• The Personal Side to Tax Justice Advocacy

    Posted by Benton

    29 October, 2014

    Whenever we think of great reforms made in the past, we think of a sea of people crying out together in unison for change. We rarely think of the personal stories that led each and every one of those individuals to dedicate their time, their efforts or even their very lives to bringing about reform. 

    However, we at Micah Challenge would like to take the time to look at the personal motivations of some of our supporters, and why is it they have developed a passion for seemingly complex topics like tax dodging & corruption. Benton Wecker is a long-time supporter of Micah Challenge, and has some really great things to say about his faith and why it has led him to participate in our upcoming Shine the Light Brisbane events. We hope you find his answers as inspiring as we did!

     How did you get involved with Micah Challenge?
    I became involved with Micah Challenge Australia in early 2009 when a good friend encouraged me to attend the annual Micah Challenge national gathering in Canberra called ‘Voices for Justice’.  My wife and I made the trip for four incredible days of workshops, teaching, worship and advocacy and I’ve been involved with every Micah Challenge campaign since. I’ve also been back to Voices in 2011 and 2014 as a Lobby Group Leader and as the official Voices for Justice blogger in 2014.  

    I first attended Voices for Justice and continue to be involved with Micah Challenge because I strongly believe that authentic advocacy with and for the poor is an unescapable part of seeking to follow Jesus, or as the prophet Micah put it, doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.

    How and when did you become aware of tax dodging and its impact on developing nations?
    I suppose I have been aware of multinational tax dodging for a while but only ever as a conceptual idea or as something that happening fairly infrequently. I never understood the reality of tax dodging and the impact it has on the global South until I became aware of the Micah Challenge Shine the Light Campaign and the work of the Tax Justice Network Australia.
     
    What was your initial response when you first heard about this issue?
    My initial response to the reality of tax dodging was one of shock, one of disbelief that this sort of deceit and regressive theft could occur on such an enormous scale.  That developing countries lose $160 billion per year through just two forms of corporate tax dodging and yet total aid per year amounts to roughly $120 billion. My next reaction was one of sadness that we could allow many of the richest corporations to deprive countries of the global South and our world’s poorest people of the resources that are rightfully theirs. These resources are desperately needed to build critical infrastructure such as electricity, sanitation, infrastructure, schools, hospitals and roads.
     
    Why do you believe it’s an important issue for Christians to care about?
    It’s important for all Christians to care and to speak up about tax dodging because Jesus calls each of us to pray “may your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” and then to go about living as if this kingdom is already here.  If Jesus really was King, if he was in charge right here and now, the theft from developing countries of their rightfully earned tax resources through tax dodging (stealing from those with little by those with a lot), would not and cannot be tolerated.
     
    It’s as simple and as uncomplicated as that. Even at the most basic level as citizens of a very rich nation, this is not something that should be tolerated in a fair and just society, especially one that holds so strongly to the idea of the ‘fair go’.
     
    Benton Wecker and other Voices participants meeting with Wayne SwanBenton Wecker and other Voices participants meeting with Wayne SwanWhat have you personally been doing to act on this issue?
    In 2014, I attended Voices for Justice and with a wonderful group from Brisbane, and together we advocated for action from the Australian Government, so that the G20 would take strong global action to curb tax dodging. We discussed with the former Treasurer Wayne Swan MP (my local MP), Luke Howarth MP and Terri Butler MP, what the Government and the Opposition could do to support strong global action on tax dodging.
     
    I have also been advocating in my local community through meetings with MPs, writing to the local newspaper, writing to the Treasurer and members of the Government and sharing information on social media.  On a more personal level, my wife and I have been investigating whether corporations that our superannuation invests in are engaged in tax dodging and writing to them to encourage them to think twice about whether tax dodging really is in the best interests of the communities they operate in.
     
    Why do you think the G20 is an opportunity for Christians to make the most of?
    The G20 is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to stand with the poor on this issue because the world’s leaders will be here in Brisbane talking about the global economy and we have an opportunity to influence their agenda.  Even more importantly though, international media attention continues to grow around the issue of tax dodging and right now is a critical time to speak up so that there is a groundswell of people demanding that corporations pay a fair rate of tax where they earn their profits, both in Australia, but more importantly in the poorest and developing countries of our world.

    As followers of Jesus we must ensure that the G20 are not only concerned with the dwindling government revenues in their own countries, but concerned and dismayed by the impacts tax dodging is having on the poorest nations.

    How do you think the ‘Shine the Light Brisbane’ weekend of worship & advocacy can make an impact?
    The ‘Shine the Light Brisbane’ weekend of worship and advocacy will be an exciting weekend as we join our stories and advocacy with the stories of others around the world, and the volume of our collective voice grows.  This weekend is when the full voice of the body of Christ will be heard speaking out against the injustice of tax dodging. There are followers of Jesus all around the world who have been speaking out about the need to take strong action on tax dodging for the sake of the poor and who have been willing to fight for justice.  This weekend will be the culmination of all this speaking out, all this prayer, all this work for justice and my hope is that it resonates with our leaders and calls them action.

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    Benton Wecker is a committed Micah Challenge Campaigner, Climate Justice Advocate and is part of the Bracken Ridge Baptist Church community in Brisbane.