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Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Pell appeal verdict unleashes a perfect storm for our Tory ruling class

Head bowed, a manacled cardinal is led hobbling out of court into a prison van, a shocking image calculated to rock our nation’s Tories to the core, last Wednesday, as Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholds Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on five counts of child sexual assault, for offences committed against two thirteen year-old altar-boys in a priest’s sacristy at St Patrick’s Church, in 1996 and 1997, whilst Pell was still Archbishop of Melbourne.

By Sunday, thank God and Rupert Murdoch, it’s all OK – at least, in Australia’s News Corp-led “mainstream media” as our corporate, oligarchical, media tribe is typically misnamed, whose stories quickly turn a convicted predator into an innocent victim. OK, too, in our progressive, post-modern, post fact, Trumpian universe of discourse, our collective, international pandemic of unreason led by lords of misrule from Boris to Bolsonaro to The Donald.

Bugger the facts, it’s the vibe that counts. As former PM Turnbull, pre-knifing by Scott Morrison, told Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of The University of Melbourne when Davis challenged Turnbull’s spin that all was rosy between town and gown. Davis dared air his heretical view that collaboration between business and university was crap.

“This is, by the way, you running against the vibe. You haven’t got the new zeitgeist. The new zeitgeist, Glyn, is to believe in yourself, is to have a go.”  Did Mal’s liberating ideology help spawn ScoMo’s “have a go to get a go”?

Bugger “police, the prosecutors, the courts, the jury system, the burden of proof and the entire rule of law. In its place is the new primacy of feelings: they feel Pell must not be guilty, therefore he is innocent. All else — most significantly, the fully tested testimony of the victim that they have never seen — gives way before their emotional need.” writes Crikey’s legal beagle, Michael Bradley. Above all, our establishment must protect one of its own.

Pell can’t be guilty: he’s part of the power elite, as untouchable as Casino King, James Murdoch. Pell’s protection is necessary to preserve the power of our monocultural bunyip aristocracy. However, it’s a secular crusade now, David Marr reflects. “Rome somewhere in the past few years lost the power” to protect men like Pell.

Above all, however, is the political purpose served by the all-consuming pseudo-debate over Pell’s innocence, a diversion adroitly exploited by a Coalition keen to soft-pedal its announcement that it is eagerly doing the US bidding; taking up gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf because this will help “de-escalate tensions”.

Foreign Minister, Marise Payne keeps a straight face on ABC Insiders, Sunday; farcically claiming we are part of an “international mission” which is “modest, meaningful and time-limited”. In reality, we are offering Trump a blank cheque. It’s all about restoring “rules-based order and the rule of law”. No-one mentions the fact that we are about to break international law. Trump’s administration clearly hankers for the good old days when it ran Iran.

With British help, America overthrew Iran’s democratically elected conservative Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh’s nationalist parliamentary government, in 1953, to install Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator who gave 40% of Iran’s oil concessions to US oil companies. America supported the corrupt dictator until his overthrow by a popular mass movement in 1979. As punishment, the US backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War, 22 September 1980- 20 August 1988.

It is estimated one million Iranians died defending their country. Up to half a million Iraqis also lost their lives.

The international team comprises ourselves, the Great Satan, as Iran once called the US, Little Britain under Boris Johnson, a professional clown, now playing Albion’s accidental PM and Human Rights Watch pin-up, Bahrain, a state of unabated repression whose rulers’ crack-down on dissent has eliminated all opposition banned independent media and peaceful dissidents are roughed up, arrested, prosecuted and stripped of their citizenship.

Clearly, there’s a bit our government could yet learn from Bahrain and embedding our troops with theirs is a move guaranteed to bring mutual enlightenment, the rule of law and stability to a region where eighty million Iranians are starved of daily necessities from food to medicines as a result of forty years of US sanctions.

It’s possible, of course, that the sudden appearance of an Australian cruiser in January 2020 “for six months” or a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month “before the end of 2019” will prove immensely re-assuring to Iran’s government and cause citizens to hi-five and hug each other in sheer relief.

Aussie diggers posted to Bahrain, super-charged with ANZAC can-do, could repair the nation’s moral high ground.

Luckily for Morrison’s government, the Cardinal Pell in the Pokey show is the perfect distractor; a timely bit of cultural warfare guaranteed to upstage any grovelling capitulation to the whims of hawks such as Bolton or Pompeo who run demented Donald Trump and his mad, neo-con, anti-Iranian, administration.

Hard right hacks, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Bettina Arndt rush to defend Pell. Left out of the moral outrage are the 1900 child sex-offenders, identified in Australian Catholic churches, whose 4,444 victims were on average under twelve years old, according to the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. Eclipsed almost entirely, is the suffering of thousands of abused children; or how their lives were ruined.

And who knows how many victims there are in the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, abuse which Pope Francis acknowledged last February? Catholic women are speaking out, too, under the #NunsToo hashtag. In the meantime, a sanctification of Pell proceeds, by some of our best and finest reactionary media mavens.

Poor George, whose Dad, a Ballarat publican, David Marr reports, ran an SP book from the public bar of The Royal Oak, from 1953 to 1976, becomes, by mythic invention, an icon of apostolic poverty, humility, chastity and saintly compassion who will appeal to The High Court. The magical thinking of his backers has him acquitted already.

A man of such grace and standing (Peter Kidd, Chief Judge at his sentencing commented on his “staggering arrogance”, in committing crimes he thought he could get away with), will automatically be granted leave to appeal. But in the eternal interim, the very idea of a fallen Pell is a monstrous offence against nature.

Worse, the appeal judgement is a heresy right up there with Aurecon’s shunning of Adani, a move which resources High Priest, Matt Canavan says is as “weak as piss” before calling on the energy oligopoly to shun and shame Aurecon. The Australian and others in the stable eagerly recycle the lie of Pell’s unblemished record.

Yet there is no question that Pell is the reactionaries’ reactionary, a one-stop shop for any crusade against change.

Pell held that abortion was “a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.” is Papal-royalty. Boys driven to take their own lives through homophobia only had themselves to blame, Pell maintained;

It is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction. Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

Pell denounces concern about climate change as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” The Greens? “Anti-Christian”.

Pell’s perspective on accountability is clear in his view, given in 2014, that “the church’s responsibility to those abused by priests is comparable to the responsibility of a trucking company to a hitchhiker raped by a trucker.”

Monday, Pell’s media acquittal continues. The Australian’s Mirko Bagaric blusters… it debases the legal and democratic process for anyone to insist — as a few prominent commentators have in recent days — that it is impertinent to believe that Cardinal George Pell is innocent despite losing his case in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

News Corp’s contempt for the rule of law is as staggering as the propaganda it peddles to buy its monstrous power. Its defence of St George, moreover, reveals Australia’s follow-the-leader-media rushing pell-mell to fall in behind Papal knight Sir Rupert’s News Corp’s Cardinal-as-Victim story-tellers.

Part of this narrative involves appeals to sympathy for “an old sick man” “who might well die in gaol” as the current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli tells 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Bizarrely, Comensoli maintains Pell is innocent – and the victim is telling the truth too. It was another priest who committed the sexual abuse.

Easy for a thirteen year-old altar boy to get one 190 cm priest mixed up with another.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the odd guest on The Drum hold that Judge Weinberg’s dissenting view is the only one that matters or proof that our legal system is broken and or grounds for High Court appeal.

Paradoxically, another part of the story is that Pell is Australia’s most senior cleric, internationally renowned, a pal of Rupert Murdoch’s, a tall poppy cut down in his prime. The facts suggest otherwise.

At the end, Pell’s power in the Vatican rapidly waned, despite a promising start in modelling austerity by big spending. Outrage broke out over his choice of a 5100 euro a month apartment requiring he spend 87,000 on new furniture; employing an assistant on a 21,600 a month salary and even 6,650 euros on kitchen sink fittings.

Somehow word got out to Italy’s L’Espresso weekly of detailed opposition to Pell’s financial reform; not helped by his Secretariat for the Economy racking up a half-million dollars in expenditures in the last six months.

True, Pell rose to become Cardinal, but Francis, shrewdly diverted the ambitious antipodean prelate into the Sisyphean labour of draining the swamp of the Vatican’s scandalous financial mess, an impossible task – and one fraught with peril, for anyone, let alone a boy from Ballarat, who knew neither Vatican culture nor the rudiments of diplomacy or tact, author of The Melbourne Response, another monumental failure of Christian charity and human compassion which capped compensation clerical sexual abuse victims at $50,000.

They saw him coming, a retired priest says on The Drum. Rubbed them up the wrong way say Vatican insiders. Francis himself believes “Behind rigidity something always lies hidden,” he says. “In many cases, a double life.”

But nothing may detract from the Tory postmodern narrative of St George The Martyr. A man as powerful as Pell, a priest who could command a character reference from a former Prime Minister, (gasp) just cannot be guilty. The Pell pillar must be protected or the entire edifice of conservatism may be revealed to be rotten to the core.

It’s a monstrous spectacle made all the more shocking, somehow, by technical glitches which cause the live broadcast to freeze, the court website to crash and by appellant judge, Chief Justice, Anne Ferguson’s funereal delivery which brings “all the drama of a dead wombat to reading a summary of one of the most important criminal judgments of the year”, reports seasoned legal commentator, lawyer and writer, Richard Ackland.

The Tory world is in turmoil. Right-wing hacks and flacks led by News Corp, nutcase Andrew Bolt, thresh about protesting victim Pell’s innocence, slagging off Victoria’s judiciary and declaring war on the rule of law.

“Never any hope of justice for George Pell. He was too big a scalp for the howling mob,” tweets Bettina Arndt.

Could a Cardinal be so publicly undone? Could a high priest of our ruling elite, a fully-paid member of the board of Reactionary Australia Inc. be brought to heel? Could our rulers be held accountable? Perish the thought. Look at Crown.

The kid gloves are on in the federal government’s treatment of St James Packer’s Crown Casino where there is report from a whistle-blower that ought to be hair-raising. It’s a whale of a tale of high-rollers being fast-tracked through immigration, equipped with escorts before a restorative punt is followed up by a refreshing wildlife shoot.

Crown is a cathedral to our new age of mad depravity, infinitely more popular than any offering of the Catholic Church and more powerful. Crown’s backers rule our politics as the gun lobby does America’s, as former Victorian Premier John Cain observes.

Cain, whose government decided as early as 1983 that to build a casino would be to invite organised crime, warned of the power, grace and charm of casino lobbyists in 1990,  “Within three weeks of me going in August 1990, they had not only battered the doors down, but they were in the lounge room pissing on the furniture.”

Sensibly, heeding their mandate from silent Australians to leave no depth unplumbed, the Morrison government summons a toothless watchdog, no-one’s ever heard of.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), a Clayton’s investigator, is agreed upon by both major parties, to allow our gambling lobby to continue to uplift the moral tone of the nation, growing jobs and building wealth, especially in the off-shore bank accounts of Crown Casino and its coterie of money-launderers.

Conspiracy theorists swarm to depict poor, vulnerable Georgie Boy as the innocent victim of a Gillard-leftist-Victoria Police-Nine News plot. In the midst of this fertile, national conversation, Scott Morrison shrewdly chooses to announce he’s just engulfed us in another US oil war which his BFF, another vainglorious lout, the dangerously demented Donald Trump is brewing up against arch-fiend Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

“200 troops”, he says out of the corner of his mouth. “Limited to six months,” he says. “Or longer, as the case may be” he says, skipping away.  Marise Payne, repeats his de-escalation double-speak, almost word-perfect as so sundry other MPs as interviews are merely an excuse for the re-iteration of central minders’ talking points.

Happily, the week brings the anniversary of Scott Morrison’s hugely undistinguished year in office, after knifing Malcolm Turnbull in a double, double-cross. His government has no energy, no environment, no economic or climate change policies, no vision and no shame. But it’s cranking up Robo-debt to go after elderly age pensioners. That blessed surplus won’t accrue all by itself.

No-one in government fusses over the two thousand who die after receiving Robo-debt letters between July 2016 and October 2018.  It’s not difficult to envisage a link between their deaths and the debt letters.

Yet Morrison is now the best PM ever, according to the worst, “lying rodent” John Howard, the PM who did most to unpick the threads of a prosperous, progressive, cosmopolitan and egalitarian society and who lied to parliament and people that he had legal opinion to join the illegal US war in Iraq.

Howard also wrote a glowing reference for George Pell.

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Is the Bible the same as the Koran?

By Bob Rafto

The Paris terrorist attacks were horrific and like any other terrorist attack they leave a trail of grief for the victims’ families to which I send my sincere condolences.

Like everyone else, I did feel revulsion but was further repulsed by the Muslin haters with Tony Abbott in the forefront sowing seeds of division against Muslims and refugees.

One thing that stuck in my craw was Abbott saying they are coming to get us: us being the infidels, the unbelievers. This led to a train of thought that since I was already aware of beheadings and stonings and other murderous teachings appear both in the Bible and the Koran, what I didn’t know was whether death to the unbeliever appeared in the Bible.

Google didn’t disappoint:

Kill All Unbelievers

“And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God …” (Deuteronomy 13: 5).

“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers …” (Deuteronomy 13: 6).

“Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9).

“Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword” (Deuteronomy 13:15).

So there it was, another similarity which led to my conclusion that the Koran is the same as the Bible and that the Koran was a plagiarization of the Bible but I needed confirmation and I duly asked Google whether the Bible and the Koran was the same.

The first entry was Pope Francis To Followers: “Koran And Holy Bible Are The Same“. I couldn’t get luckier than that, as this excerpt shows:

During his hour-long speech, a smiling Pope Francis was quoted telling the Vatican’s guests that the Koran, and the spiritual teachings contained therein, are just as valid as the Holy Bible.

“Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths. This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people, as nations, and as a world bound by faith. Together, we can bring about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a state is respect each other’s beliefs, for we are all children of God regardless of the name we choose to address him by. We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now. No longer shall we slaughter our neighbors over differences in reference to their God”.

the lord commandeth1 copyOf course there is debate whether plagiarism is involved and some stories diverge in the Koran, but the murderous teachings are the same.

Perhaps it comes down to branding something like Pepsi and Coke as the same drink but with a different name, though both in existence to purely make a profit. Muslim and Christians are all but capitalists in their own right too, by tithing followers in exchange for a product called ‘Solace from God’ and the more followers the greater the profit. (One only has to look at the Vatican where Cardinal Pell found a very lazy 3 billion dollars that wasn’t accounted for).

And so it goes: America (for example – and the best one) starts wars and we become hostile when the folk who have had American bombs rained on them turn around and inflict carnage in our cities, and since the Iraq war we are seeing the second coming of exodus but for these refugees there is no promised land, the borders are closed and refugee haters, Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Shorten, Abbott and Turnbull have ensured our borders are closed but the government will determine who comes here and under what circumstances … and as long as they are Christian.

 

“Jesus Got It Wrong”, Tony Abbott’s Thatcher Memorial Lecture.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, obviously you don’t mean foreigners trying to enter our country illegally just because they’re fleeing from persecution?”

Jesus replied, “Did I f*cking stutter?”

So our Tony has graced the international stage with his presence, delivering the Thatcher Memorial Lecture. Maggie Thatcher has always been a polarising figure within society. With some pleased that there is a memorial lecture for her, while others just wish it had happened sooner – many decades sooner! Abbott has merely divided his own party.

Abbott’s lecture was most instructive because it was almost an allegory of his time as leader of the Liberal Party. Full of strong rhetoric, with plenty of evidence to back up the very opposite of what he’s saying.

Although, I did find myself agreeing with Abbott when he said:

“In this audience, some may be disappointed that my own prime ministership in Australia lasted two years after removing Labor from office…”

Actually, I think  that it’s more those here in Australia are disappointed that your prime ministership lasted two years. I suspect that your British audience couldn’t care less about your sudden end. And you did suggest to them that

“Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” is at the heart of every Western polity. It expresses itself in laws protecting workers, in strong social security safety nets, and in the readiness to take in refugees. It’s what makes us decent and humane countries as well as prosperous ones, but – right now – this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error.”

See, it’s not just Pope Francis who’s been getting it wrong. Jesus, himself, didn’t fully understand how much trouble this loving thy neighbour stuff could get you into. Probably why Abbott had to leave the priesthood: The realisation that Jesus’ feeding the multitudes with the loaves and fishes had led to the entitlement expectations which caused the budget emergency that Australia was still paying off.

He went on tell us that countries would be better to slam the door shut on refugees, as he had done. I mean he wasn’t there to tell people how great he was. After all, earlier in his speech, he’d humbly told the gathered throng:

“It’s usually presumptuous to invoke the glorious dead in support of current policy – but your invitation to give this lecture suggests there was at least a hint of Thatcher about my government in Australia: stopping the flow of illegal immigrant boats because a country that can’t control its borders starts to lose control of itself; the repeal of the carbon tax that was socialism masquerading as environmentalism; budget repair so that within five years, the Australian government will once again be living within its means; the free trade agreements with our biggest markets to increase competition and make it fairer; the royal commission into corrupt union bosses; an even stronger alliance with the United States and a readiness to call out Russia for the shooting down of a civilian airliner.”

Conveniently overlooking that Europe is not “girt by sea” and that it’s not just a question of stopping a relatively minor number of boats, he went on to tell them to send back those illegal immigrants, before reminding everyone that ISIS was a “death cult”, barbaric and dangerous, but, hey, if people want to flee that, well, it shouldn’t be your problem. In other words, not only should we ignore the founder of his faith, but let’s just trash the UN convention on refugees, and say every man for himself.

After all, isn’t that what Thatcher would have wanted.

All this is just typical Tony. It was some of his comments on Thatcher that gave me a new lack of respect for Abbott’s mental faculties. For example:

“On Soviet missiles aimed at Europe, she didn’t see nuclear annihilation to be averted at all cost but an evil empire to be shown that aggression would not pay.”

Yep, we don’t need to avoid “nuclear annihilation”, we need to stand up to that “evil empire” (I think he still means the Soviets, although he may be suggesting that Maggie thought she was Luke Skywalker), even if means being annihilated. At least we’d be able to say that we showed those Soviets that aggression didn’t pay. Or we would if we all weren’t annihilated. But it was this little throwaway line that should send a shudder down the collective spine of the Liberal Party . . .

Actually, they wouldn’t have a “collective” spine, would they? Far too socialist.

“That was the essence of her greatness: on the things that mattered, she refused to believe that nothing could be done and would work relentlessly to set things right.”

Do I detect a whiff of his personal circumstances in that one?

Abbott’s recent speech makes good comic reading now that he’s no longer PM, and makes me think that a crowdfunding project where we book him to speak at a function where all the latte-sipping lefties can turn up to laugh at him and heckle might be a goer. Although, there is a chance that we’ll be competing with Turnbull millions, with Malcolm rumoured to be booking him for as many overseas appearances as possible for the next twelve months including Syria and Antarctica.

As I said yesterday, while I disagree with much that Turnbull is still doing – and yes there are still a number of people in his Cabinet that are only there for comic relief – there seems to be a more civilised tone returning to the conversations about how we deny people human rights, screw the poor and disadvantaged and destroy our natural resources. Less shrill screaming about how dare people use the law courts, and more attempts to persuade people that selling our coal is just part of our overall foreign aid program.

If I attempted to engage Turnbull by suggesting that renewables are the way of the future, I suspect that he’d reply by saying that coal will still be a part of the mix for a long time to come. If I suggested that he read up on disruptive innovation, he would undoubtedly tell me that he has, and that coal isn’t going to disappear overnight to which I’d reply that’s Kodak before they went broke and he’d say that Kodak had nothing to with coal and I’d say that he was just trying to change the subject and he’d point out that I was the one who brought up Kodak and then start talking about Kodak and his theory on why it went broke before I interrupted and…

Anyway, it’s a far cry from debating it with Abbott which would go something like this.

“Renewables will replace coal as the number one power source in the next few years.”

“Coal provides jobs. Doesn’t Rossleigh care about jobs? Or does he just care about his own?”
“I do care about jobs. There won’t be any jobs when the coal industry collapses because it’s not economical to mine it.”
“Rossleigh professes to care about jobs, yet he was part of the Labor government that run up a Budget deficit that we’ll never be able to repay.”

“No I wasn’t, but haven’t you run up an even bigger deficit?”

“We have the Budget back on the path to a sustainable surplus in 2050. Unlike you who’s never produced a surplus in your life.”

“I’ve never bean Treasurer.”

“And thank God for that, because with your policies we’d all be living in caves without electricity. It’s coal that’s given us progress and without coal, humanity would still be swinging in the trees…”

“Hang on, is it caves or trees?”

‘”It’s both. You’d have us all homeless and it’s only the Liberal Party who can deliver jobs and growth because we’re the ones who stopped the boats. There hasn’t been a single boat arrive in the last eighteen months.”
“Didn’t one land on Christmas Island earlier this year?”
“We never comment on operational matters!”

Well, I’ll leave Abbott with the last word. Summing up, he concluded his Maggie speech with the following:

“All of us, then, must ponder Margaret Thatcher’s example while we wait to see who might claim her mantle. Good values, clear analysis, and a do-able plan, in our day as in hers, are the essentials of the strong leadership the world needs.”

Mm, I wonder if he has anyone in mind … David Cameron? Rupert Murdoch? Donald Trump? Himself?

Well, you can bet he doesn’t mean Pope Francis!

 

Review of the Pope’s Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’

By Dr Anthony Horton

Upon review of the Pope’s Laudato Si’ from the point of view of a scientist working in the climate change space, I believe that overall, Pope Francis has successfully elucidated the significance of the issues related to climate change and in particular the role that every human being must play and the need for each of us to act rather than being complacent. Few people (if anyone) would still argue (if they ever did) that those fortunate enough to live in relative security and comfort should not spare a thought for those less fortunate and who find themselves struggling with the daily reality of survival in the context of poverty. In having this theme as a central tenet of his Encyclical, Pope Francis correctly establishes the lens through which climate change needs to be viewed, discussed and acted upon-this being a social justice/equity as well as an environmental issue.

Having reviewed numerous recent publications, online articles and posts on social media, I feel it is important to establish early that indeed climate change is being increasingly viewed and discussed as a social justice/equity issue, and indeed programs are emerging in a number of sectors that demonstrate concrete actions to assist the poor to deal with climate change in some way-whether it be financial assistance or initiatives such as free solar panels for their houses.

As a scientist I must also say that the style of the Encyclical letter was certainly not typical of the documents I typically review or write, and so from that point of view, it represented a challenge in terms of the breadth and generality with which some ideas were discussed and their order-the document jumped around quite frequently. That said, obviously the target audience wasn’t solely the scientific community and it was well worth persisting until the end in order to fully appreciate the message within the letter.

While I found myself agreeing with a number of the points and messages in the Encyclical, I think it is important to highlight a few points that need to be aired in any discussion of climate change from a scientific perspective. Firstly, the growth in the Earth’s population is a significant issue on its own-and while it is obviously part of the climate change challenge-it needs to be addressed in any balanced scientific discussion. I am challenged by the assertion that blaming population growth is somehow refusing to face the issues. Most people would recognise that the majority of the earth’s resources are being stretched and that this would continue with increasing population growth rates.

It is important to say here that the reality of climate change is bringing population growth rates into sharper focus from the perspective that the mobility of populations (either necessitated by climate change or as a result of a desire for a better standard of living thought to be found in urban areas near cities) brings new pressures to the areas where these mobile populations eventually settle. Peoples’ want for some of the symbols of a better standard of living (larger houses, motor vehicles etc) also inevitably add emissions into the mix, which when multiplied by every person living in the same area and wanting the same symbols, becomes a significant issue.

On a number of occasions in the Encyclical, Pope Francis challenged individuals or leaders/authority figures to step up and grasp the reality of the situation we face with respect to climate change. I would offer US President Barack Obama as an example of a leader who has already heeded this call and has implemented a number of policies which are demonstrating world leadership. The leaders of many other countries have also shown similar leadership on behalf of their constituents. As a result, well recognised and market leading brands are implementing their own commensurate internal emissions management and reduction policies and challenging the very way they do business.

I must admit to also being challenged by the Encyclical’s perspective of technology and in particular its motivations and shortcomings. As one who works in a space in which a variety of technology is available (and indeed very useful) I feel it is important to acknowledge that technology has evolved in ways that facilitate human collaboration and participation rather than just using it as a means to obtain an output that is to be believed and can somehow explain the particular aspect under investigation without the operator questioning or “sense checking”.

I was also somewhat surprised by the assertion that humans are predominantly wired to extract/exploit energy resources as they renew themselves quickly and that any negative effects can somehow be easily absorbed. As someone who dedicates time each week to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, I would point to Divestment movements that can gain rapid momentum given the constant news cycle and immediate nature of communication in today’s society. A number of very high profile companies, Religious and Education institutions have also announced plans to divest significant proportions of their fossil fuel and other energy intensive investments. While some may argue divestment should go further, I think its existence and spread is symbolic of a shift in thinking and behaviour away from simply “mass exploitation at any cost”. I would also offer social media platforms as a tool for environmental education-although obvious caution is needed in terms of source and “sense” checking.

I commend the inclusion of the discussion of approaches and actions within the Encyclical, even if I am challenged by some of the points of view. There is increasing evidence that pricing carbon is bringing about the very challenge placed squarely at its feet in the document-that buying and selling carbon credits simply lead to speculation that would not help to reduce emissions. The sheer number of emissions trading schemes/cap and trade schemes in operation around the world and the nationalisation of China’s pilot schemes early next year points to the seriousness with which markets view emissions reduction. While I am not naïve to suggest that markets are the answer to everything, the indications to date show that in this case, the market is certainly responding positively and emissions are being reduced.

I also commend the inclusion of the discussion of the precautionary principle in the Encyclical, even if it wasn’t explicit. I would add that a number of the points expressed in the discussion of environmental protection could be addressed by a discussion of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. In brief, this process takes into account all of the environmental aspects of a project, the impact of that project on each aspect and appropriate mitigation measures for each impact.

I also couldn’t discuss the Encyclical from a scientific perspective without noting the slightly incorrect interpretation of the greenhouse effect in terms of the statement that gases in the atmosphere don’t allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The point regarding increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and the intensive use of fossil fuels was however well made and is valid.

From a local perspective, the Encyclical certainly elucidates and reinforces the need for all of us to act and that action must occur now, and is therefore aligned with recent announcements by Archbishop Costelloe that complacency is not an option.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

 

Upside down downunder

We sure do things upside down downunder.

Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser first tells us we are unprepared for global cooling, followed by lashing out at the UN response to the Ebola outbreak and labelling the world body a “refuge of anti-western authoritarians bent on achieving one-world government”.

Newman wrote an opinion piece for the Australian newspaper in which he said the UN’s “leanings are predominantly socialist and antipathetical to the future security and prosperity of the west”.

“The philosophy of the UN is basically anti-capitalist,” he writes. “Countries that pay the most dues, mostly rich Anglo countries, are those to which the world body shows the greatest disdain.”

Is he suggesting that we should receive foreign aid in thanks for using up all of the world’s resources while killing the planet?

Aside from Maurice Newman’s bizarre ravings, our inaction on climate change, our inadequate response to the Ebola crisis, the chief executive of Whitehaven Coal telling us that coal “may well be the only energy source” that can address man-made climate change, and the sheer bastardry of cutting real wages and entitlements to defence personnel as we send them off to war…..we are also ignoring the call from the rest of the world to take action to address income inequality.

Despite being one of the richest nations on earth, one in seven Australians are living in poverty.  Thirty per cent of Australians who receive social security payments live below the poverty line, including 55 per cent of those on unemployment benefits. Fifteen per cent of aged pensioners live in poverty.

So it seems unfathomable as to why these people would be targeted when the government is looking for savings.

Since 1980, the richest 1 percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which the IMF have data.

In the US, the share of income taken home by the top one percent more than doubled since the 1980s, returning to where it was on the eve of the Great Depression. In the UK, France, and Germany, the share of private capital in national income is now back to levels last seen almost a century ago.

The 85 richest people in the world, who could fit into a single London double-decker, control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population– that is 3.5 billion people.

With facts like these, it is no wonder that rising inequality has risen to the top of the agenda—not only among groups normally focused on social justice, but also increasingly among politicians, central bankers, and business leaders.

Our politicians are telling us that they want to provide the opportunity for each person to be their best selves but the reality is that we do not have equal opportunity. Money will always buy better-quality education and health care, for example. But due to current levels of inequality, too many people in too many countries have only the most basic access to these services, if at all. Fundamentally, excessive inequality makes capitalism less inclusive. It hinders people from participating fully and developing their potential.

Disparity also brings division. The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies. History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.

A greater concentration of wealth could—if unchecked—even undermine the principles of meritocracy and democracy. It could undermine the principle of equal rights proclaimed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Redistributive policies always produce winners and losers. Yet if we want capitalism to do its job—enabling as many people as possible to participate and benefit from the economy—then it needs to be more inclusive. That means addressing extreme income disparity.

One way to address this is through a progressive tax system but instead, our government is looking at regressive measures like increasing the fuel excise and the GST. These will impact far more greatly on low income earners.

Another avenue is to expand access to education and health but instead, our government is cutting needs-based education funding, making the cost of tertiary education prohibitive, and introducing a co-payment to discourage people from seeing the doctor.

Abbott, Hockey and Cormann assure us that if we make the rich richer we will all benefit. Everyone from the Pope to Rupert Murdoch knows this is rubbish.

Two weeks ago In Washington, in a speech to the world’s most powerful finance ministers and central bankers, Rupert Murdoch accused them of making policies to benefit the super rich.

In it, he blamed the leaders for increasing inequality, said the ladder of generational progress was now at risk, and warned that a moment of great global reckoning had arrived.

I note that his criticism of poor policy does not stop him from taking advantage of said policies. “I’ll only be as good as you make me be” seems to be the prevailing principle.

Hockey’s response to Murdoch’s barrage was interesting.

“Certainly, as he says, loose monetary policy has helped people who own a lot of assets to become richer, and that’s why loose monetary policy needs to be reversed over time, and we’ll get back to normal levels of monetary policy, normal levels of interest rates,” Mr Hockey told AM’s presenter Chris Uhlmann.

“Governments, on the other hand, have also run out of money and can’t keep spending money – particularly on the credit card – to try and stimulate growth.

“So, if loose monetary policy is not available and actually makes the rich get richer, and governments have run out of money, how are we going to get growth going in the world economy over the next few years? And the only way to do it is through structural changes that make us better at what we do.”

The structural changes suggested by Mr Hockey will increase inequality and send more people into poverty which is indeed what Coalition governments are good at doing.

Pope Francis recently tweeted “Inequality is the root of social evil.”

In last autumn’s essay, Evangelii Gaudium, Francis wrote that: “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 … Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.”

The claim that human beings have an intrinsic value in themselves, irrespective of their usefulness to other people, is one that unites Christianity and socialism. But if you think the market is the real world, it makes no sense at all, since in the market, value is simply the outcome of supply and demand.

A recent article by Lissa Johnson (on Ne Matilda) discusses decades of research into political psychology.

“Another ubiquitous finding is that conservatism is inversely related to the pursuit of social and economic equality. Conservatism correlates strongly with a preference for fixed social hierarchies entailing inequality between social groups, along with punitive attitudes towards marginalised and/or non-conforming members of society, who are seen as destabilising elements that threaten social cohesion.”

Australia is indeed a wondrous place where coal will save us from climate change, where helping the rich to get richer will make us all happier, and where the poor will be asked to pay off the nation’s debt.

Mass media versus social media

In this guest post George Von Waidkuns reflects about the role of the mass media in the creation of public opinion, and the interaction with the social media in terms of political and socio-cultural issues.

Generally, it can be said that mass media plays an important role in the creation of public opinion. Recent studies show that there is a close relationship between mass media and social control.

“The mechanism of control generally exercised by media proprietors is through the appointment of editors, ‘who become the proprietor’s “voice” within the newsroom, ensuring that journalistic “independence” conforms to the preferred editorial line’ (McNair). The power of the media is not just in its editorial line but also in covering some issues rather than others, some views but not others. It is this power that makes politicians so reluctant to cross the large media moguls and regulate the industry in the public interest. So while politicians would like to regulate against concentration of media ownership they are not as tough as they would like to be on this score.

Like earlier periods in the history of mass media communication the rise of radio, and then television, the birth of the Internet era has generated extensive speculation about the potential consequences of this development for older news media, for political campaigns, and for civic society.

As the Internet has taken off, research has explored the consequences for parties, candidates and election campaigns; for new social movements, interest groups and organizational activism; and for the policymaking process and governing in an information age.

We are witnessing a clear competition between mass media and social media in the creation of public opinion and public direct participation in political and social issues.

Mass Media and Social Control

The impact of the mass media on the consumers’ mind cannot be ignored; television, radio and newspapers make this by imposing social trends, informing, forming and misinforming the political opinion of the masses.

According to recent researches we can affirm that the mass media manipulates the mind of its consumers by using subliminal advertising and other techniques serving in the creation of public opinion and their political opinion. Mass media controls the political opinion of the masses constituting by this an invisible “government” of the “democratic” societies.

In essence public opinion is created by mass communication media and as a result of it most people delegates their own vision of the political reality to what the mass media is imposing on them. We are not thinking, the mass media think for us. We are not what we think; we are what they think we are.

Government and Control of Public Opinion, the Australian Case: Public Servants Banned from Political Opinion

The current Australian government threatened its public servants with disciplinary measures including dismissals if they make comments or if they express political opinion on social media.

The government is prepared to spend more than $4.2M to control social media and investigate cases where political opinion is adverse. This is a clear invasion of privacy and a restriction of freedom of speech.

An Australian renown academic, John Lord, said “the government could save that money by asking for my phone number straight away”.

Social Media and Participation

One of the most relevant characteristics of social media is the direct and instant participation of users in the political, social and economical reality. Users are exercising real power by interacting through online comments, blogs and publication of articles on independent websites.

The online participation of common citizens in the social and political issues, balance or to some extent neutralise the power of old means of mass communication, because citizens are now not passive spectators of reality but part of it. Citizens did not have the right to exercise their power by expressing their opinion on social issues. On the contrary they were selectively ignored by mass media.

People today extensively are losing faith in the mass media because they can test reality by their own means online. People are becoming part of reality rather than mere viewers.

Social Media and Hope

There are many hopes and fears surrounding the “virtual” democracy in the emerging of the Internet Age. Much debate revolves around whether the distinctive structure and interactive format of the Internet will provide a genuinely new form of political mobilization, enticing the dissent into public life, producing a more egalitarian democracy, or whether its primary function will be to reinforce those who are already most active through conventional channels like social organizations, community groups and parties.

We believe that public participation on social media is making a more authentic democracy as people can express their political views in a direct way and by making it public.

Social Media and the Church

In front if this new reality, even the Catholic Church has been giving green light to social media, Pope Francis recently confirmed it:

“The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. We are called to show that the Church is the home of all”.

“Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church? Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.”

Conclusion

In view of the presented above, social media with the participation of citizens in the social and political reality constitutes a new cultural phenomenon which challenges the other reality presented by the mass media. It is time then to see our socio-political reality in a new way, perhaps in a more democratic and truthful way, free from manipulation.

The power of congregations

gosford anglican churchIt has long been my view that the potential and resources of the church are largely wasted on worship.

There are few institutions with the power to influence fundamental change – governments, unions, the military, big corporations, and the church. This government is undermining the unions, using the military for civil operations, and paving the way for big corporations. Globally, we see the military and corporations wielding power in different states. In times like these, as in other times of crisis, the church needs to step up and use its power to remind the world of its responsibilities.

Despite the falling numbers in church attendance, and the growing number of people who identify as having no religion, there are positive signs of this happening.

Pope Francis is speaking out about poverty, income inequality, the economy, climate change and homosexuality, whilst adopting a much humbler lifestyle and encouraging his clergy to do the same.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. … Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us …”

Caritas Australia has added its voice to other groups protesting against the Federal Government’s cuts of $650 million from Australia’s official aid program in the 2013-14 financial year to direct the money into Tony’s “roads of the 21st century”.

The Australian Christian Lobby also expressed disappointment at the funding cuts, announced on January 18.

Caritas Australia chief executive officer Paul O’Callaghan said it was “unfortunate such a decision had been made in the first year of our partnership with the new government”.

He said the generosity of the Australian public, bolstered by Caritas’ 40-year partnership with the Australian Government, had led to beneficial change in many countries.

“In the last year alone, this partnership enabled Caritas Australia to reach more than 1.1 million people across 20 countries,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Other organisations such as Care, Save the Children, ChildFund, Plan International and the Fred Hollows Foundation – who also have partnership agreements with the Government – have had their funding cut by about eight per cent.

Churches are not only speaking out against cuts to foreign aid and charities, some are also making conscience investment decisions.

Resolutions passed by the NSW/ACT Synod of the Uniting Church in April show that it is possible for religious institutions to take concerted action on climate change.

The Synod resolved to divest from stocks and shares in corporations engaged in the extraction of fossil fuels, and to redirect investments into renewable energy. A second resolution, again passed by consensus, saw the Synod agree to to call upon the state government to protect important farming land, water resources and conservation areas from coal and coal seam gas mining. A third resolution, with unanimous support once again, called upon the Synod and the Assembly to speak and act pastorally as well as prophetically in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Individual churches are also making a difference. If you have not heard of Gosford Anglican Church and Father Rod then you are missing out. He organises and speaks at rallies and his signs are an internet hit. One of my favourites was “Jesus had 2 dads and he turned out ok”.

The Church has taken a stand on various hot topics of modern society, including marriage equality, asylum seekers and women’s rights.

“From a theological perspective, Jesus was on about one thing and one thing only, and that’s what he called the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom of God manifests itself in compassion and justice and true humility and there are lots of things going on in our society at the moment that aren’t about those things, like the way we treat gay people by not allowing them to be married, the way we treat our planet and the way we treat asylum seekers. These are the things Christians should be seeking – justice and compassion. We contribute to that.”

Another church that has attracted attention is the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church.

In a bold pro-active move, the congregation thought the best possible response to the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit would be to conduct one of its own, one which they considered would put people before profit. The church raised $15,000 to commission its own Audit on behalf of the people of Australia: the People’s Commission of Audit carried out by independent public policy research organisation The Australia Institute.

They intend to release the results this month before the government releases their Commission of Audit recommendations. The comparison will be very interesting.

I would highly recommend their newsletter “The Beacon”. It is very informative on both domestic and global issues and contains excellent articles by people like refugee advocate Julian Burnside. The March edition was devoted entirely to the asylum seeker problem and is well worth a read, as are all their publications.

I am encouraged by these displays of the church taking a role in calling for change. I understand the importance of separation of church and state but, when the state is abrogating its responsibilities to humanity, then we must all join together in demanding better.

To be rich is indeed glorious…

tony-abbott-and-xi-jiinpingAnd 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.

 

A different drummer

Photo:  ABC Net

Photo: ABC Net

In the lead-up to the 2013 election, I don’t know how many times I cringed at the thought of Tony Abbott as President of the G20, and now he is there and it is even worse than I anticipated.

The ceremonies at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland opened with words sent by Pope Francis where he implored the elite in business and politics to exert their influence to reform economic policy with the poor and disadvantaged in mind.

“Those who have demonstrated their ability to be innovative and improve the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are living in dire poverty.”

In the Davos message he referred to his treatise Evangelii Gaudium, where he said the challenge of the world today is economics and inequality. In an era of considerable change and progress in areas like technology he said, “We must praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications.”

An annual risk report compiled by the World Economic Forum queried its members about what they think is the most pressing problem threatening the global economy in the next decade. They responded with inequality as the most likely risk.

The creator of the Davos Summit, Klaus Schwab, was pleased with the inequality finding because his philosophy is that capitalism cannot survive if income and wealth are concentrated in the control of a few, which is confirmed by the US Census Bureau statistics.

Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima, who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population — that’s three and a half billion people — own no more than a tiny elite (85 individuals).” The wealth of the 1 percent richest people in the world is 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world.

These fears are palpable and the concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving social tensions and unrest globally. The pope’s message echoes concerns by others as well.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is concerned that the fruits of economic activity in many countries are not being widely shared. Likewise, the humanitarian organization CARE says inequality around the world centres on lack of access to education, public health, chronic diseases, income gaps, and social inequalities such as gender discrimination.

A World Economic Forum report says the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is one of the top 10 risks facing the world in 2014.

Scientists say man-made climate change is likely to worsen starvation, poverty, lack of water, flooding, heat waves, droughts and diseases, raising the specter of more conflict and war, unless drastic action is taken to lower emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas from their current trajectories

The global economy may continue to grow, scientists say, but if the global temperature reaches about 3 degrees F warmer than now, it could lead to worldwide economic losses between 0.2 and 2.0 percent of income.

Lord Stern, former World Bank chief economist and author of the key 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change, also warned that scientific projections and economic predictions were underestimating the risks of global warming. He will be addressing the meeting this year and speak on topics related to the economics of climate change.

Saadia Zahidi, Head of Gender Parity and Human Capital at the WEF said:

“This year is very relevant because we have collaboration with the United Nations Secretary General and the UNFCC, to try to build up towards the UN Climate Change Summit in September and use Davos to try to spark off a very large number of public-private collaborations. That’s going to be happen through approximately 35 climate change and sustainability sessions. We’re going to be looking at themes as diverse as scaling energy efficiency, reducing deforestation, looking at resilient cities and scaling investment for green energy.”

Al Gore spoke at a private session on how leaders can help prevent – and better communicate – catastrophic effects on public health, anti-poverty efforts, clean water and energy supplies from a rise in global temperatures above 4 degrees F.

“The climate conversation has to be won by those who are willing to speak up,” Gore told them. “It is a race against time, but we are going to win.”

The World Wildlife Fund joined many other groups calling on governments to commit to action.

“There’s a rising recognition that we simply have to find a way to break through,” Jim Leape, director general of Geneva-based WWF International, told AP. “The big governments each need to renew their commitment.”

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye told the forum “the world must act as one” to tackle climate and environmental challenges.

The meeting was dominated last year by the Euro-crisis, but this year Schwab says will be different. “It will be an exciting meeting and it will be different from the last year’s because it will not be overshadowed by one single crisis.”

There will be a number of topics addressed including social inclusion and job creation. He did not elaborate on “social inclusion,” but this could suggest the social and economic inequality the members believe is a global concern.

Other topics are the war in Syria, structural changes in China’s economy, building resistance to natural disasters.

“What we want to do in Davos this year in this respect, is to push the reset button. Let me explain. The world is much too much still caught in a crisis management mode, and we forget that we should take ‘now’ into our hands and we should look for solutions to the really fundamental issues. We should look at our future in a much more constructive, in a much more strategic way. And that’s what Davos is about.”

Tony Abbott has used his opening address to the G20 Economic Forum in Switzerland to advertise that Australia is “open for business”, a line he apparently stole from David Cameron.  He has stressed that the private sector should lead the way to prosperity while governments clear the path by removing regulations and lowering taxation.  In fact, his speech was almost exactly the same as his election speeches, even to the point of criticising our previous government, something usually avoided on the international stage.

Abbott has had meetings with Australian big business people, who presumably accompanied him, and avoided any discussion of ‘unpleasantness’ like Syria or whales.  He has stressed that the focus for the G20 under his presidency will be how governments can facilitate big business and free trade.

It was interesting to read a tweet by Chris Giles, Economics Editor for the Financial Times UK, who said

“Sign of the times. Rouhani packed out the hall. everyone is leaving before Tony Abbott explains Australia’s ambitions for the G20 in 2014″

So why the walkout?  Were they not interested in our fearless leader’s economic guidance?  Or is his agenda so far removed from the rest of the world that they just couldn’t be bothered wasting their time.

I think our Tony may be feeling a little out of his depth and somewhat alone, or he is purposely marching to the beat of a different drummer.

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