There are many good ideas to tackle inequality. It’s time we acted on them

Marianna Brungs & Helen Szoke

On a global level, Oxfam and civil society organisations have been calling on governments to act not only on rising inequality within their borders, but also to help tackle it around the globe.

This means comprehensive action on business supply chains which skirt human rights – including paying poverty wages to women like Forida – through national action plans on business and human rights. It also means acting to ensure the tax affairs of large businesses are public – right across the globe – to help stop money being hidden in tax havens and ripped out of Australia and the developing countries needing this revenue.

St Catherine’s Monastery. Courtesy Tony French.

These are my Commandments I give unto you – my Sinai desert delusions

Tony French

In Australia, I had done some pre-trip polling about the current usefulness of the existing Ten Commandments. Was a new set overdue, some revision needed maybe, or were the existing ten cast in stone, so to speak? Most people, I found, had either never thought about it, or thought I was heretical.

Secretly, you see, I was hoping God would give me an ‘upgrade’ on Mt Sinai. And to avoid carting around stone carvings and problems of excess airline baggage, I would bring along my own ‘tablet’. A simple digital download would do.

There are several ways to the Mt Sinai summit. For the fit, there are the 3000 ‘steps of repentance’. My lack of fitness forbade such unnecessary repentance, and anyway that route was closed. Then there is the ‘easier’ route, a long and circuitous slog, capped with 500 further purgatorial steps to the top. You could avoid much of the slog by taking a camel to the purgatorial steps.

Matthew Shadle’s Interrupting Capitalism: Catholic Social Thought & the Economy

Reviewed by Joe McKay

One of the strengths of the book is the analysis of the competing Catholic economic narratives, particularly in the United States. On one side is the progressive vision, focused on human rights and the common good, represented by the thought of David Hollenbach. The opposing view is that of the neoconservative vision, represented by the late Michael Novak, who saw in the free market, democratic government, and a pluralist moral-cultural outlook, a tripartite social-economic model which promotes human freedom and creativity. Shadle introduces and interrogates the strengths and weaknesses of the analyses of recent economic issues by several contemporary US theologians.

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