• Encouragement gained from Voices for Justice

    Posted by Joel

    27 June, 2014

    If you've never been and you're planning to go to Australia this time of year, make sure you take an umbrella and something warm to wear.  The place is not about beaches and heat waves all the year around.  Whatever Australians say about constitutional freedom from Britain, the weather in Canberra (the political HQ of the Australian people), seemed planned to make me feel like I was home again. 

    But that's just me getting my own back. 

    My three days with Voices For Justice, the annual training ground for political lobbying run by Micah Challenge Australia, was a massive adrenalin boost. 

    Micah staff with Andrew Leigh MPMicah staff with Andrew Leigh MPOver 200 individuals from almost every state in the country spent four days in the capital challenging their politicians on global tax dodging which amounts to the loss of over US$160 billion from the poorest people in the world every year. Those who attended came from a wide spectrum of ages, churches and cultures.  And the marvel of it, was that the vast majority of these lobbyists had no prior experience in advocacy before they came to Voices For Justice. 

    Tax justice has a reputation for being a 'complicated issue'.  But the fact that school children could approach their own local politician to present their case with confidence was really inspiring. 

    We were all asking the politicians to champion 3 important things when the G20 meets in Brisbane this November: 

    • To have automatic and transparent exchange of tax information between administrations.
    • 'Beneficial ownership disclosure' so that everyone can know exactly who is benefiting from profits.
    • Country-by-country reporting system for multinational businesses which would enable citizens to hold governments and companies to account - especially in poor nations where taxes are not being paid.   

    Listening to the feedback in the closing session yesterday was especially encouraging. It's not that everyone had a great response from the political leaders they spoke to.  But something very important had happened for the delegates.  Even allowing for the application of my 10% British cynicism about public servants humouring people, this was a great contribution to the democratic process - both on behalf of the people who took courage in hand, and the politicians who warmly endorsed the event as they have done every year.  I can honestly say that I personally know of no other event where so many political figures express a genuine appreciation for people coming to see them en mass as in Voices for Justice. Constituents shine the light on tax dodging and corruption Constituents shine the light on tax dodging and corruption

    It just leaves me with one more ask: why doesn't it happen in more places more often? 

    Joel Edwards is the international Director of Micah Challenge, and travels the globe inspiring the Church to get involved in advocacy with and for the poor as part of their core mission.