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Neoliberal versus Christian notions of the public good

  • 15 April 2015

Last week the heads of three of the world's largest multi-national companies - Google, Apple and Microsoft - appeared at the Senate inquiry into corporate tax evasion. They were grilled about the practice of moving profits from Australia to lower tax jurisdictions.

It was a rare public questioning of the big end of town, and the underlying neo-liberal philosophy that drives mainstream politics and economic thinking. It was in sync with public disquiet reflected in recent Fairfax polling in key marginal seats that 'found a staggering 90 per cent of people believe the government has failed to tackle the corporate tax dodgers.'

This interview on Eureka Street TV features a woman who's spent much of her working life questioning such inequities and injustices in Australian society. Elenie Poulos is a Uniting Church minister and, since 2002, has been Director of UnitingJustice     Australia, the justice policy and advocacy unit of the Church's national council, the Uniting Church Assembly.

Recently she wrote an article for Australia21 that was republished in the Eureka Street Religion Blog, about the public interest and social good as defined by neo-liberals, and how, in her view, this is almost diametrically opposed to a Christian notion of the public good.

In this interview she explains these basic philosophical differences, and applies her view of the public good to a number of current social justice issues including treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, climate change, economic inequity and corporate tax evasion.

Poulos grew up in Australia in a family of Greek heritage and Greek Orthodox background. Her first degrees were a Bachelor of Arts with Honours majoring in Linguistics and a Master of Arts in language in education, both from the University of Sydney.

She then worked in book publishing, and her last position before training for the ministry was as Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster Australia.

As a young adult she joined the Uniting Church and was ordained as a minister in 1995. As part of training for the ministry, she studied for a Bachelor of Theology from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Her first post as minister was as Chaplain at MLC School, Burwood, in Sydney's inner west, where she stayed for six years before her appointment as Director of UnitingJustice Australia.

As well as this role, Poulos is a member and past chair of the Commission for Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia. She's also