2 July 2020.
Download a printable version of SPC News July 2020.
Photo Invasion Day Rally Melbourne 2020. Matt Hrhac, flickr cc.
Peter Whiting Editorial
As Australians might expect, we feature highly in some categories of human rights. In the field of economic and social rights, the right to health scores well, but the right to work performs far worse than this. Of concern, though, is that in this field, which also includes rights to food, education, and housing, Australia is fourth from the bottom out of 25 high-income countries. In the field of civil and political rights, Australia’s commitment to freedom from execution is very high, but the freedom from imprisonment and torture performs poorly.
Sadly, as we might also expect, when the groups most vulnerable to human rights abuse are identified, the standouts are Indigenous Australians and immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. More than 80% of those surveyed believed these groups were at risk of having their right to health denied, and over 70% believed their rights to education and housing were not being met.
Building 30,000 new social housing units today would cost between A$10 billion an A$15 billion. Because state governments and community housing providers won’t have to worry about finance, marketing, and sales, they’ll be able to start work building homes much more quickly than the private sector. The boost to the economy would be pretty immediate.
Just as important, building social housing would also help tackle the growing scourge of homelessness. At the most recent Census (2016), more than 116,000 people were homeless, up from 90,000 a decade earlier. Covid-19 has shown us that if we let people live in unhealthy conditions, it can help spread disease, affecting everybody’s health.
Amid all these gas plans, there is little talk of the damage this would wreak on the climate. We need only look to Woodside’s Burrup Hub proposal in Western Australia to find evidence of the staggering potential impact.
By the end of its life in 2070, the project and the gas it produces will emit about six billion tonnes of greenhouse gas. That’s about 1.5% of the 420 billion tonnes of CO2 world can emit between 2018 and 2100, if it wants to stay below 1.5℃ of global warming. This project alone exposes as a furphy the claim that natural gas is a viable transition fuel.
In Australia and the Amazon, indigenous peoples have suffered dispossession and cruel treatment. In Australia, the struggle for land rights, respect, equality, and a proper place at the table for our First Peoples is ongoing. In Amazonia, the struggle is raw and bloody, and increasingly so, with the Bolsonaro government encouraging expropriation of indigenous lands. Between 2003 and 2017, more than 1100 indigenous people were murdered while trying to protect their ancestral forests from commercial interests wanting to log the timber, clear the land to raise beef or soya beans for US markets or open massive mines.
As reported in the Amazon Synod of Bishops, which met in Rome in October 2019, the killing and displacement of indigenous and ‘river’ peoples are widespread, particularly following the deliberate firing of large sections of the Amazon last year, destroying 2.25 million acres (906,000 hectares), more than 17% of the rainforest.
Some 62,000 Melanesian people were brought to Australia and enslaved to work in Queensland’s sugar plantations between 1863 and 1904. First Nations Australians had a more enduring experience of slavery than this, originally in the pearling industry in Western Australia and the Torres Strait and then in the cattle industry.
In the pastoral industry, employers exercised a high degree of control over ‘their’ Aboriginal workers, who were bought and sold as chattels, particularly where they ‘went with’ the property upon sale. There were restrictions on their freedom of choice and movement. There was cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality, and forced labour.
A stock worker at Meda Station in the Kimberley, Jimmy Bird, recalled: “… whitefellas would pull their guns out and kill any Aborigines who stood up to them. And there was none of this taking your time to pull up your boots either. No fear!”
So, as we drove up Victoria Parade toward the Exhibition Gardens, I was overcome with emotion, and I cried. Do you know how many times I have joined the NAIDOCC march and been heckled from the footpaths, how many times we have marched for our rights and been ignored? Hundreds.
And now the streets were packed; there were thousands of people there to march in solidarity with us. It was so incredibly heartening. Australia is growing.
The only time I have felt this atmosphere was in Sydney in the 1988 march on Australia Day. But this time was different from that, very different. It was predominately young people under the age of 30. They get it, they do see it.
Action for a Fair World
Yarra Theological Union study unit with Dr Bruce Duncan
Since his 2015 document Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has continually urged vigorous ecumenical and inter-faith action to help solve global warming and extreme inequality. These issues are even more urgent than ever after the financial and health crises resulting from Covid-19.
The unit explores the influences on Pope Francis and his team of advisers and collaborators, including leading economists, demographers, environmentalists, and social thinkers involved in developing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It examines Pope Francis’s moral critique of economics today, especially extreme inequality resulting from neoliberal policies. It highlights the climate crisis compounding the challenge of how an increasing population can live sustainably without excessive consumption.
The unit considers the roles of religion, values, and economics in shaping a fairer world.
Classes 6pm Mondays from 27 July 2020 for 12 weeks.
Enrollments 6-16 July 2020 (for accreditation or audit).
See the YTU Handbook, or contact the Registrar at 03 9890 3771 | firstname.lastname@example.org.
For awards, courses, and units available through the University of Divinity, go to www.divinity.edu.au.
The Australian Black Lives Matter marches have focused attention on the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people, often for trivial matters. In this podcast, Turner canvasses causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.
She points to “huge issues with drug and alcohol abuse”, with inadequate resourcing to deal with these problems.
She urges reform for sentencing arrangements for those charged with minor offences, criticising a system which imprisons people who cannot pay fines or post bail. “It would be less expensive overall for the jurisdictions, and more beneficial to the community [if those people weren’t in prison].” And she identifies the “the over-incarceration of women [as] a major concern”.