• Voices For Justice Day 2 - We are a Peculiar People

    Posted by Micah Challenge

    16 September, 2012

    Voices for Justice 2012 began last night and 300 Christians, converging into Canberra to campaign for the world’s poorest, joined me. From electorates all around Australia, we represent different denominations and backgrounds, spanning across numerous generations. From teachers, retirees, advertising consultants to development workers, students and journalists, we are indeed a peculiar people.

    We are peculiar because, despite our diversity, we are united through Christ’s love and His love for the poor. For politicians, we are even more peculiar because we are not lobbying for our own self-interest but for the interests of the marginalised.

    Day in and day out, politicians meet with their constituents and professional lobbyists, who are armed with their own agendas and issues. But over the next two days at Parliament House, our local politicians will be meeting with us, a motley crew of passionate Christians, half of whom are first-timers, determined to halve poverty by 2015.

    Lobby groups discuss the policy material in preparation for politician meetingsLobby groups discuss the policy material in preparation for politician meetings

    Today we learnt about the three issues that we will be speaking about to our politicians. Following the Australian government’s decision to delay giving 0.5% of our gross national income to foreign aid to 2016, we want both sides of politics to have a timetabled commitment of 0.7% by 2020. 

    We also want to see more effective aid, particularly investing a quarter of our aid budget into health. Following our water and sanitation campaign last year, there has been great progress on access to fresh drinking water but we want to see an increased focus on sanitation, which is still being neglected.

    Our third ask is to tackle tax evasion and corruption, which is a new campaign called “Shine the Light” launched by the Micah Challenge. Having very little knowledge about this issue, I was shocked at how corruption was acting as a brake on development. Shrouded in secrecy, big corporations are evading tax in a process called transfer mispricing. Many companies operate in developing countries, such as mining firms. Rather than paying tax in the source country, which would contribute to that country’s aid and infrastructure, the companies are moving their assets through tax havens to avoid paying tax.

    It’s a complex problem, but one that continues to go under the radar and really hinders our aid efforts and poor countries’ efforts to lift themselves out of poverty. So we’re asking our politicians to increase transparency by introducing country-by-country reporting for multi-national corporations registered in Australia.

    The action begins tomorrow when we meet our local MPs on Capital Hill to advocate on behalf of the global poor. We’ve been busy learning about the issues in workshops and preparing in our lobby groups. It will be my second time speaking to politicians and I’m feeling very excited. As amateur lobbyists, our lack of self-interest makes us unusual and perhaps, even strange and yet it is this peculiarity that will stand out and deliver change in the corridors of power.

    Phil Chan is a committed Micah Challenge Campaigner and participant at this year's Voices For Justice and regularly attends St Barnabas Broadway in Sydney.