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Peter Whiting Editorial
Each of us will doubtless have talked with friends and colleagues about how the post-Covid ‘new normal’ might look for us. This newsletter cites both the aspirational – Pope Francis’s call for new systems underpinning a new vision of humanity, Futurists who believe with the right policy settings most of the world – and those concerned that current systems are being undermined by the undue influence of vested interests, the under-funding of important social initiatives aimed to address inequality of First Nations people, the homeless, and the incarceration of the vulnerable.
The new social encyclical of Pope Francis is a cry for those oppressed by poverty, hunger, and exclusion, protesting against the injustice of a world with so much wealth failing to do enough for everyone to have the opportunity for a reasonably good life. Not surprisingly, Francis drew from the parable of the Good Samaritan: will we remain indifferent and pass by, or take the global situation seriously?
Instead, unimaginable wealth is channelled into the hands of small elites, allowing them to capture undue political influence and reshape public policies primarily in their own self-interest rather than for the common good. The Pope’s new 43,000-word encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity & Social Friendship, highlights this critique, particularly blaming the economic thinking termed ‘neoliberalism’.
A major reason for the loss of trust in governments and parliaments is the way powerful special interests with their lobbyists have come to dominate the public debate and skew decisions in their favour. The fossil fuel sector is the most obvious and recent example.
Lobbying has grown dramatically in recent years, particularly in Canberra. It now represents a growing and serious corruption of good governance and the development of sound public policy. In referring to the so-called ‘public debate’ on climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut highlighted the ‘diabolical problem’ brought to bear by vested interests on public discussion on climate change.
As the United States approaches an unusually divisive election, potentially followed by months of distracting disputation, will China take the immense gamble of trying to invade Taiwan, or at least strangle it into submission? If so, Australia may suddenly face the moment when it has to ‘choose’ between its main customer, China, and its historical defence guarantor, the United States, which is obliged by its own law to defend Taiwan. Whatever the outcome, it would be a stark no-win for Australia.
Hal Pawson & Cameron Parsell
The most immediate concern now is an imminent surge in homelessness. This is likely in coming months as a result of JobKeeper payments and JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplements being scaled back, and bans on evictions lifted.
These protections staved off a new recession-induced homelessness crisis through the winter months. But since mid-year, rough sleeper numbers have been on the rise once again in cities including Adelaide and Sydney. This is almost certainly a problem deferred, rather than a problem avoided.
Prisons are inevitably lonely places at the best of times. Part of their purpose is to punish and deter, but there is also an important rehabilitative role for prisoners to be treated and supported for myriad often complex social, mental, and addiction issues. During this pandemic, the transformative role of prisons is questionable or even diminished, and is risking people being released back into society in a worse state than when they entered.
Most in the justice system are desperate to put the brakes on the cycles of crime which see people going in and out of the revolving prison door. But for those needing support in the community or on release, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on community services’ ability to provide counsel for issues such as abuse, trauma, grief, mental health, addiction, and anger management.
In present circumstances, it’s not surprising that many people are suspicious of calls for regulatory reform which imply decreased regulation. Too often, these calls for deregulation come from vested interests, and ignore the purpose of the regulation, and what’s necessary to ensure this purpose can continue to be protected.
Instead of just removing regulations, we need to review whether changes could increase the effectiveness of the original regulation.
Some say neoliberals have destroyed the world, but now they want to save it. Is Scott Morrison listening?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently delivered a somewhat surprising message. It warned that Earth was on course for “potentially catastrophic” damage under climate change, and called for green investment and carbon prices to put the global economy on a strong sustainable footing.
The Washington-based IMF cannot be dismissed as a bunch of latte-sipping leftists. The organisation has traditionally been a bastion of free market economics and fiscal austerity, long detested by socialists.
It’s now abundantly clear that Australia’s climate policies are at odds with even the most conservative approach to economic management. Increasingly, the Morrison government is an outlier on the world stage.
With hundreds of billions of dollars being spent over the next few years, you’d be forgiven for thinking there must be some reasonable funding commitments made towards the pressing needs of Australia’s First Nations communities. But, alas, like last year’s comparatively rosy Budget, the largesse is mostly reserved for business, middle-high income taxpayers, pensioners, and industry.
As has become the habit of analysing the Budget each year, the media quickly looks to identify ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and nearly always leads its commentary with calculators to help individuals identify what’s in it for them – a depressingly selfish lens through which to look at our national Budget. Indicative of the sparseness of this Budget for First Nations peoples, this policy space doesn’t rate a mention at all in the winners and losers list, and there seems to be radio silence from the Minister, with none of the usual Ministerial Statements or Media Releases to point us to funded plans.
A Pax Christi invitation to a Zoom Forum.
Sunday 15 November 2020 2-3:30pm.
To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcing increased military funding earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned of “a poorer, more dangerous and disorderly” future. Is more militarising in the Asia-Pacific the way to secure a less “dangerous future”?
In Pope Francis’s words, “military responses to conflict only breed violence”. Pax Christi’s Non-violence Initiative charts pathways for resolving conflict without violence. Serious efforts are needed, however, to nurture mutual trust and positive relations, not suspicion and hostility.
Photo Modern Reykjavik. Helgi Halldórsson. flickr cc.