• Voices for Justice 2014 Day 1

    Posted by Benton

    22 June, 2014

    It’s Day 1 and I arrived to a rather crisp Canberra morning for my third trip to the nation’s capital and also my third Voices for Justice (having previously been a part of V4J 2009 and 2011).  It’s really special travelling from Brisbane to Canberra knowing that each time I arrive it’s to participate in a challenging and yet encouraging 4 days with a huge band of Jesus following prophets and activists from a tapestry of Christian faith traditions.

     

    I came to V4J this year because I want to engage with my local politicians on why tax dodging is so harmful to the poorest in our world, because I believe that advocacy works and that Jesus calls us to speak up against unjust systems in our world for the sake of the poor.

    I am also convinced that Voices for Justice is an incredibly powerful forum for recalibrating our lives (and our activism) around the way of Jesus and if you haven’t ever been, I would encourage you to make the trip!

    Voices started, as it always does, with a stirring welcome from Vikki Howorth and a wonderful time of worship that included a song inspired by Micah 6:8! Vikki also shared a letter she received from Brittany Darvas, a community development worker in Nepal, which really brought home to me the human face of aid cuts.  Aid cuts are not just numbers in the Budget Papers, they affect real people with hopes and dreams for themselves, their kids and their communities.

    My lobby group and I try to get our heads around the intricacies of tax dodgingMy lobby group and I try to get our heads around the intricacies of tax dodging

    It’s fair to say that I feel angry, sad and even somewhat deflated after the series of delays and cuts to the aid budget over the last few years, which is why it was so wonderful to be reminded in the first session of just how much good our Australian aid budget does every year and how much progress has been made towards the Millennium Development Goals.  

    How incredibly exciting it is that the global number of under-five deaths has fallen from around 12 million in 1990 to an estimated 6.6 million in 2012 and continues to fall.  That is over 5.4 million children every year!  This and many other signs of immense progress towards the MDG targets are worth celebrating.

    But there is more work to do, as Gershon Nimbalker shared in his briefing on the brilliant Shine the Light (on tax dodging and corruption) campaign that is the focus of this year’s V4J.  After an hour of learning about tax havens, transfer mispricing, false invoicing and shell companies it’s fair to say we all left global tax experts and ready meet our politicians armed with the ABC of how Australia can tackle tax evasion (more on that tomorrow!).

    The Shine the Light campaign is relatively new to me but when you hear the statistics on tax dodging, you can’t help but be convinced of the critical importance of tackling this injustice for the sake of the world’s poor.  For example, Christian Aid estimated that in 2008, developing countries lost $160 billion through just two forms of corporate tax dodging and yet total aid in that year amounted to $120 billion.

    This blows my mind and with the G20 in Brisbane this year, what an opportunity we have in 2014 to speak up on behalf of the poor!

    Former Senator Gary Humphries advises us on how to approach politiciansFormer Senator Gary Humphries advises us on how to approach politicians

    It was also a great privilege to have former Senator Gary Humphries come and speak with us about how to engage with politicians in the most effective  and constructive way. To have someone with such political experience come to speak with us was invaluable.

    The day finished off with a beautiful Ethiopian curry and a Ben Thurley inspired tax dodging simulation game that I am reliably informed is a world first!

    Gershon acts as a financial advisor in our tax dodging simulation gameGershon acts as a financial advisor in our tax dodging simulation game

     

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    Benton Wecker is a committed Micah Challenge Campaigner, Climate Justice Advocate and participant at this year's Voices for Justice and is a part of the Bracken Ridge Baptist Church community in Brisbane.