8 February 202

It has become a cliché : “She/he is a glass-half-full sort of person”, playing out as we enter 2021 after the Covid-19 disruptions of 2020. Some are optimistic about this new year; some are lamenting social and economic disruptions carrying forward, focusing on the scale of the problems facing us.

At Social Policy Connections (SPC), where we are constantly focused on local and international social justice issues and advocating for changes to improve equity and justice, it would be easy to slip into a glass-half-empty mode, lamenting the shortfalls in social and economic policies and their often devastating outcomes. To persist in advocating for change and improved outcomes, however, you simply have to believe things can change for the better when policy makers respond appropriately to highlighted social justice issues. You simply have to embrace a glass-half-full attitude. You need to excel in that very Christian of virtues – hope.

Hopeful signs have emerged

  • The inauguration of Biden as US President presages a return to humane priorities for the new administration.
  • Containment of Covid infections and deaths in Australia, combined with commencement of vaccine rollouts around the world, provide grounds for improved outcomes.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into effect 22 January, signed by 86 countries (although not Australia), and bans participation in any nuclear weapon activity.
  • International momentum is growing towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and there are signs the Morrison Government is moving to embrace this ambitious target.

Of course, it would not be difficult to list an equally compelling list of adverse signs indicative of deteriorating conditions. But let’s start 2021 with hope.

In this article, we start with hopeful reflections.

Former Chief Scientist of Australia, Ian Chubb, in his article Coalition’s political games don’t mix well with existential threat, warns that most Australians want decisive and urgent action to deal with climate change, and are demanding leadership from politicians to end the political debacle and stop hiding behind populist drivel like ‘technology not taxes’. He concludes, “There is hope. We could secure a spectacular future for ourselves and help the planet”.

Bruce Duncan in ‘On the Church and repairing democracy after Trump’ writes that the invasion by Trump supports of the US Capitol has exposed fractures not only in US society and among Christians but dismal and divided leadership among US bishops, and a failure to be guided by Catholic social teaching. The so-called ‘culture wars’ helped undermine resistance to neoliberal ideology and left many Americans vulnerable to right-wing political machinations. Pope Francis is insisting against neo-conservative Catholics that the teachings from the Second Vatican Council are not up for negotiation, including teachings on social justice and globalisation.

In her article, Claire Higgins wonders Could the Biden administration pressure Australia to adopt humane refugee policies?

Callum Foote is not optimistic that the Federal government will use its powers to regulate for improved employment conditions for delivery driver ‘partners’ of Uber. In his article, Uber exploitation: Uber’s secret settlement presages a wave of lawsuits, expresses hope that a recent out-of-court settlement will give rise to further court-based challenges to existing conditions.

Paul Wright, in his article A rightful place. From colonisation to reconciliation, acknowledges the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, but notes that three recently released reports sharpen our focus on the rightful place for Indigenous Australians. His hope is that, for all Australians, whether descendants of our original peoples or newcomers, finding a rightful place together should be the central project of nation-building.

Lest we are too carried away in this theme of hope, it is sobering to reflect on our place and its outcomes in some of the significant social justice issues of our times. Samuel Alexander confronts us in his article, We are the 1%: the wealth of many Australians puts them in an elite club wrecking the planet.

David Peetz considers the situation of casual workers in Australia, and concludes, The truth about much ‘casual’ work: it’s really about permanent insecurity.

It is not easy to be hopeful when, because of unemployment, homelessness, disadvantage, or physiological or psychological health issues, you actually feel hopeLESS. That is why overcoming social and economic disadvantage in our community is imperative. At SPC, we applaud all the glass-half-full people working for beneficial change in community attitudes and policy settings to enable us again to look forward with real hope.

Photo Biden. Peter Stevens.

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