13 April 2014
To be rich is indeed glorious
And there we have it - a snapshot of our Prime Minister from his own lips.
Tony Abbott has described his visit to China as the most important ever undertaken by an Australian leader and has congratulated the Communist country for its pursuit of wealth.
As Abbott echoed Deng Xiaoping's advice that 'to get rich is glorious', 700 Australian businessmen are about to sit down with their Chinese counterparts to determine just how glorious they can be. They won't be discussing climate change or pollution. They won't be discussing human rights abuses or health. And they most definitely will not be discussing those inglorious poor.
Pope Francis may have a different idea of glory. He recently warned that the existing financial system that fuels the unequal distribution of wealth and violence must be changed, and he begged the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? Pope Francis asked an audience at the Vatican.
In an apostolic exhortation he wrote:
As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems.
A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.
He goes on to explain that in this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which has become the only rule we live by.
Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,
The World Economic Forum in Davos identified the large and growing income gap between rich and poor as the biggest risk to the global community in the next decade. The WEF said its annual survey of 700 opinion formers had identified the income gap, extreme weather events and unemployment or underemployment as the three threats most likely to cause major cross-border damage in the next 10 years.
Jonathan D. Ostry, the I.M.F.'s deputy head of research, and Andrew Berg, another economist at the fund, published a study three years ago suggesting that inequality makes growth less durable. A flatter distribution of income, the study concluded, contributes more to sustainable economic growth than the quality of a country's political institutions, its foreign debt and openness to trade, its foreign investment and whether its exchange rate is competitive.
Economic policy cannot be only about promoting low inflation and robust growth. Healthy, stable economies also depend on a reasonably equitable distribution of the rewards.
Hugh Evans, the Australian founder and chief executive of The Global Poverty Project (GPP), told an audience at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Spring Meetings on Thursday that Tony Abbott broke his promise after his election victory.
He slashed the foreign aid budget dramatically which will have far-reaching consequences for the world's poor, Evans, standing before World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told the audience. We don't want this single act of political indecency to undo the great work Australia has done to help end extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, Joe Hockey criticised delays in implementing changes agreed by the Group of 20 bloc of advanced and developing nations in 2010, which he said were letting down the international community and were entirely the fault of the U.S. Congress.
I am deeply disappointed that the IMF quota and governance reforms that the G20 agreed to in 2010 have still not been implemented and that the path forward for ratification is now highly uncertain, he said at an event organized by Johns Hopkins University.
The failure to finalize this issue diminishes America's global standing instead of enhancing it.
I wonder how that compares to Abbott's refusal to support the green climate fund supported by the United Nations. In the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, Australia joined with Canada in snubbing the green climate fund. Mr Abbott called it the green capital fund while calling the profitable Clean Energy Finance Corp. the Bob Brown Bank after the former head of the Australian Greens.
The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.
Government economic responsibility is linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.
Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests, siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.
This government has tossed out its job description and is on a corporate crusade. They are capitalist fundamentalists who believe all things public are bad and all things private are good, and they are determined to use their time in power to sell off Australia and to further the interests of their wealthy donors.
According to Tony Abbot's description, Gina Rinehart must be the most glorious person in Australia, although I think she lives in Singapore? For me, the glorious people are those that care for others, the carers, nurses, social workers, teachers, paramedics, firemen, charities, volunteers, environmentalists, animal protection activists. Our scientists are glorious with their amazing research into a sustainable, healthy future, as are our artists and musicians who speak to our senses and our souls.
I used to think Australians were a pretty glorious race in general. Now I am not so sure.