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Social justice issues receive Synod's support

Motions on the future of work, Newstart, UN aid targets and environmental policies all formally passed

By Stephen Cauchi

November 13 2019 

Synod backs future of work, social security

Synod formally passed two motions relating to Australia’s future economic landscape.

Motion 12 asked Synod to consider the likely impact of Artificial Intelligence and automation on the country’s workers, with conservative estimates suggesting 10 per cent of today’s jobs are likely to be replaced, and to ask the Social Responsibility Committee to develop a theological and pastoral response and transitional proposals.

Motion 13 asked Synod to add its voice to Anglican agencies, the Reserve Bank and politicians across the political divide calling for an increase to the Newstart allowance from below $40 a day to $75 a day.

Chair of the SRC, the Revd Dr Gordon Preece, used his mover’s speeches on each motion on 18 October to remind Synod that behind the figures and political rhetoric there were Australians who were seriously vulnerable.

Speaking to motion 12, he said that even if new technologies created more jobs than they destroyed, the impacts of inequality and un- and under-employment would fall on tomorrow’s workers.

“Hi-tech Silicon Valley-type industries have never really excelled at employment creation. They tend to be more destructive of employment, and more disruptive almost as a matter of pride,” he said.

“In this context, anxiety and other pastoral problems are a natural response to what we used to call economic rationalism, or today neoliberalism.”

Speaking to motion 13, Dr Preece said the idea of raising Newstart was not radical, having the support of former Prime Minister John Howard, and could be covered by $3 billion of the Morrison Government’s promised $7 billion budget surplus.

“These people are not, and should not be made to feel surplus to the Australian community.”

Church encouraged to meet United Nations aid target

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to end global poverty and stop climate change, have been formally supported by Synod.

A motion proposed by the Vicar of St Paul’s Canterbury, the Revd Rachel McDougall, also called for Australia to meet the UN goal of giving 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid.

It also “encourages” Archbishop-in-Council and each parish to “consider committing” 0.7 per cent of income as overseas aid.

Ms McDougall said that the UN’s Millennium Development goals of 2000 had taken 800 million people out of extreme poverty.

The 17 Sustainable Development goals promised to have a similar impact, she said.

“They are goals such as good health, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, to end poverty, reduce inequality, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action.

“The Sustainable Development goals recognise that we are all part of one world and that it is not just about rich nations helping poor nations, but each of us doing our part.

“Many organisations in Australia have been involved in striving to achieve these goals.”

Ms McDougall said the 0.7 per cent goal was important as the Australian Government’s overseas aid was now only 0.2 per cent of Gross National Income.

“Our contribution has dropped to a record low,” she said. “We are now the 19th out of wealthy nations. We are called to share ... what we have with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.”

The motion added that if Archbishop-in-Council and parishes were not able to give 0.7 per cent of their income, a “meaningful” amount would suffice.

The motion was seconded by lay member Brett Collins.

Parishes unaware of environment policy

Most parishes were unaware that the Anglican Church required them to reduce their energy and water use, as required by a 2007 General Synod Canon, Synod was told.

The Revd Shane Hubner, Vicar of St Peter’s Box Hill and a member of the diocesan Social Responsibilities Committee and Archbishop-in-Council, said a survey of parishes had revealed “challenging” ignorance of church environmental policy.

Only 16 per cent of parishes had responded to the SRC survey, which was put out via the Ad Clerum in June, said Mr Hubner.

There was good news from the surveys that had been received, with parishes “changing to low energy lightbulbs, reducing the use of paper, and placing … solar panels on church roofs, just to list a few”.

However, there was “challenging” news as well, he said. Three-quarters of the parishes who replied to the survey were not aware of the positions of the Anglican Church of Australia and the Diocese of Melbourne on the environment.

Furthermore, 85 per cent were not aware of the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network and its resources.

The 2007 General Synod’s Protection of the Environment Canon called on dioceses to “reduce [their] environmental footprint by increasing the water and energy efficiency of [their] current facilities and operations.”

Mr Hubner’s successful motion called on Synod to note the work done by the SRC to meet the obligations of the Canon and encourage the environment sub-committee of the SRC to continue its work.

It also called on the SRC to make available resources for parishes and church agencies to reduce their environmental footprint, and to revise the diocese’s outdated Environment policy.

The motion was seconded by the Revd Dr Gordon Preece.