Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Bystander Effect - by Ronji Tanielu

On 13 March 1964, in Queens, New York City, a 28-year old young woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death near her home by Winston Moseley. This murder did not gain much public attention at all until 2-weeks later when a New York Times reporter published an article about this tragic case. The article focussed on the allegations that dozens of Ms Genovese’s neighbours ignored her cries for help and chose not to intervene or even call the Police.

Bystander effect: Kitty Genovese, right, was stabbed to death near her home by Winston Moseley
Ms Genovese’s case has now gained legendary status in the United States. It led to research on the ‘bystander effect’ which studies why people choose not to help others in desperate need. It also prompted debate and change around Police phone lines, community togetherness and responsibility, and Neighbourhood Watch. It also influenced pop culture and the arts world with numerous songs, books, TV shows and movies inspired by this case. Moreover, budding lawyers and justice professionals around the world are taught this story at Universities and Colleges. In recent years, the legitimacy and accuracy of this story has been challenged by some.

Yet at the heart of this tragic case, in my opinion at least, lies three simple yet critical irrefutable elements. Firstly, Ms Genovese was murdered. Secondly, her cries of help were ignored by those around her: her community: her neighbours. Finally, Mr Moseley was rightfully convicted of the murder. But he is still in prison as of November 2013 and major questions arise around his rehabilitation and the appropriateness of his sentence.

A few days ago, our New Zealand national media ran stories about the vicious assault on Ms Praveet Singh
[1] in Papatoetoe, South Auckland. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, in a nutshell, Ms Singh was randomly beaten and assaulted while walking near her home by a man who punched and threw a bottle at her. Ms Singh was left with a broken nose and two fractured eye sockets. What really caught my attention were the reports of people who gathered and actually witnessed this assault and yet did not intervene at all. The echoes of Kitty Genovese’s story abound here. 

One of the witnesses told the reporters that they chose not intervene because he thought it was a domestic dispute and it was their business. Obviously the It’s Not OK campaign hasn’t reached him yet. Another witness continued to wash his car during the beating and didn’t want to intervene.


Wow!

Ms Singh’s sad case made me wonder about my second point above – how her neighbours in her own community watched the beating yet chose not to help. I’ve done my own un-scientific research about this on the bus, with family and wherever I can, asking what they might do in a similar situation. Answers ranged from attacking the attacker, yelling out loudly, calling the police or gathering neighbours and intervening. Not one person said they would not intervene in some way. In theory, this all sounds good. I think we’d all like to believe we would at least do something to help in a similar situation. But in real life, with the adrenalin flowing, the fight or flight desires emerging, and with danger facing you, the theoretical responses are a little bit harder to put into practice.

So this brings me to me the big questions I’m asking myself…as well as those I sit near to on the bus: How should neighbours or communities truly interact with one another? How is this ‘bystander effect’, which manifests itself in our New Zealand societies in the form of kids going without food at school, or injustices happening in courtrooms, or loan sharks preying on vulnerable people, stopped so that we don’t just sit idly by while people suffer unnecessarily.

And for the Christian out there, what then do Yeshua’s words in Matthew 12 about loving neighbours actually mean? Does loving equate to being the hands and feet of Yeshua and providing service and support to others? Or does it also equate to being the mouthpiece of Yeshua and declaring a saving gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) that involves words like salvation, hell, repentance, sin and surrender that have become unpopular in modern theology and church circles?

Or is it all of the above? I think it is. Whether it is sad cases like those of Ms Genovese or Ms Singh or other similar situations, I submit that a true believer’s response should be to act as the hands, feet and mouthpiece of Yeshua. The bystander effect should have no place in our communities, particularly if we claim to be believers. So, what do you think?
 
[1] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/crime/news/article.cfm?c_id=30&objectid=11188763

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Let Your will be done - By Samantha Ward

Late last year my bible study group went through a series on prayer. By this point of the year, I had finished university for the year and had returned to Auckland for the summer, however each week I was updated on what the group had looked at and invited in to join in the group challenge for the week. The first of the challenges was to each evening, at quarter past five, pray the Lord’s Prayer.

A few weeks earlier, prior to my leaving Wellington, we had discussed the Lord’s Prayer, though we each could recite it if necessary, when we did we never gave any real thought to what we were praying. It was just another one of those things you learnt in Sunday School, and never really gave much thought to since. Therefore our challenge was to not just make time for prayer each evening but to as we prayed, think about the words of the Lord’s Prayer and make them our personal prayer.

So not wanting to be the only one in the group to forget, I set an alarm on my phone for 5:15, looked up the Lord’s Prayer on my Bible app (I didn’t want to accidently miss a line) and resolved to actually pray, rather than recite, the Lord’s Prayer each night for a week.

The first day went ok. It was quite surreal knowing that in that moment, a group of us, though apart at the time, were making the same prayer, but though I tried to not just recite the Lord’s Prayer, I struggled to make it a personal prayer. However by the second day, it was already beginning to feel like a chore. My alarm went off, and rather than give any real thought to what I was praying, I recited the Lord’s Prayer in my head.

It was the sixth day of our week long challenge before I managed to actually complete a day of the challenge properly.  This time when 5:15 rolled around I was sitting on the train. Maybe it was because while on a two hour commute there isn’t much else to do, but this time instead of reciting, I pulled up the Lord’s Prayer, again on the bible app, and instead of simply reading it and then closing the app, I tried to read it line by line, and understand why Jesus, when teaching the disciples to pray, taught them this prayer.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

 “Your will be done”, words that flow so easily off the tongue when reciting, much harder to pray with sincerity. So often I pray for things that I want to happen and while most of the time my prayers are said with good intentions, comparatively, I rarely pray for God’s will to be done. Praying God’s will be done, means signing up for something, before you are certain what it is. It means having complete faith in the plan God has, and putting your own personal plans, second to His. Not easy stuff.

As I looked deeper into the rest of the Lord’s Prayer, I began to properly realise that it was much more than a bunch of words memorised by Christians the world over. It was a prayer of surrender. It was a prayer acknowledging that it is God who is in control. It was a prayer that served as an invitation to God to use us for the furthering of his Kingdom- whatever that may look like and whatever it may mean for us.

The challenge officially ended the following day, and a new one issued, this time we were challenged to fast from something in order to give us more time to spend with God. My extra time was spent in prayer, but with a new focus – “your will be done”.
 
Samantha Ward is the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit's summer intern for 2013/14. Samantha has just completed her first year at the University of Victoria doing a double degree in law and bio-technology. Samantha is also soldier in The Salvation Army and enjoys coaching and umpiring netball. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lessons from the life of Mandela - By Samantha Ward

On Friday morning I received a short txt from my sister. It simply said, “Nelson Mandela died”. I am willing to admit that it was only after checking three different news outlets did I believe her. Not because I thought my sister was untruthful, but it was news I did not want to believe. Mandela is a person who features on my list of “dream dinner party guests”. I would have loved the opportunity to sit down and talk, to hear first-hand of his experiences and ask him about his opinion on various issues.  While undoubtedly I admire Mandela because of the nature of the change he was instrumental in bringing to South Africa and the principles he stood for, what I possibly admire most is how he brought about change. Like many others, these past few days have seen me contemplate the legacy Mandela has left not only to those in South Africa, but to all of us.

So complied below is my list of the lessons I have learned (or are still learning) from Mandela.

First, never give up. I imagine after a lifetime of personal campaigning, it would be at times, easy to think that you are never going to make a difference, that nothing is ever going to change. But the ending of apartheid in South Africa proves to us all that with perseverance things can change, the status quo does not have to be the way we always do things. While tradition should not be forgotten, tradition should not prevent us making change that creates a more just society with equal opportunities.

Second, do not hold a grudge. I doubt that if I were imprisoned for the time and reasons that Mandela was, I would walk out of prison willing to forgive those who put me and kept me there. Forgiveness Is a message that is taught not just in Sunday schools but also primary schools (though in a slightly different format), however no matter how many times I am told about forgiveness, when it comes down to it, forgiveness is something I still struggle with. My guess is that the reason I struggle with forgiveness is that it often implies, right or wrong, that someone gets away with something and does not have to face the consequences of their actions. However what I am slowly beginning to realise is that forgiveness is not about letting go for the sake of letting go, its letting go for the sake of moving forward.
 
Third, sometimes you need some help as it is impossible to do some things alone. Mandela did not end Apartheid alone. While it would be nice and tidy to say that he did, nothing is ever that tidy. Not only was Mandela supported by members of the ANC but he had support worldwide.  Eventually he was able to work with those who represented what he for so long fought against. It was only when Mandela and others worked with those who they once worked against that change began to occur. Many people forget that the 1993 Nobel peace prize was shared between Mandela and F.W. DeKlerk (the president of South Africa at the time of Mandela’s release and the person who headed negotiations between the government and those campaigning for the end of apartheid), but I feel that it is only right that it was shared as alone, neither could have ended apartheid and united the people of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela will probably always be a personal hero of mine. His ability to display grace and forgiveness despite his personal circumstances never ceases to amaze me. Few would disagree that he left behind a country better off than it was when it arrived. I pray that his legacy means that each of us learn something from his story.  While not all of us are destined to play a role like he did, there is nothing stopping us from following his example and gracefully campaigning for equal opportunity for all.

Samantha Ward is the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit's summer intern for 2013/14. Samantha has just completed her first year at the University of Victoria doing a double degree in law and bio-technology. Samantha is also soldier in The Salvation Army and enjoys coaching and umpiring netball. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reflections on 2013: part 3 - By Justin Latif

Here is part three of my reflections on what has been both an exciting and exhausting year as the office administrator for The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit.

The last half of this year has been focused on tidying up odds and ends from Just Action and preparing for the launch of Alan’s Johnson third housing report Give Me Shelter.

But for this reflection I thought I’d look back on some things I’ve learnt from my team.

I hope I don’t embarrass my colleagues too much, but here’s a short summary of the things I’ve discovered from working alongside these amazingly talented men and women. 

These lessons haven’t happened in any structured way rather I’ve been fortunate to have a front row seat as our highly qualified policy advisers, interns, social justice advocate and director debate, argue and critique each others’ positions on a variety of topics. And I’ve had the opportunity to probe deeper over cups of tea, at team retreats or in our humble lunch room. 

One of the most important lessons I’ve garnered has been the importance to ground any high level thinking and policy formulation in practical grass roots activism and community development. Our policy advisers could never be accused of being to ‘heavenly minded to be of any earthly good’. These aren’t head-in-the-clouds, do-gooder liberals as some may assume. I’ve been impressed to hear their stories of volunteering their weekends and weeknights to help a struggling rugby league club, organising events for a university advocacy group, pounding the pavement of our city doing street evangelism or visiting a women’s prayer meeting to spread the message of fair trade coffee. In many ways these are thankless tasks, which don’t attract any media attention like the reports or the conferences, but our team give the same dedication to these relatively unheralded tasks as they do to the attention grabbing ones. 

Bitter cynicism can be such an easy trap to fall into when working for societal changes in such entrenched areas. But staying optimistic and hopeful despite the knock backs and discouragements is also another lesson I’ve gleaned from my work mates. 


Another lesson to be gained is in the way our team encourages debate. The freedom within our team to hold contrary position and defend those positions with rigorous discussion means that often both parties help temper the rough edges of each other's view. This process of discourse and debate leads to sharper reports and speeches and its admirable that our team feel free to disagree without the fear of being ostracised for their positions - however controversial.

Live simply and find time for fun. I think it’d be fair to say most of our team could have taken up jobs within high paying corporate firms or with larger more lavish overseas based NGOs due to their range of skills and experience. However, it seems to me, for the sake of living a balanced life congruent to their desire to see New Zealand be a place where ‘justice rolls down’ they haven’t shifted their talents elsewhere. Another easy misconception of a team which overachieves in many ways, is that my colleagues would be 'all work and no play'. However, this doesn't seem to be the case, as they still find time for relaxation or leisure. Whether it’s getting coffee with friends, doing a big workout at the gym, kick boxing, fishing or growing grapes, all our team have made space within their lives of activism to have some fun. Without creating that balance in their lives, burnout would be a much more likely outcome.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reflection on 2013: part 2 - By Justin Latif

Over the next week or so, I’m going to regale you with some of my reflections on what has been both an exciting and exhausting year as the office administrator for The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit. So here is part two...

Much of my year has been consumed by the organisational behemoth that is Just Action (click here for more info). This year we planned to put on the biggest and most sensational Just Action ever. We had international key note speakers, a Habitat for Humanity house build, plus a host of other well-known New Zealand experts and practitioners from a variety of spheres. We also attempted something rarely done in large conferences, which was to given every attendee the opportunity to contribute to a final summary of action points through the ReflectioNZ groups. 

The mantra constantly preached in our office was to create a ‘seamless social justice experience’ and to do this we tried to ensure every aspect of the event pointed the attendee towards thoughts of living more justly. It’s hard to say if we achieved such a lofty ideal, but here are some of the things we did to ensure this: 

- each delegate got a piece of chocolate either made by the fair trade business Trade Aid, or by a local businessman who had recovered from addiction to create an organic food business.

- each delegate got a pen made of biodegradable plastic and cupboard.

- each delegate got a jute bag made by Indian women who had just left the New Dehli sex industry.

- all the coffee and tea was certified organic and fair trade and no unethically farmed fruit was used for the meals. 

- the t-shirts were also made in India using organic cotton by workers who were paid a living wage. 

- with our speaker from the USA, we off-set the carbon their flight produced by purchasing carbon credits from a locally owned foresty company. 

- all our gifts were fair-trade or made locally and where possible, used organic ingredients and materials.

Despite all this, I’m sure there were ways we could have done more. 

One of the special bonuses of organising this event was liaising with the great speakers we invited. I had a number of skype meetings with Dr John Perkins. He’s been someone I’ve looked up to for a long time, so to be able to ask him about particular questions I’ve had about his books and ministry was very cool. My wife and I were also blessed to have Shane and Katie-Jo Claiborne stay with us while he was here for the conference. They are such a great couple. Their infectious love of life, pure humility and energy for justice was hugely inspiring. 

There weren’t too many major issues in the preparations, but one that comes to mind was setting up the video conference call for Dr Perkins to address our audience from the US. For whatever reason, the American company we used took an age to find a location in Mississippi that we could have Dr Perkins address us from. And just when we thought everything was all go, I get an email at 5am, five hours before he’s due to speak, telling me they were going to begin the video conference link an hour before he was scheduled. I quickly fired off some emails and a major scheduling drama was avoided.

Being part of such a big and complex event promoting social justice was a real privilege. In many ways, I feel quite lucky, that an ex-journalist with no event management experience, was given such a huge responsibility. So if you went, I hope it was just as enjoyable for you. 

I talked to many people over the two days who seemed incredibly inspired by the event – in particular by Shane Claiborne. He was funny, erudite, incisive and also amazingly accessible to a range of people. His talks made me reflect on how it seems that those of us in the social justice world can be too bashful or self-effacing when it comes to promoting the ideals we believe in. This can actually be to our determent as society misses out on hearing our perspective and instead the louder voices of the hegemony take precedence. But seeing how a high profile event like Just Action connected a wider sphere of people to social justice helped to temper my qualms that we were overly commodifying these messages of justice. Whether people turn their inspiration into action is out of our hands, but I believe such conferences as these serve as sign to what can be, rather than a solution to the problems that we see.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reflections on 2013: part 1 - By Justin Latif

Over the next week or so, I’m going to regale you with some of my reflections on what has been both an exciting and exhausting year as the office administrator for The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit.

The year began with two reports tracking the social ‘state’ of play within New Zealand as a whole and with Pasifika peoples living in New Zealand. 

It was my first State of the Nation with the Unit, given I only started in May of 2012. It threw up a number of challenges and some interesting learning experiences. 

There was a feeling within the team that given this was the 6th State of the Nation, it might be time to retire this format of reporting. However the resulting media interest, heaving crowds at the six launch events and the on-going positive feedback we’ve received has put to rest any thought to retiring the SOTN in the immediate future.  

My particular highlight from the release events was the Wellington event where, as part of a panel of four MPs, Winston Peters spoke quite eloquently about his own impoverished upbringing and the need for us not to let this be something future New Zealanders to share in. 

One particular learning for me, was always double check with your caterer to make sure they turn up with the food you ordered three weeks prior. With only 30 mins before the launch of the Auckland event we discovered our caterers had lost our order. After some hurried texts, our senior policy advisor Alan Johnson and I managed to purchase close to $150 worth of pastries, while the good folk of the The Salvation Army’s Auckland City Corp set up the coffee and tea. With the crisis averted the show moved on. 

In May, the Unit launched The State of Pasifika Peoples in NZ: More the Rugby, Churches, and Festivals. This was co-authored by Ronji Tanieul and Alan Johnson. My own involvement in this report launch was limited due to my grandfather dying a few days before it was released. However, this did not stop me attending what was a particularly inspiring and moving event. We heard from a number of Pasifika leaders who gave critique and constructive feedback to the report – but also shared their own perspectives on how Pasifika can overcome some of the particular challenges facing them as a people group. 

As I reflect back on these two successful report launches, while it was great that these publications have garnered a lot of attention for SPPU, the better outcome has been seeing these issues receiving hearty debate in the wider public. While it may be easy to say that there’s scant evidence of NZ becoming a fairer and more equal society. The growing debate around improving housing conditions, increasing wage rates and reducing child poverty shows the market-focused neo-liberal ideologies of the last century have failed to completely capture the public’s imagination. Despite the individual-first, ultra-competitive approach of many the Government’s policies through the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, there still seems to be a strong desire amongst everyday NZers for all to receive a fair go in this burgeoning nation of ours. And if we can continue to embody such a spirit of collective betterment then surely we can move forward as a country in these complex times.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Prevailing Shouts - By Sammy Millar

One of my most memorable wedding gifts was the megaphone I was given by my church family. I say “I” was given, because, it really was for me, (and they did apologise to Brenton for it) apparently they just couldn’t resist … much to my delight. It was a bit of a joke … because anyone who knows me, knows the LAST thing I need is a megaphone. At our wedding, I tried to use the megaphone for my speech during the reception, but no one could take me seriously (no idea why) so I resorted to the microphone. The truth is I liked to be heard.

But no one could take me seriously (no idea why) so I resorted to the microphone. The truth is I liked to be heard.

Don’t we all?

Some of us find making ourselves heard a little easier than others.

One group in the bible, who didn’t struggle in making their voices heard, was the Jewish high priests and leaders at the trial of Jesus before Pilate.

 “Their shouts prevailed” Luke 23:23 (NIV)

These three words struck me when I read them a few months ago. It was like I was reading them for the first time, and it seemed as though God was SHOUTING them to me. “THEIR SHOUTS PREVAILED!!!” A number of personal questions came to mind.

“What am I shouting about?" 

“Where are my shouts prevailing?”

“Where is my voice being heard?”

I was incredibly challenged!

How did the shouts of the Jewish high priest and leaders prevail?

They were prepared. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.” Matthew 26:3-4 (NIV) They were prepared. They had a plan in place, they’d had meetings, talked about it, rallied the troops and took it to the appropriate authorities to present their case.

They were persistent But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” Luke 23:5 (NIV)

The more opposition, or resistance they encountered from Pilate the louder they got, and the stronger they got. They didn’t let his opposition hold them back. They weren’t going to take no for an answer.

They were passionate. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.”Luke 23:10 They totally believed in what they were shouting about, they were dedicated and committed to it. They were fervent, the atmosphere must have been heated and intense.[1]

They were united. With one voice the crowd cried out, “Kill this man! Give Barabbas to us!” Luke 23:18  They had a united voice and there is power in unity.

The Jews had an effective group, with an effective strategy: preparation, passion, persistence, and unity so … their shouts prevailed.

BUT … while we can learn from their strategy, we have to acknowledge that their motive and purpose was tainted. They were shouting for injustice. They were shouting to have an innocent man killed, there was nothing honourable about that. Yes, they were passionate, they truly believed in what they were shouting for, (so much so that as Jesus hung on the Cross near death he prayed “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”) but their cause was lacking.
 
As followers of Jesus, our cause is justice, as was his. God is a God of justice, and injustice breaks his heart, Jesus has experienced it himself. He knows what it’s like.

When we shout, when we desire for our voices, our shouts to prevail, let them be for justice. We don’t have to look far before the injustices around us become apparent, the world is swimming in injustice; domestic violence, addictions, discrimination, inequality, child poverty, poverty to name a few. If you lack passion, and have a desire for justice pray to the Lord: “Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdoms cause.” But be warned, God will answer your prayer.

For those who can’t speak up, who haven’t discovered their voice yet, for those who struggle to make their voice heard, raise your voice on their behalf.

We shout for Justice! And we will prevail when we shout with preparation, passion, perseverance and unity.

There’s a megaphone inside all of us, a shout longing to prevail. Raise your voice.




Monday, September 23, 2013

“Break my heart for what breaks yours” - by Sammy Millar


One of my earliest memories of ‘fighting injustice’ was in high school. Our whole year had to sit a certain test in the space of a couple of days, but one class were able to sit the test a week later because their teacher had been away. I couldn’t believe that they had a whole extra week to study and prepare, while the rest of us had sat the test under the expected conditions. It seemed incredibly unfair.

So I started a petition.
 
I wrote a letter to the dean outlining the ‘injustice’, got a significant number of signatures and sent the letter. An assembly was called and the issue was ‘discussed’ and  … um … hmmm … I can’t remember what happened. The details are rather sketchy. Will the outcome echo into eternity … uuuurrrrr … nope!

It’s so easy to get up in arms about an issue that affects us directly. The passion stirs, emotions rise and we exert energy doing something about it, so that WE GET justice. Not so often do we get passionate and persevere for the justice of our neighbour living in poverty, the shoeless child who missed breakfast and goes to school with our son, the single mum missing out on significant child support because she’s on the benefit, the refugee who’s been taken advantage of by a kiwi who claims to have her ‘best interests’ at heart, I could go on …
 
These kind of situations haven’t always moved me, in fact many a time I’ve been blind and failed to see the injustices. I’d just shrug it off. In all honesty, I didn’t really care.

But as I read the bible I became increasingly aware that God has a heart for justice, the truth I ‘knew’ was starting to hit me in the face the reality that injustice breaks his heart and as his follower, and the question that resounded: “shouldn’t I be cut up over injustice too?”

A defining period was when I made some of the lyrics from Brooke Fraser's song “Hosanna” a regular prayer.

“Break my heart for what breaks yours

Everything I am for your Kingdoms cause”

And he answered. I started to care about the injustices faced by others. Outside of my own little world. Slowly but surely my heart was broken for the things that break my Lords. My heart breaks when I see people struggling through injustice, and I know, that as a follower of Christ, as I respond to his love for me part of that response involves joining him, imitating him in the fight for justice. In the words of the founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth, “I’ll fight to the very end!”

The challenge:

To make the fight for justice a priority in our lives

The prayer:

“Break my heart for what breaks yours

Everything I am for your Kingdoms cause”

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why do we forget persecuted believers? By Ronji Tanielu

In April 2012, we had a BBQ at our place so family and friends could witness my haircutting. I had grown my hair long from about 2001 to 2012. My hair had been corn-rowed, afro’d out, straightened, braided, worn out to scare little children and was beginning to naturally (and nastily) dreadlock, all over the last 12 years. I was glad it was going. 

My wife and I decided to use the haircutting as a fundraising for two of the ministries that we support – International Needs Network (www.internationalneeds.org.nz) who my wife works part-time for, and Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.co.nz). We raised about $1,500 that day and were able to split the money between these ministries to support their mission projects overseas.

My friend Graham heads Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) ministry in New Zealand and he called me a few months ago to share something. He said that he had taken the whole money we had given to VOM from my haircutting and given it to a Pastor and his wife in Laos. This couple had taken the money and started a Bible school in their area and since the school started, fourteen young men had become believers and were attending this school. Graham also gave this Laotian couple some photos of my haircutting so they could see who and where the gift came from. The couple put these photos on their church wall and pray for us daily. I buzzed out knowing these believers all the way in Laos were praying for some dodgy-looking believers from South Auckland that they might never meet this side of Heaven!

How often do we as believers in the Western and so-called developed world think of, pray for, and support believers in the persecuted churches across the globe? I couldn’t name that couple in Laos because it is illegal to be a Christian in Laos because it is a Communist nation. Their identities are secret because their lives would be in danger if Laotian authorities found out!

Did you know that churches are regularly attacked and burned throughout Uganda, Sri Lanka, Iran, Pakistan and Kenya? How about the thousands of believers that are falsely imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith across the globe every year? Or what about the hundreds of Christians in Muslim nations who are being forced to convert back to the Muslim faith or face punishment?

Most churches in the developed world have very few connections with persecuted believers in developing nations. We’ll build church buildings the size of Westfield Malls that have the latest soundboards, lighting and smoke machines. But we have very few prayer meetings and fundraising events for these believers.

Most believers themselves have little understanding of the persecution that Christians face and experience around the world. Human rights abuses are plastered on our TV screens but we ignore the senseless violence happening to our own brother and sister in Christ?! 

What then is true social justice? Does true social justice extend to only specific groups of marginalised people in a society?

It seems to me that when Christians talk about social justice, these discussions are dominated with talk about social justice for the poor or social justice regarding marriage and gender equality. We talk about issues of structural and social inequality and religious tolerance. We discuss the basic human rights that people should have and the need for more liberal thinking.

Yet speaking about justice for Christians, particularly the most marginalised and persecuted Christians, is almost a dirty or taboo thing to talk about. For some reason, social justice is externally focussed and does not always consider the injustices happening to Christians themselves. This makes me wonder what true social justice really is.



Friday, July 19, 2013

Lessons from a stranger - By Stacy Superfine

I got this picture in an email from a friend this morning, it not only put a smile on my face, but it reminded me that we are in fact all here for a reason by the one who loves us and created us each in a specific way.

I had an interesting conversation with a complete stranger recently, she wasn’t what society would consider well off, but she was full of spirit. The more she spoke to me, the more I realised that although she didn’t have much, she still had everything she needed. I felt her pain as she spoke about the hard life she’s had, yet she didn’t once complain. She spoke with such enthusiasm and spirit that it just shined through her. It was so refreshing to witness. Although her actions resembled those of a child- due to her disability, her actual age told me otherwise. This disability didn’t stop her in any way. She told me of her accomplishments; of the little things that made her so happy.

It was in this moment that I was reminded that we can’t ignore people in these situations, those going through tough times in a variety of contexts that are so easy to see around us these days. As I write this, Switchfoot’s “Dare you to move” plays in the background which I think fits quite perfectly. In a way I felt that I was being dared to move, to act out what we have been taught. It’s not enough to listen to the stories, or have faith. We need to put this faith into action and see the amazing results.

We’ve each been given so much to make use of, this conversation showed me how lucky each of us are. The stranger I spoke to didn’t care much for the latest trends, not because she wasn’t able to, but because she was well aware that she could still achieve so much with the life she was so grateful she still had.

As our conversation came to a close, it was clear to see that just a simple chat could make the world of difference. How much more of a difference would speaking up on behalf of those suffering, donating towards a good cause, reaching out and helping alleviate the various injustices that are ever so present these days make? It’s not great actions that make the difference, it’s the attitude that we do it in.

The Salvation Army ‘Just Action’ conference on the 18-19 September this year is a great event which aims to ‘rebuild justice together’. Here’s a great opportunity to learn different ways and be inspired to make our society more just and fair for all, to come together and hear real life stories of those who have been living out their faith and turning it into action.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Consume - by Sarah Dillon


Smell the town. Streets lined with glamour and glitz, lights and fa├žade that demand my attention: pick me, look here, newer, brighter, better, more.

The tendrils of the products reach, grope for my ankles as I pass; they know I am already ensnared by my own desire.

Consume, consume, the visceral shrieks permeate from Wall Street through the worldwide web and all over my city.

Step by step, lamb to the slaughter
[but the butcher is me],
taking part in the mechanical transaction
[hand-in-pocket-and-over-counter],
just
another
cog
in the machine that spins to promote some over all.

Need:
the whisper travels from somewhere deep in my gut to coil itself around my neck and end up somewhere,

most likely embedded in the room in my brain I am least likely to access.

Greed:

I stuff myself. Food and coffee and every delectable morsel imaginable, crumbs on my plate, falling to the floor, sweeping from the table along with my knowing guilt at tasting another’s blood.

I wield the plastic - the rights - the adrenaline-pumping power!

But with great power comes great responsibility, Hollywood [that paragon of virtue!] tells us,

and so I am to choose carefully, consult my heart, even…picking my way amongst the death and the life and the gray in-betweens.

I know this isn’t directly political, a work of remarkable profundity, or even great literary merit! But I’d like to add some questions to ponder:
- what’s my attitude towards consumption?
- what have I purchased today – need or want?
- how have my recent purchases impacted the world around me?

- could a change in my spending habits positively impact others?

 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Voting with a conscience - By Justin Latif


Last night I came across this quote from Robert Kennedy’s fateful presidential campaign of 1968, found in Thurston Clarke’s wonderfully written book, The Last Campaign ( 2008).

[For] too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values for the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product, now is over 800 millon billion dollars a year, but the GNP – if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of redwoods and the loss of our natural wonders in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm, the cost of a nucluear warhead and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yes the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit or our courage… it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

This excerpt leaped at me for a number of reasons on a chilly Wednesday evening.
 
Firstly, it saddens me to think that there are so few politicians today who would have the skills, intellect and courage to exhort such common sense values in an electoral campaign. Kennedy was obviously a man before his time, and tragically he never got to enact his principles in office, as he was murdered less than four months after this address.

Secondly as the conscience vote of the Sky City Convention centre looms, I’d like to think our politicians could capture some of these sentiments. I realise this decision will be framed as one that’s good for our economy, but it would be nice if our nation’s leaders could look beyond measures like GNP and GDP in their calculations. What if we could build institutions without splintering families and miring addicts into more debt. What if we looked past a few hundred jobs to the thousands of lives which may well be damaged by the increase of these callous pokie macines. Perhaps this is an over-simplified, overly optimistic perspective. Perhaps profits and pleasure for some, are more important than the harm to those who are deemed by many as our modern day lepers. Perhaps we look down our noses at these unfortunates and say ‘they reap what they sow’ and wash our hands of their plight.

But I'd like to hope that today we would see our leaders cast off this cynical individualism and regain a principled politics - one that votes authentically with a conscience.
 
The saying goes that we get the government we deserve, and if as expected the vote goes in favour of creating special exemptions for the Sky City Casino, then I hope this would motivate more of us to demand a higher standard from our elected representatives. The optimism of Robert Kennedy's campaign does not just have to be a nice footnote from history, instead it can be a pointer that it is possible to lead with values and make decisions based on principles not just profits. And while such an approach may consign us to be a little poorer as a nation, I think it would make us a little happier as a people.

By the office admin guy
 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Can justice lead to restoration? By Bruce Millar

When one of my children comes to me with a grievance against the other I want justice to lead to the restoration of their relationship. In our house the offender is often given time to cool down and think about what they have done before they offer an apology (time out).

I saw this played out in the life of Paul the apostle. Paul (who was known as Saul before he became a Christian) had been trying to stamp out the early church by killing and imprisoning its followers. The account in the book of Acts chapter nine, describes how Jesus (post-resurrection) speaks audibly to Paul, blinding him with a bright light and asking him why he was fighting against him. Paul's blindness lasted for three days, which gave him time to think about what Jesus had said and what he had been doing.

Justice in many people's eyes should have been a lightning strike rather than a bright light! (Somehow I grew up with the notion that God was into lightning strikes. . . Not sure where that came from!)

Now that Jesus had Paul in 'time out' he called a local Christian, Annanias, to come and pray for him and restore his sight! 

I would imagine Annanias could have feared for his life but maybe he wasn't keen on restoration; maybe he wanted Paul to pay for what he had done? He was perplexed enough to double check with Jesus that he really knew what Paul had been up to! Jesus acknowledged Ananias's concerns by saying that through becoming a Christian Paul would indeed suffer much but still told him to restore Paul! Anannias did go; prayed for Paul and even managed to call him brother! Wow!

I think God is into restoration not lightning strikes. There are still consequences for our actions but He still seeks to restore us and others into relationship with Him. This account of Paul illustrates to me God's heart to restore, not wipe us out. There are still curly 'what if?' questions such as what if people don't want to be restored?

Lightning strikes are so much cleaner and easier, arent they? Restoration can be painful and messy... but that's life isnt it? I'm certainly glad God chose (and chooses) to restore me!

 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Getting what we deserve - by Justin Latif

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripples of hope, and these ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert F Kennedy Jr.

I became a paid up member of a political party this month. With my $25 fee I seamlessly joined the clunking machinery of a parliamentary party. My hope is that by becoming affiliated with this particular political party, I can get more involved in the local body politics of my community and learn more about how the wheels of power work in our area.

However, after a little reading I was surprised to learn that less and less people are doing the same.

It seems membership to political parties has been in steady decline across the developed world since the 1950s and 1960s and this has been seen most dramatically in western Europe where party members now make up less than 2 per cent of the voting public in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland[1] .

In New Zealand it’s only a little better, where party memberships have dropped from around 24 per cent of voters in the 1960s and to be now sitting at just under 3 per cent of the electorate [2]

And not only has voter engagement on a membership level declined, but voting numbers have also dramatically dropped. At the last election, just over 70 per cent of 3.2 million eligible voters made it the polling booths [3]. While voter enrolment amongst our youngest cohort (18-24 years-old) sits at an abysmal 73 per cent compared to 98 per cent of those in the 40 plus age bracket [4].

As the old Russian saying goes, ‘we get the government that we deserve’, and it comes as no surprise to read that 48 per cent of the $22 billion social welfare budget is being allocated for superannuation, while spending for youth training schemes and transition programmes make up less than 1 per cent of allocated monies[5]. While it could be argued that the Governments is skewing its spending priorities towards those who vote, the main issue of concern is the overall apathy towards getting involved in the political process.

It doesn’t take a political science degree to work out that the lower rates of party membership and voter participation result in less accountability for our nation’s leaders. However, as another electoral cycle rolls around for our local body politicians, these alarming statistics should make us consider whether at 'such a time as this', we should throw our own hat into the ring. Despite the relative obscurity of the local body politician compared to his or her counter-part in the Beehive, they have incredible power and influence in the communities in which they preside. Local board members can have a huge influence on the number of liquor and gambling outlets opened in their communities. They wield discretionary budgets to organise community sports events, festivals and local infrastructure enhancements. And they also have the opportunity to use their influence and resources to improve the inter-connectedness across a community in a way few can.

With only a few months before nominations close, do give serious thought to whether your local health board, licensing trust or community board could do with your input. When more of us engage and serve in civic institutions we create the ‘ripples of hope’ which Robert F Kennedy spoke of and we can be contributors, not just bystanders, to the waves of change in our neighbourhoods.


[1] http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/05/06/decline-in-party-membership-europe-ingrid-van-biezen/, http://makewealthhistory.org/2012/10/08/the-decline-of-the-political-parties/


[2] http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2008/06/party-members-4.html


[3] http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/election-2011/6044562/Turnout-abysmal-for-this-years-vote


[4] http://www.elections.org.nz/research-statistics/enrolment-statistics-electorate


[5] http://www.interest.co.nz/news/64580/budget-2013-social-welfare



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fear and loathing in Aotearoa - By Annaliese Johnston

Today is World Refugee Day. It marks a day when tens of thousands of people around the world take time to recognize and applaud the contribution of forcibly displaced people throughout the world. This recognition of the importance of welcoming vulnerable people to our borders made me think of the famous verse from Galatians; that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”


Refugees travelling via boat.


The Apostle Paul reasserting that the lines and barriers that for so long divided communities of people was radical, more radical than we might imagine. Using “all one” to define community as opposed to defining by difference was pretty gear-shifting in a context where a male Jew would never dare speak to nor go near a female Samaritan. The famous verse is as pertinent today as it would have been when it was written in 1st Century, and throughout a chequered global church history of wars, crusades, and racial and state conflict. In Aotearoa we don’t necessarily face the ripping apart of a society from Apartheid or civil war but we do have our own stigmas, our own inequalities and our own discomfort with difference.

The Human Rights Commission recently released stats that revealed that beneficiaries are the most discriminated against group of people in our society. “Nimbyism” is the term used to refer to the concept of “Not In My Backyard”, where residents fight against a proposal for a new development because it is close to them, often with the connotation that such residents believe that the developments are needed in society but should be further away from them. Calls to “stop the Asian invasion” and the claim that “our jobs” are being stolen by foreigners is often used to cover underlying fears of a new multi-cultural nation. In this backdrop, “Xenophobia”, defined as the “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign”, starts to sound very apt. 

This is an area where Christians can be radically different. The call from Paul in Galatians speaks of a Kingdom picture, a Christ-like picture: One where we have equal regard to people from all nations, backgrounds, races and socio economic statuses. It is not one where we differentiate on these things, but where we choose to live a different narrative; where being different or coming from somewhere else is not something to fear, but to celebrate.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A perfect natural experiment - By Alan Johnson

The Government’s recent move in housing policy provides us with a perfect natural experiment to test the validity of their neo-liberal orthodoxy. 

The policy move in focus here is the Housing Accord and Special Housing Areas Bill which is presently being rushed through the legislative process. The basic idea of this Bill is to ‘enhance housing affordability by facilitating an increase in land and housing supply’. The 'facilitating' is merely the stripping away of regulatory processes such as those under the Resource Management Act – a move which the Law Society has described as ‘contrary to the rule of law and good legislative principles’.

A natural experiment is an empirical study in which the experimental conditions are determined by nature. In other words when something like an outbreak of disease happens in the big wide world we can study the impacts of this outbreak to help us establish a causal link to something else such as polluted water or overcrowded housing. 

In promoting the Auckland Housing Accord, the Housing Minister Nick Smith confidently announced that the accord with Auckland Council was expected to produce 39,000 additional dwellings over the next three years including 9,000 in the first year. Such an outcome would be a stunning turnaround in Auckland’s housing fortunes given that less than 4,000 new dwellings per year have been consented over the last four years.  

Thirty-nine thousand new dwellings represents more than $12 billion in new investment which if this comes about, will be all the proof I need that all this time it was excessive regulation holding back the market from building affordable homes for tens of thousands of low income Auckland families.  If investors will stump an extra $12 billion of their hard earned cash to put into affordable housing because of an agreement between Nick Smith and Auckland Mayor Len Brown it will be clear evidence that the problem was always those planners and building inspectors at Auckland Council. 

The good thing about this natural experiment is that we should see clear evidence of progress within the next year. 

Editor's note: What's your hypothesis for this 'natural experiment'?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Other Sides of New Zealand: Part 1 - By Ronji Tanielu

Controversial Cartoon:
What do you think about our attitudes to race in NZ?
Earlier this week, I spent some time inside the Koru Lounge at Wellington Airport. My boss is a Koru Lounge aficionado whereas I was a nervous rookie, fumbling to show my boarding pass to the staff and worried my tattoos might stop me from gaining entry or even securing a job as a flight attendant!

Anyway, from the start I felt uncomfortable there. But the free drinks and food helped ease my concerns. My boss left for his flight and I sat on a couch, feeling like I stuck out as much as John Banks would if he walked around the Otara Fleamarkets! 

Soon, a middle-aged woman came and sat next to me. I thought “cool” I can chat with her while I wait for my flight. She sat down, put her purse on the handbag next to me and then got up to go get some food. She walked about four steps, turned around and looked at me. She then walked back to the couch, snatched her handbag up, and walked away, all the while staring at me. I drank in that experience, filed it away for a rainy day and decided to immediately leave the Koru Lounge and wait for my flight where the non-Koru Lounge citizens were sitting.

Shocked? No.

Surprised? No.

Used to it? Yes.


Saddened? Yes.

Happen again? Probably.

This interesting yet common occurrence made me wonder something – why do we seem at times to be worried or afraid of that which is different to you? Our nation prides itself on being a progressive and liberal society. Yet, borrowing a little bit from Hamlet, I think there truly are some rotten things in our nation. I believe we are a nation that isn’t always as accepting of what or who is different as we would like to think. My joyous experience in the Wellington Koru Lounge is simply a minor example of that. But major examples exist.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on May 30 2013.
Megan Levy argues that most Australians are clearly against overt forms of racism. But casual racism, where you’re slightly racist in a casual fashion through jokes, names, comments, and so on, might be more prevalent in Australia.

How about in our beautiful nation? Well, surely a bunch of cartoons from the South Island don’t count as casual racism do they? Surely my jokes about a Maori, Pakeha and Islander walking into a bar don’t count. Freedom of speech and all that!

I believe one of the biggest examples of our nation’s fear of that which is different is happening right now in Auckland as the Auckland Council and Government try to address the housing crisis. As house prices skyrocket and adequate housing becomes increasingly unaffordable and unattainable for families, I think the fear of what is different will become pronounced. This fear of difference is embodied in the doctrine of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) that pervades some of the legislation, plans and policies designed to address this crisis. It’s good we sort the housing crisis out… but I don’t know want them living in our area. Housing intensification and inclusionary zoning would be wonderful…but maybe in those suburbs and not ours.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Palagi take on the Pasifika report


by Justin Latif*
More Than Churches, Rugby and Festivals was launched at the Otahuhu Salvation Army Corps.
The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit’s recently released More than Churches, Rugby & Festivals, A Report on the State of Pacific People in New Zealand. The launch was covered by a variety of media and seemed to have generated quite a stir amongst the Pacific community. But it would be remiss to jump to the assumption that given the focus of this publication is on the Pasifika population that it has no relevance to the rest of us. While I may not tick a Pasifika box on census night there are many ramifications for me in this report as a non-Pasifika New Zealander or Palagi.
Firstly, this report highlights the historical background of Pasifika in New Zealand, putting their immigration to these fair shores within the wider socio-political context. Their story is in many ways a story of all New Zealanders – which is that we have travelled here at some point in our family's history with the ambitious hope of finding a better, more prosperous life. And the struggles they have faced upon arrival are quite similar to many people of other ethnicities.
But as I read through the report, one thing that struck me about the influx of Pasifika is the highly visible way they have contributed to our society. Whether it’s been wearing our beloved All Black jersey or the baggy Black Cap , or putting our nation on the musical and acting map with their fantastic talents in these areas. It would seem no other recent migrant people have added so significantly as Pasifika to the things Kiwis hold so dear.


Attendees at the report launch, from left; Chris Frazer, Major Campbell Roberts and Diana Vao.
But on the other hand, as this report gracefully highlights, Pasifika people are being left behind in many other areas.  It seems we are happy to take the reflected glory of having someone like Michael Jones or Jonah Lomu scythe their way through an opposition rugby team, but we’re just as quick to blame an entire ethnicity for the failings of a few criminals when they feature on the nightly news. Why do we complain about the Australian laws which exclude New Zealanders from accessing public health and welfare services, when we do exactly the same thing for Samoan quota migrants. Why do schools in Mangere, Otara and Otahuhu have such a paucity of resources and facilities. Why do we turn a blind eye to worker exploitation on South Auckland’s commercial vegetable patches or the Bay of Plenty’s kiwi fruit orchards. And why has an election promise to clamp down on the corrupt loan sharks preying on Pasifika, continued to be delayed.
 


National list MP Alfred Ngaro addresses the audience at the report launch

These are questions I find myself asking and perhaps there are valid reasons for some of these scenarios. But overall it seems that we give a ‘fair-go’ to some and not all. While this report does well to highlight the issue of widening inequality, it is our responsibility to do what we can to reverse this.
*I work for the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit but was not involved in the report's authorship.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The 710am 348 to Manukau


The 7:10am 348 bus to Manukau is an interesting experience. My first reactions to it were purely defined by an early morning fug that those of us who do not do mornings know too well. However as I slowly adjusted to the early starts, I started to reflect on how a bus journey can represent a lot. Many on there were like me, making their way to work, wrapped up well against the early morning chill with perhaps a coffee in hand and muesli bar to munch. There is a certain friendliness and community that builds by those experiencing together the sometimes harrowing experience of Auckland city transport.
The wheels on the bus...
 

But others were less well wrapped up, less fortified with a steaming coffee and breakfast. The bus journey sees a variety of people get on and off, a Samoan mother with five kids, struggling to get the full bus fare together for her kids to go to school, a young Maori boy without a jacket on a 10 degree morning. The lumbering Waka Pacific bus goes past streets and streets of run-down, overcrowded housing, past many who cannot even afford the bus fare at all.

Privilege is an interesting word, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. I am very aware that by virtue of my middle class, pakeha, relatively comfortable upbringing I am immediately granted certain privileges. It is considered normal for me to attend university, in fact, it would probably be considered unusual if I didn’t. I can afford to top up my hop card when I need to get the bus to the dentist, I can at a stretch also afford to go to the dentist when I need too.

Soon I will driving my car down the South Western Motorway to Manakau instead of the 7:10 348 journey. Part of me rejoices at the extra half hour in bed in the morning and the warmth of car heating on my way to work. But the other part of me wonders what I will lose by not taking the bus. Should not unfair privilege, like poverty, be something that we should be fighting? It is something that needs to be seen, and questioned, not just assumed. Because once you become aware of injustice, it is a lot harder to ignore.

By Annaliese Johnston - Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit intern

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We're back - just in time for the Budget

After a two year hiatus, the Just Comment blog is back. We hope to update this on a semi-regular basis with political and policy analysis, combined with thoughts on faith and theology. I hope you enjoy our upcoming offerings.
 
And to re-launch this blog, we have Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit's senior policy advisor Alan Johnson giving his take on the Government's latest budget.
Minister of Finance Bill English reading through Budget 2013
 
The Budget Circus - by Alan Johnson

For some time now the lead up to the release of the Government’s Budget resembles something of a circus.  The Minister of Finance is usually the ringmaster and various Ministers are the acrobats, magicians and clowns all coming up with feats which appear amazing, unbelievable or just plain silly.  The 2013 Budget has proven no different.

Budgets are more serious that this and they deserve to be treated as more than a circus.  Budgets are the time for the Government to discuss its vision for the future as well as the changes it wants to introduce and the priorities it is making.  Instead we get spin and trivia which appear designed to show the spinner in the best light and to distract us from the big questions.  Announcements from Minister are mostly about small budget programmes with the dollars inflated by reporting four years of figures. 

An example of this is the announcement that the Government was spending $20 million over four years to address the spread of Rheumatic Fever amongst the poorest of New Zealand children.  This is a great initiative of course but there are bigger questions being ignored here as we focus on such a small budget item.

For example, this $5 million per year represents just 0.04% of the total health budget of $14 billion.  What are we told about what is happening with this bigger health budget both in terms of  total spending over the next few years and the challenges which our public health system is facing?.  The answer is of course very little. 

A good thing about the Budget however is the massive amount of information which is provided by the Treasury and which allows interested citizens to dig into the detail.  Treasury even has a free app so that we can dig through this material on the move. 

Dig just a little and do your own analysis – apply total budgets to expected inflation rates and population growth and you can quickly work out whether or not Government is planning to spend more or less on our public health system over the next few years. 

The answer in this case is less. This year the per person spend on health will be around $3,150 but this falls to around $2,750 by 2016 at today’s dollar values.  We didn’t hear this from Mr English did we? 

But this decline in spending is even worse because it takes no account of our aging population nor the spread of diseases of poverty such as Rheumatic Fever.  It is no mystery that the health costs of older people are higher because they require more care and are in failing health. As we have more older people in our population total health costs will rise regardless of economic and population growth.  The Budget really tells that we are planning to spend less on public health when we should be planning to spend more.  What gives?

We aren’t talking about what gives – in fact we aren’t even talking about why give?  The problem of an aging population and declining health budgets is creeping up on us and those responsible for these budgets choose to distract us with trivia and short term thinking.

Surely as taxpayers and citizens we at least deserve an honest and open conversation over such issues.