How economic growth can bust poverty


The Australian Catholic Bishops' 2007 Social Justice Statement — Who is My Neighbour? Australia’s Role as a Global Citizen — gives heart to those seeking a greater contribution by Australia and Australians to global justice.

It is heartening to see the bishops draw on the considered opinions of Joseph Stiglitz about globalisation, its possibilities and discontents. Everyone knows Stiglitz was one time economic adviser to President Clinton and then Chief Economist of the World Bank. He is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. How refreshing to have such an expert pleading so passionately for global justice. The bishops express approval for trade liberalisation and the cutting of tariffs but they remind us that Stiglitz insists, “Free trade has not worked because we have not tried it: trade agreements of the past have been neither free nor fair”.

The statement focuses on five issues and is practical in proposing ways forward.

On foreign aid, development assistance and trade justice, Peter Costello says “Economic growth is the real poverty buster”. The bishops say:

True, but economic growth must go hand in hand with eradicating poverty and ensuring trade justice…Government needs to cooperate with the non-government sector, contributing to true development, which extends beyond the aim of economic growth.

In our Australian context, Peter Costello needs Tim Costello if we are to do our part in making poverty history, achieving those Millennium goals:

- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Develop a Global Partnership for Development


On military alliances and interventions, the bishops give us all pause with the poignant observation that we “Australians have been less agitated than US and British citizens about the morality and prudence of the Iraq War.”

On a day when we hear Alan Greenspan giving credence to Brendan Nelson’s direct linkage of the Iraq War and oil, the bishops, while acknowledging the importance of our US alliance, publish a timely warning that

We would fail in our duty as a good global citizen if we were again to take military action without our own thorough assessment of its morality and prospects, and without broad international approval. Obligations to an ally cannot include an obligation to engage in war that is not justified.

Even if there be disagreement about application of these principles to (say) the first Iraq War or the Kosovo intervention, there ought be agreement about the principles.

Following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI., the bishops say that “No matter what criticisms we might have of the UN, we would be lost without it.” They endorse the sentiment of Kofi Annan on his retirement about the need internationally to give “the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong”.

On climate change and fuel policy, the bishops are circumspect in the face of contradictory and uncertain scientific predictions. They “invoke the precautionary principle, which aims to manage situations of uncertainty and allow decisions to be made that can be modified if and when new data comes to hand.” They are insistent that “in assessing the worth and risks of nuclear power, we must have due regard to the safety and well being of future generations”.

We hold 38% of the world’s known uranium reserves. The Switkowski committee which conducted the government’s recent review on uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy expressed the view that “nuclear power today is a mature, safe, and clean means of generating baseload electricity.” It conceded that the disposal of high level waste is “an issue”. On the other hand, Professor Ian Lowe, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, contends, “Until the problem is resolved, it is irresponsible to produce more waste. It is contributing to a problem that currently does not have a solution, dumping it on future generations to resolve.” The bishops don’t take sides on this or other vexed questions but Who is my neighbour constantly urges the present, secure, well-off Australian to have due regard for those deprived security and wealth, and those of future generations.

As the 72 proven refugee Sri Lankans on Nauru continue to languish while our government looks to any one but us to take them, I am delighted that our bishops continue to be unequivocal: “We should abandon the ‘Pacific Solution”.

The bishops don’t leave it all to government nor to the political parties. They serve it up to all of us, and with hope and practicality. No matter what our religion and no matter what our politics, could we not all agree with the bishops that

We would be even more blessed if we lived in an Australia that:

- Matched the best of the developed nations of the world in aid and development assistance
- Accepted the traditional Catholic doctrine opposing pre-emptive military strikes
- Included a majority of citizens who voluntarily assisted their offshore neighbours at times of crisis
- supported the United Nations (though not uncritically) in efforts to provide the poor and weak nations of the world their due place at the table
- Consumed the cleanest and safest energy on the planet
- provided asylum and humanitarian assistance in Australia to refugees fleeing directly to our shores in fear of persecution
- included parish and school communities that had good neighbourly relations with at least one parish or school community in the Asia-Pacific region.


This is an extract from the address of Fr Frank Brennan SJ at the launch of the Australian Catholic Bishops' 2007 Social Justice Statement Who is My Neighbour? Australia's Role as a Global Citizen, on 17 September 2007. Click here to download the full text of the talk. Copies of the statement may be ordered from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.




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Existing comments

As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating: being neighbourly requires much more than mere comment.

"Everyone" does not know that one, Joseph Stiglitz, was a one time adviser to President Clinton who has an ability to plead "passionately" for global justice. Jesus is a much more widely known household name in global terms.

He extended not merely his advice and oratory but his armstretched arms too to provide the most passionate testament of all.

We have a federal election on the horizon and all the polling to date has the ALP in a landslide win mode. But, curiously, Fr Brennan makes no effort at all to scxrutinise its policies on foreign aid, development assistance and trade justice, preferring instead to trail his political petticoat by again targetting the incumbent government.Oh for a two-eyed commentator!

Fr Brennan says "In our Australian context, Peter Costello needs Tim Costello if we are to do our part in making poverty history".Really?

How many people realise that brother Tim takes home a far heftier salary, as World Vision's CEO, than does his Treasurer brother?Tim's salary is reportedly some three hundred thousand dollars p.a.Should we be concerned that charity leaders keep the salary details secret?What does the church pay its Caritas CEO?Or is that a secret as well?

(I don't mind disclosing my situation: as founder/president of The Australian AIDS Fund Inc - - I receive no income whatsoever from it).

In terms of Millennium goals, Australia does indeed have a role to play, but let's see some specifics spelled out rather than a column of headings.

Turning to charity at home,where is the voice of the bishops in regard to skyrocketing interest rates and the indecent credit card charges? Wasn't so long ago that usury was condemned.

Poverty is leading to increasing housing foreclosures.If it's ok for Cardinal Pell to front the Prime Minister for...and to receive ...millions of dollars to bankroll a fleeting papal visit for WYD next year..why can't we see a similar public alacrity and advocacy on behalf of the poor?

Few would doubt that the Pope should have headed to Africa -where a giant swathe of youth - is being cut down by HIV/AIDS. Would Jesus have opted instead for the security and tranquillity of Sydney?

Bishop Pat Power's is a lone voice among the bishops: he's expressed his concern about one Catholic club complex alone having some 522 poker machines in play.Where's the collective moral leadership of the hierarchy?. Increasingly, State governments are relying more and more on gambling income but where's the clerical protest?

In his reflection on military alliances and interventions,Fr Brennan talks about the "poignancy" of the bishops observation that "we Australians have been less agitated than US and British citizens about the morality and prudence of the Iraq war". "Agitated" indeed!Hello! The Americans have been burying their war dead in their thousands and the British in their hundreds and we don't even have a handful.

How out of touch the bishops are, embarrassingly so for the people in the pews who actually move in the real world.

It was a poor choicefor Fr Brennan to pounce upon Alan Greenspan for his recent remarks of the American economist Alan Greenspan regarding Army Minister Brendan Nelson, the Iraq War and oil.Greenspan has been rightly ridiculed for straying well beyond his own area of Fr Brennan himself is doing in dropping the names of noted American economists..Further, being "a good global citizen" doesn't depend on "broad international approval". Where was Fr Brennan in World War 2? I was being bombed in London and, later, proud to see my country hadn't hung back waiting for "broad approval" before confronting evil, and taking on the might of Hitler.

Given the pre-occupation of too many Popes for land, war and material possessions, it wasn't a great idea to put Pope Benedict on a pedestal in this regard.

As to Fr Brennan's support of circumspection on the part of the bishops regarding climate change and fuel policy, he simply underlines their lack of connection with the population atlarge, and perhaps also his own.The whole global family can respond to some degree or another, a sea of mitred heads in the sand won't be applauded by anyone.

Nuclear power too, should not be lightly discarded. Again the realities and the safety of its widespread use need to be acknowledged.

Fr Brennan winds up by saying "The bishops don't leave it all to government, nor to the political parties. They serve it up to all of us.." Actually, they need to find a role to play themselves.Action and participation beat commentary every day of the week.

As the (1843) proverb says, talk is indeed cheap (.."it dont cost nothin' but breath")...and..."..the supply always exceeds the demand -Washington Times, 2002.

Brian Haill | 27 September 2007

excellent well done bravo!!!!
patricia vaughan | 28 September 2007


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