• A Gillard Government - What does that mean for the poor?

    Posted by John

    15 July, 2010

    By John Beckett, National Coordinator, Micah Challenge Australia

    Last night at dinner I was talking to some good friends about poverty and Micah Challenge's recent Voices for Justice conference in Canberra. The conversation turned to the demise of Kevin Rudd and the rise of Julia Gillard, PM. And the question came, as it has a number of times in the last few weeks, 'What does the leadership change mean for Micah Challenge? Does it mean you are back to square one?'

    In many ways I was sad to watch the demise of Kevin Rudd. I see him as an idealist who won the hearts of a nation with those ideals, but fell victim to a political system that doesn't often reward idealism. More than that, I am sad (and a little frustrated) that we have lost a great advocate for the poor, and for Australia's responsibility to the poor. But what about the square one question? Have the unpredictable seismic shifts of Australian politics thrown a spanner in the works of the anti-poverty movement?

    Julia Gillard is an unknown quantity on most international issues. Her focus has been on domestic portfolios such as education and workplace relations. She was part of the leadership group who developed Labor's existing policy so it would be a surprise if she back-flipped on any current commitments. However, it remains to be seen whether she will be a champion for the cause of poverty. It remains to be seen whether she will be as receptive to the advances and aims of Micah challenge as Kevin Rudd has been.
    But are we back to square one? My answer is that I hope we never left it!

    One of the things that I tend to harp on about is lifelong advocacy. In the world of campaigning, the aim of most people is to see who can make the loudest noise. In that world, I believe Micah Challenge is distinctive because we are trying to see whether we can make the longest noise.

    As a Christian campaign, we are necessarily committed to discipleship, because that is what Jesus was committed to. Disciples are people that follow Jesus and commit to the things Jesus was committed to. Disciples do that regardless of the pressures we face in a broken and sinful world.

    For Micah Challenge, discipleship is square one. Disciples are people that understand the call to work for justice for the world's poor is a never changing part of their lives in this world. Never changing commitment in an ever changing world.

    Over the last five years since Micah Challenge started we have seen some success in getting policies regarding global poverty changed in this country. We now have bi-partisan commitment to 0.5% GNI going to development assistance by 2015. We have seen increased funding to health, education and sanitation.

    However, policies and politicians will come and go. The events of the past weeks only serve to highlight the importance of lifelong advocacy. Lifelong advocacy means always standing against injustice, and for justice. If you ask me what legacy I would like to see Micah Challenge leave, I would tell you I want our legacy to be a changed church in Australia. If we can help Christians in this country and around the world see advocacy for and with the poor as an integral part of their discipleship, then there is good reason to hope that we will continue to see the eradication of poverty.

    Lifelong advocacy today means that Christians in this country turn to influencing the policies of a new Gillard-led government to help create a more just world for the poor. It means that we speak loudly to ensure recent advances are not jeopardised. It means we encourage all parties to outline what poverty policy platform they will take into this year's federal election (where we could see more changes). It means we continue to pray.
    So a Gillard government simply means more of the same. We never left square one. We are simply reminded of the importance of staying there.


    John Beckett is the National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia. Before coming to Micah Challenge John worked for eight years with African Enterprise, focusing on partnership development and indigenous mission.

    John holds a Masters in Theology from Regent College in Canada and writes on the global responsibility of Christians and churches. A leader, Bible teacher and mentor, John lives in Sydney with his beautiful wife Allie and baby daughter Molly. He desires to see more and more Christians taking on justice, mercy and humility as a way of life and speaking, praying and acting for and with the global poor.