• Politicians are people too!

    Posted by Micah

    24 October, 2012

    Karl Chan

    Having been born in Malaysia and spent much of my formative years there, I have gotten used to the pseudo-democracy that exists within that nation. This has attributed largely to my scepticism of our democratic process that I am now a part of here in Australia. Participating in Voices for Justice last month has helped me to restore a bit of faith in our democratic process because as cliché as it sounds, my voice can and will make a difference. Education is the key to change in the developing world because it empowers the individual to make informed choices; likewise Voices for Justice is empowering individuals to make a difference and see change happen within Australia. In just four days Voices has redefined my thinking, challenged my thought processes and expanded my world.

    Gathering with like-minded advocates in prayer, worship and action is inspiring. We are all created with unique passions, giftings and abilities and so as we engage with all of our uniqueness we unite to speak out for a world of justice and compassion. The initial two days of Voices for Justice were spent equipping us in  various means for our meetings with politicians. Questions were raised such as, “What are the current issues that we are concerned with? How have the progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) been? Or for some, what are the Millennium Development Goals? What happens after 2015 (when the MDGs should have been met)?” The answers helped formulate what we would bring before the politicians in the next couple of days. There were also electives and workshops that indentified case studies for us to learn from, as well as theological teachings to ground us back to God’s heart in his Word.

    On day three, after being empowered and equipped with new knowledge it was time to meet some politicians. Spending time at Parliament House was an exciting adventure; with just under three hundred Micah Challenge campaigners buzzing around, there was excitement in the air. Regulars who worked at Parliament House were taking notice, because average Australians were taking a unified message to the government of Australia – we are a nation that has been blessed with much, and it is our responsibility and duty to help those less fortunate. We are all created in God’s image and poverty should not be a determining factor in whether individuals are able to reach the potential that God has created in them.

    When we met with our politicians, the asks we made of the Australian government were simple and concise:

    Increase Aid - Micah Challenge is calling on Australia to finish what we have started by outlining a timetable to reach the international aid target of 0.7% GNI by 2020.

    Target to Effectively use Aid - Micah Challenge is calling on Australia to finish what we have started by investing at least 25% of the aid budget in health – including $500m annually on water, sanitation and hygiene (with at least half of this amount directed towards sanitation and hygiene, where attention is most needed).

    Shine a light on Tax Evasion and Corruption - Micah Challenge is calling on Australia to introduce country-by-country reporting for all multinational companies registered in Australia, starting with those operating in extractive industries.

    I was excited at the thought to sit down and chat with some Senators and MP’s but I would have to wait as our meetings were on day four. Being a part of the Wentworth electorate I wanted to have a chat with Malcolm Turnbull.  His office had received our request but no meeting time had been set, so it was up to us to make a few phone calls and pray.

    Day four came around and still no word, we were running out of time. We had two meetings planned in the morning, one with Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and another with Amanda Rishworth MP. Both of whom were supportive to all our asks and intrigued and wanted more information about tax evasion. In 2008, USD 120 billion was given to developing countries in foreign aid, but conservative estimates (just allowing for one form of tax evasion) show that in that same year USD 160 billion dollars was taken out of developing nations through corporate tax evasion.

    Now coming up to lunch time, fresh from our meetings and excited that there were politicians who were on board I knew that it was now or never. I needed to make another call to our good friend Malcolm Turnbull’s office. I got through and spoke to his chief of staff and was trying to arrange a time when she said, “Alright, there’s a 15 minute window NOW. Can you do it?” I was hesitant at first because my team was all scattered around, and then thought, I would not want to miss out on this great opportunity to share some of our concerns and thoughts with Malcolm. “Yeah sure, let’s make this happen.” I replied. God came through! I know that through meeting us, Malcolm got to see followers of Christ who were passionate about seeing God’s loving heart for justice outworked on this earth.

    Malcolm Turnbull with Karl Chan and his lobby groupMalcolm Turnbull with Karl Chan and his lobby groupMalcolm Turnbull with Karl Chan and his lobby group

    One take away from it all is that politicians are people too, people elected to represent the constituency that they serve. A personalised letter from me does get seen and when replied to, a dialogue and conversation occurs. I look forward to dropping into Malcolm’s office and saying 'hi'. You can do the same with your local MP too! Whether already passionate about God’s love being outworked through this world through justice or figuring out what is happening around you, I would encourage you to come and be a part of the Voices for Justice Conference next time it is on. I will most definitely see you there!

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    Karl Chan works for Compassion Australia and attended Voices for Justice - our national gathering and lobbying event - for the first time this September. To view, hear and the read the wrap up from this year's Voices for Justice event click here.