Friday, September 30, 2005
Looks like more exercise is being gained with his 'promise' to give $4,000 to workers who wish to pursue a case for unfair dismissal. The facts are this promise is similar to many promises of funds by the Howard Government - few will qualify and few will collect. The only significant thing to come from this promise - which will probably turn out to be non-core - is that it is a tiny chink in the government's armour. It is a small but de facto recognition of the sheer injustice of the government's proposed changes to industrial relations law and, in particular, the proposal to rule out unfair dismissal claims for those who work for firms employing under 100 people.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Melbourne Football Club, known to its fans as The Demons, are to be applauded. See here for how they are honouring their mate Troy Broadbridge who perished in the tsunami in Thailand while on honeymoon with his wife, Trisha. And they are doing it without alcohol. 'On ya fellas. Your an example to us all. For details about the Reach Broadbridge Fund see here.
The Howard Government's proposed industrial relations changes are losing support, it would seem, day by day. The unions, the churches, and now the academic economists are expressing concern about the proposals for so-called industrial relations reform. Professor Mark Wooden, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne, has raised a number of concerns in a speech to the Economic Society of Australia which can be seen here.
Economics is an inexact science in spite of propaganda which would suggest it has perfect crystal ball predicitive qualities. James Galbraith seems to have pointed out that fact when speaking to the Economic Society of Australia at the University of Melbourne this week. Galbraith claims that countries with lower minimum wages and higher levels of income inequality tend to have higher unemployment rates, as low-skilled workers chase a diminished pool of well-paying jobs. Read more here. This is contrary to the neo-classicism views of conservative politicians and economists and the business people who support them. Their idea is to keep shrinking unemployment keep on lowering wages.
Funny thing is the neoclassicists don't seem to get the idea that is quite visible across millennia that one could get to slavery and still not clear the labour market of unemployment.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The church has always exercised authority in relation to the protection of sound doctrine and the eradication of heresy. It is, arguably, a role extended to the Apostles and continued with authority within the Body of Christ. One does wonder at times. The church, irrespective of denomination, is not good at selecting what is timeless and true. It frequently rails and rants against books, teachings, thoughts, ideas which later generations have to back-pedal on. Perhaps, for instance, wider access to the writings of de Chardin might have given the church a more authoritative role in what was to become a burgeoning environmental movement. Instead, the leadership of the movement came from science and the world-wide church had to play catch up.
I don't know why these books have been challenged or by whom. I do know though that frequently and historically certain types or sects of Christians are in the vanguard of the book banning stakes. Frequently such people are in the vanguard of those who would impede intellectual liberty - particularly in relation to literature and a view of creation based on a narrow interpretation of the Book of Genesis. History is seldom, if ever, on their side and makes a mockery of their attempts to turn back the intellectual tide. Their religious history once demanded a freedom to read and judge a particular book for themselves - but henceforth they are happy to deny such freedom to others.
There is one way to know good literature from bad; good argument from bad - and that is to read widely, explore widely. Then one is able to sift the wheat from the chaff in exactly the same way that those who call themselves Christians will one day be sifted: nutritious grain from sterile chaff.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
At long last there are some sort of statistics on underemployment. What is underemployment?
Underemployment is when people have some sort of work but
- have the capacity to work longer hours
- this work does not fully utilize their education and skills within either their job or within the broader economy
The Australian Bureau of Statistics does not collect statistics on underemployment. Prior to this study, statistics on underemployment in Australia have been the result of educated guesses. In fact, such statistics that are collected are untrue. They - like so many economic theories and indicators - are based on a lie. The Big Lie is the basic definition of employment. The official definition of employment is:
This definition is extensive in its application. It is used internationally by the OECD and is based on their definition.
Consequences of underemployment can be:
- inability to build skills
- lack of access to on-going training
- lack of access to further education
- lack of promotion
- continuing dependence on social security benefits
- inability to build a sustaining retirement income
- inability to attract finance for housing or motor vehicles
- inability to repay HECS debts
- inability to contribute to community capital
I can remember a time when underemployment was discussed in this country but discussed as applying to India with its huge population and underlying economic difficulties. Underemployment in their own country was not something of which Australians were conscious - unless some forward thinking people considered the low participation of females in the workforce.
Let's stop the lies and lobby our politicians and bureaucrats to collect official statistics on underemployment, now.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Be listening to Radio National next Sunday night at 6.10pm when Rachel Kohn speaks to Dave Andrews.
Dave Andrews is the founder of The Waiters' Union which hangs out in West End, Brisbane. The WU was founded as a non-formal network of spiritually minded activists who serve the homeless and the needy in the streets of West End. Dave and Ange Andrews, are dedicated to a "Christ-like" life of reaching out to the marginal people in society. Dave will be remembered for his book ChristiAnarchy - which caused quite a stir not only for its advocacy of a radical Christian lifestyle but for kicking off the book with some solid criticism of YWAM based on his own long-term personal experience.
Creating God, you have given us a vision of a new heaven and a new earth ...
Nations at peace
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
Alert nations, enthuse churches,
Receive our commitment and so entwine our lives with Your purpose
Earth and heaven will then sing of your glory.
*Poem found at Oikonomia, which Matt Stone found at Eco-Congregation which was found by Jen and I am now passing it on. If you wish to pass it on, please pass on the provenance with a link back to me as I have linked back to Jen and Jen has..... and so on.
High petrol prices are hitting everyone. The urban rich are reportedly ditching their four-wheel drives. The other side of the coin is charities issuing ever larger amounts for petrol vouchers to enable the working poor to get to work.
Interesting and challenging book reviews here concerning the revitalization of Christianity and the newfound relevance of religion and the decline and perceived irrelevance of atheism. Two comments I would make.
- Concerning post-modernism being in league with the newly relevant and revitalized Christianity: While it is noted that for sometime evangelicals have looked to post-modernist discourse in missional analysis, one is reminded of the influence on Christianity of previous non-christian philosophies such as neo-platonism.
- Atheism is a religion with many denominations.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Can you beat it?! Poverty played a great part in the dispossession of victims of Hurricane Katrina. Looks like it is set to play a continuing role in the rebuilding of the south. Cut the taxes of the rich and the wages of the poor - seems to be the motto of American decision makers.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
This report indicates that the importance of France as a missionary target is because France is so secular. I won't argue with that because France has been trying for over two hundred years to be secular.What I contend with is that there is no one within France's own borders to preach the gospel? Not even the late Brother Roger of Taize, where tens of thousands of young people turn up? Phooey.
I believe that, like Christians in so much of the western world, would-be missionaries want to have their cake and eat it too. Saving souls in a country with good fashion, good beaches, good wine, and good food and beautiful scenery and a useful language to learn sure beats the wilds of Papua New Guinea and the desertification of Kenya. The article doesn't mention the age of the missionaries to France but that could give some additional insights - probably into a generation that considers itself post-modern.
But the Australian Outback is challenging: to comfort, to ideas of dominating the landscape. It is not comfortable - the threads of Western culture and civilization become quite attenuated out there. Years there makes commonality with white urban communities who know nothing of your experience very difficult.
So Christian communities in the Australian Outback struggle. Struggle with tiny numbers. Struggle to get decent music with which to sing God's praises. Struggle to do anything meaningful to evangelize their own young people let alone the community's. In my experience, the smaller communities outside major towns are not well networked into the wider Christian community - even within their own denominations.
With the exception of two institutions that cater to theology for indigenous Australians an one Assemblies of God college (one of which, as far as I am aware, award degrees), there is no theological institution north of the Tropic of Capricorn in Australia. There is no institution that awards Christians for deeper study within and relating to their own environment. But from Australia, too, missionaries go to Paris.
What a coincidence - Bonhoeffer and Neimoller on the same day. So I thought I would have to post on that blessed man, Karl Barth. Barth along with Bonhoeffer and Neimoller formed the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. This Christian community came to life with the Barmen Declaration of 1934. The Barmen Declaration has always been interesting reading but it is well to read it to-day - when the American Empire is involved in a war built on lies in Iraq; when the USA, Europe, and Australia step up security within their borders and upon their citizens; and a large section of the US polity has taken its religion and its politics right and seeks to flex its political muscle, particularly on a President who sympathises with them.
The thing that is magnificent about the Barmen Declaration is its absolute simplicity. The scriptures it enunciates are simple and straightforward. The dominanting message is Jesus is Lord.
As those who profess to be dedicated to the preaching of the gospel seek political power and influence;
as Christians show, in general, no discernable difference from the rest of the comfortable western population in their support of consumer driven, individualistic, sensuous behaviour;
as Christians allow themsevels to be silenced on topics of justice and righteousness for the sake of personal financial survival and advancement;
as Christians, along with the rest of the population, seek their own security by giving their governments permission to restrict freedoms on a wide and deep scale, permission to wage war, and permission to marginalise people who can been seen as "The Other" -
it is well to dwell on the prophetic nature of what was done in 1934 when the Nazis were still bright and shiny and seen as Germany's great hope. In 1934, the Nazi's worst atrocities were still to come and beyond imagination.
Yet these men of God got the issue right. They, through prophetic insight, went to the very heart of the matter. And this remained, through grave atrocities and threats to humanity, the very heart of the matter through the next eleven years until the Third Reich disintegrated. The issue is what or who is at the centre of an individual's life. The issue is who or what governs and directs an individual's life. The issue is who or what does an individual treasure. The issue is who or what does an individual choose.
Lordship is the issue. To these questions, the answer is simple when the answer is Jesus is Lord.
The answer is complicated when in an individual's heart of hearts the answer is subject to self-centredness and self-satisfaction; individualism; personal security at the expense of others; possessions and their accumulation; personal beauty; sexuality; power and dominance.
The answer is complicated when sacrificial love; care for one another irrespective of differences of any kind; and striving for structural, community and personal justice is excluded.
Choose this day whom you will serve.
In the recent arrest and deportation of Scott Parkin, I have thought over and over again of these words of Martin Niemoller because, you see, I didn't notice any visible protest from Christians.
after all, I was not a Communist.
after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists,I said nothing;
afterall, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested the Jews, I said nothing;
after all, I was not a Jew.
When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.
not from the heavy soil where blood and
race and oaths are mighty and holy,
where the earth itself watches over the sacred
hallowed and ancient ordinances
not from the heavy soil of the earth,
but from free choice and the free desire
of the heart, which are not in need of
an oath or a law.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Some of our best Aussie traditions are being overcome by globalization, individualism and the culture of the American Empire, but the language and its colour is still there to be used. It holds the ethos even if many Australians are devoid of it. So with the verb to dob which means to inform against to an authority. The authority can mean parents, teachers, employers, police, the government. Dobbing is serious stuff. It is frowned upon - unless there is just cause. The dobber is not well thought of in Australian society. Monica Dux reminds us of that. Funny though how a government who can quite explicitly encourage dobbing from the wider community makes such dobbing a crime when it is carried out in the public interest by a bureaucrat.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Examine the legislation and practice set out below:
■ ASIO is allowed to hold people in secret for up to seven days. ASIO Act amendments 2004
Only applied to Islamic terrorists? Not so. Scott Parkin, a non-violent US dissident, faced the force of autocratic government and was deported. For comment on these concerning developments, see here. In what manner will these laws and practices be turned on Australian citizens?
Friday, September 16, 2005
You are the Celtic Cross: This cross was first made
out of stone and is often found atop hills, in
front of castles and in graveyards throughout
Ireland and Scotland. The stone was carved with
various symbols including a circle or halo
(representing eternal life) and variations of
the celtic knot.
What Kind of Cross are You?
You are the way, the truth and the life.
- You are the way: guide me, plant my feet firmly in your footsteps that I may not deviate either to left or to right.
- You are the truth: teach me, illumine me, teach me to worship you in spirit and in truth.
- You are the life: the life given for me on Calvary. Let your death not be in vain in my life; not that I might live but that you might live in me so that you might sense the world through me - tasting, touching, savouring, loving it - through me.
Come, Lord Jesus, come in glory.
This report begins to say things which, if built upon, could bring change. Both sides of politics seem to indicate they want to tell things like they are. I want this nation to go further. Let us begin by acknowledging, confessing that we are a nation which has a significant racist and bigoted component in its national character. I am not saying that we are all racists, all bigots. I am saying that we have, in our history, given substantial play to racism and bigotry in public policy and that such racism and such bigotry has not been completely rooted out of the national psyche and character.
I believe that if we admit to this proposition and look it squarely in the face, face up to flaws in our national character which have been cruel to other human beings, then we might be able to move forward. We might be able to listen closely to the stories of others, listen to and acknowledge the expression of their feelings. We might at long last be able to say sorry and to demonstrate that sorry in meaningful reconciliation.
Then change will come in public policy and the lives of all Australians.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Scott Parkin will fly out of Oz to-day. He still does not know anything more of the reason for his detention and deportation than that he has received an adverse security assessment from ASIO. On Radio National Breakfast this morning, Julian Burnside QC said that Scott has a right to know. Burnside said that when you are locked up at your own expense at $134 per day plus GST and then deported, again paying your own air fare but also paying the air fares of two guards to the US - and, I am presuming, home again, there needs to be accountability.
Julian Burnside says that there is no suggestion that Scott broke the law or was violent. He says, and how can we not agree, that - when non-violent activism can get you kicked out of the country - there needs to be accountability from Ministers and Departments.
Farewell, Scott, and - as I have said previously - have a go at video conferencing via the net.
No more evidence is needed than the recent outfall of Hurricane Katrina in the USA which highlighted, under a President who is on the record as saying he likes to help the rich with tax cuts, the cuts to funding for FEMA and national infrastructure and the reallocation of resources to an ongoing, no light at the end of the tunnel war in Iraq.
People can't have it both ways. Insufficient resources and deflection of resources to wars, looking after the rich, and engrandizing legislators and bureaucrats does not advance our society one iota. Fewer resources and misallocation of what there is means poorer medical care, mediocre law enforcement, deprived schools. It can mean that necessary work best done and directed by government cannot be done. The levees won't be built, the water systems of the nation won't be protected and rehabilitated, the human resources and state of the art equipment won't be there to fight the bushfires.
KPMG, one of the world's largest accountancy firms, has recently agreed to a settlement of $465 million after having admitted to selling ‘unlawful’ tax avoidance schemes which deprived the US public of billions of dollars. This could have built a levee or three in New Orleans or at least enabled FEMA to provide adequate assistance to the victims of Katrina.
But the tax avoidance industry involves many financial services companies and has become deeply embedded in the global political economy. For more on the effects of tax avoidance, hop over to the Christian Aid site and download their report The shirts off their backs: How tax policies fleece the poor. While your considering this topic, hop over to the tax justice network. And then think twice - no, once will do - before demanding tax cuts upon tax cuts from politicians happy to bribe you.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
[mission shaped church]
I am copying this - not just linking it - from Ars Theologica because it is so to the point.
At a recent ministers' luncheon, a fellow clergyman read us a passage from an old booklet, it was falling apart but of great value. It was about Samuel Zwemer, pioneer RCA missionary to Arabia, entitled The Flaming Prophet, by J. Christy Wilson. In 1911, a conference on missions to Islam was held in Lucknow, India. Here is the quote:A Lutheran missionary who attended the conference said of the opening session, "Sunday evening we were privileged to hear Dr. S.M. Zwemer of Arabia preach on the duties of the church as elder brother to the Prodigal Son of Islam. The thought was new and startling to many of us, but we were soon convinced and condemned after hearing the preacher's heart and soul-piercing message...This Sunday evening service was the key to the conference, as during the solemn hours of the following week the thought came home to our hearts that Islam is our brother that can only be won by the love of the church, that needs to be like that of the Father in the touching parable of the Prodigal Son."It was new and startling in 1911, and seems so today. Instead of assuming a posture of theological/cultural superiority or triumphalism, Zwemer humbly believed Islam needed to be loved as a brother, and not condemned, if it were to be introduced to Christ. How much of the Islamic world today is lashing out in anger over the cultural and religious paternalism practiced by the West and the church? In an editorial in The Guardian, Karen Armstrong advocates paying close attention to the message of Islamic fundamentalism, especially its anxiety over modernism. In other words, we can take a position of enmity against Islam and endure the cost and losses, or we can engage it as a brother/sister and hear how it has come to feel ill-treated and threatened in a world dominated by secularism, depravity, and violence against women and children. Do we have the ears to hear? Do we have the commitment to αγαπη to make Zwemer's dream a reality? O God, I hope so.
To-day is an ancient feast day or memorial day in the Christian Calendar. The excerpt below is from Paradise by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Alfred A Knopf, NY, 1998, pp 145-147
See?....See how this official murder out of hundreds marked the difference; moved the relationship between God and man from CEO and supplicant to one on one? The cross he held was abstract; the absent body was real, but both combined to pull humans from backstage to the spotlight, from muttering in the wings to the principal role in the story of their lives. This execution made it possible to respect – freely, not in fear – one’s self and one another. Which was what love was: unmotivated respect. All of which testified not to a peevish Lord who was His own love but to one who enabled human love. Not for His own glory – never. God loved the way humans loved one another; loved the way humans loved themselves; loved the genius on the cross who managed to do both and die knowing it.
But Richard Misner could not speak calmly of these things. So he stood there and let the minutes tick by as he held the crossed oak in his hands, urging it to say what he could not: that not only is God interested in you: He is you.
Would they see? Would they?
I'm putting my money where my mouth is. Barnaby Joyce WILL vote for the sale of Telstra. I have to say there was never any doubt - NEVER. Barnaby is NOT an original. He is firmly in the tradition of the Queensland Nationals. There is one yardstick to remember: The National Party vote is the most disciplined vote within Australian politics. Barnaby is going around sprouting about idealogues - well the sound you can hear is me choking. His maiden speech lauded Joh Bjelke Petersen. Joh was nothing if not an idealogue. As for openness to ideas and talking to other people - Joh prevented his NPA members even speaking to Labor members in the parliamentary dining room. Come off it, Barnaby.
To give an instance which shines light on what has happened with Barnaby and the Telstra issue, we should go back to events prior to the 1993 election in the Queensland cane-growing seat of Hinkler based on Bundaberg. Paul Keating was Prime Minister and Brian Courtice was the ALP member for Hinkler. The cane-growers were in their usual trouble and wanted changes to policy affectng them. They were not getting any leverage in terms of policy out of the National Party who were then in opposition federally and in Queensland. The cane-growers became involved in policy development with Brian Courtice. Brian took the issue to Canberra and, in short, gained the attention of Keating and got acceptance from the ALP Government for policies agreeable to the cane-growers.
Now, out of this, you would expect undying gratitude from the cane-growers and that gratitude to be expressed at the ballot box. Remember, cane-growers are predominantly National Party voters, if not National Party members. The cane-growers organization leans heavily towards the National Party. And remember the National Party constituency is a disciplined voting body. The cane-growers used the cane-grower friendly ALP policy to go away and negotiate the desired leverage for policy change within the National Party. What happened to Brian Courtice? He lost the seat of Hinkler by .5% to Paul Neville who continues to hold the seat.
Do you see the similarities? The Queensland Nationals have used the narrow government (remember the Nationals are part of the government) majority which the election of Barnaby provided to go for it in the same way as the cane-growers had used ALP policy - which they had influenced - to go for it within their own party. The Nationals are wedge drivers not vote changers.
What the Queensland Nationals have done is to drive a one-vote wedge to get concessions - which over time will be proved of little value - which will provide good window dressing for their consitituency. Howard could have called their bluff with brinkmanship of his own. What might have happened? Chances are that Barnaby would still have voted for the Telstra sale with some excuse. But perhaps Barnaby might have crossed the floor - though I doubt it - to again give some window dressing for a National Party constituency in Queensland. And it is the Queensland agenda that is driving this - for one very simple reason. Nowhere else in Australia is there any likelihood of the National Party governing. In Queensland, the National Party leader, Lawrence Springborg, is the Leader of the Opposition. The one-vote wedge gives the Nats in Queensland profile and some sort of credibility. This is at a time when Premier Peter Beattie is not doing well in the polls.
In other words, why not light the fires of a Queensland National Party election campaign in Canberra? More publicity and profile than money can buy.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The Millenium Campaign World Leaders Summit is upon us. I don't want to reinvent the wheel so instead refer you to Keith over at Under the Acacias who has some great links and something to say from the point of view of living in one of the poorest nations on earth, Burkina Faso.
Australia's a big country
Monday, September 12, 2005
their colleagues, and the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer
commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one
essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields
most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with
the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions
in every corner of the globe.