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"The cause is the heart’s beat and the children born and the risen bread"

Frank Brennan SJ AO

The John Roffey Lecture
Warrawong Earth Sanctuary
Stock Road, Mylor

1 June 2004

Though I never knew John Roffey, I am honoured to accept the invitation to deliver the second John Roffey Lecture under the auspices of Spirituality in the Pub.  Coming from Sin City (Sydney), I am intrigued that those of you from the free colony of South Australia have transferred "Spirituality in the Pub" from a pub to a sanctuary.  I can assure you that "Spirituality in the Sanctuary" would not have quite the same ring or appeal back in Sydney.  I trust the new venue does not rule out the opportunity to share a good South Australian red together later in the evening.

Being a Jesuit, I was delighted to read in Alan Cadwallader's inaugural Roffey lecture that "John’s concern for the poor and how to theologise their experience to bring transformative practice was charged in a gathering of thirty people from a variety of walks of life. The group was led by Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit member of the Chicago Seven, those who had stormed a Minute Man missile installation to smash a phial of blood on the nose-cone: a simple pacifist — and illegal — statement that bombs kill."  John had spent some time studying in the United States and had come into contact with Berrigan during a formative period of his life, making the transition from the Churches of Christ to Anglicanism.

I well recall the only public lecture that Dan Berrigan delivered in Australia.  He spoke to a huge crowd in the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne.  His theme as ever was pacifism and peace.  I was there to give the vote of thanks.  At one stage, a member of the audience with deep despair said to him, "It all seems so hopeless.  What do you do to just keep going, to retain your hope?"  Berrigan in his check shirt, chewing on a toothpick, stepped up to the microphone and replied, "I feel like that sometimes.  And what  do I do? I just put on my walking shoes and go out and break the law."  I thought it a tribute to the sense of irony of the organisers of the lecture that they asked me the only practising Jesuit lawyer in the country to propose the vote of thanks to the most civilly disobedient Jesuit in the western world. 

Dan Berrigan SJ theologised the experience of the poor and powerless very  well when he confronted the conflict between his own pacifist ideals and the actions of his Jesuit brothers in Central America who had joined the struggle, some even endorsing armed struggle.  He wrote a poem To The Jesuits Of Central America: The Gratitude Of A Brother:

Some stood up once, then sat down.
Some walked a mile, and walked away.

Some stood up twice, then sat down.
I’ve had it, they said.

Some walked two miles, then walked away.
It’s too much, they said.

Some stood and stood and stood.
The were taken for dunces
They were taken for fools
They were taken for being taken in.

Some walked and walked and walked.
They walked the earth
They walked the waters
They walked on the air.

Why do you stand?
they were asked, and
Why do you walk?

Because of the children, they said, and
Because of the heart, and
Because of the bread

Because
the cause
is the heart’s beat
and the children born
and the risen bread.

Thus my tribute to John Roffey: "The cause is the heart’s beat and the children born and the risen bread".  Tonight I want to focus on the dealings between church and state as emotions have run high in the wake of September 11, the Bali bombings and the Iraq War.  One of John's church co-workers told me that John would always have said, "You can't muzzle the truth.  You can't muzzle the church.  The Church does not always speak the truth.  But when it does, let it rip!"  When he died aged only 54, he was "up to his neck" at Anglicare here in Adelaide organising assistance for the refugees being detained behind the razor wire at Woomera.  He was deeply concerned for the children.  He was passionate about the heart's beat in an often heartless society.  He found sustenance in the risen bread. 

In his last major public address entitled "Sacred Life, Sacred Society: The Death of the Market Place", Roffey said, "In response to the refugee crisis within our globe, or our fear of terrorism, or the bombing in Afghanistan, more people are speaking of our common humanity as a ground for our consideration."  He described his vision for the church:

That in our mission and work we demonstrate a commitment to our belief that society and life are sacred.  We are to make real our belief that no individual is a commodity and that no social practice or structure ought treat people as disposable entities.

Boat people detained for years in places like Woomera and Baxter have been used as a commodity to send a message, as disposable entities to curry electoral favour and to deter the prospective clients of people smugglers.  The life of an asylum seeker, whether an adult or a child, is not treated as sacred when the person is detained behind razor wire without any attempt by government truthfully to offer a coherent rationale for the detention.  Though no one can object to detention of an asylum seeker arriving without documents while an assessment is made whether the person is a health or security risk, one is entitled to object in the strongest terms to ongoing detention which has no rationale.  It is fatuous for government to tell church leaders that detention of persons, including children is justified to ensure that the 10% who are ultimately rejected as refugees are not able to father children to Australian citizens thereby making it more difficult to remove them. Ongoing detention does not assist with the determination of claims.  It does not materially assist with the removal of the 60,000 unauthorised overstayers each year.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's report A Last Resort? has now been tabled in the Parliament.  The Commission found “Australia's immigration detention laws, as administered by the Commonwealth, and applied to unauthorised arrival children, create a detention system that is fundamentally inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)” and “Children in immigration detention for long periods of time are at high risk of serious mental harm.”

HREOC concluded: “The mandatory, indefinite and effectively unreviewable immigration detention of children who arrive in Australia without a visa has resulted in multiple and continuing breaches of children's fundamental human rights.”  HREOC has made five major recommendations:

  • Children in immigration detention centres and residential housing projects as at the date of the tabling of this report should be released with their parents, as soon as possible, but no later than four weeks after tabling.

  • Australia's immigration detention laws should be amended, as a matter of urgency, to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  • An independent guardian should be appointed for unaccompanied children and they should receive appropriate support.

  • Minimum standards of treatment for children in immigration detention should be codified in legislation.

  • There should be a review of the impact on children of legislation that creates 'excised offshore places' and the 'Pacific Solution'.

The conflict between HREOC and the Immigration Department (DIMIA) is summarised in these observations in the report:

The Inquiry's view (supported by UN and Australian experts) is that because deprivation of liberty is such an extreme measure to impose on a child, the need to detain must be justified in the case of each and every child. The Department, on the other hand, is of the view that detention need only be justified in a general sense.

DIMIA provided six objections to the report’s recommendations:

  • Introducing routine and systematic review of the need to detain in the individual circumstances of each case would clog courts and slow down visa processing.

  • Statistics suggest that all children must be detained to ensure availability for processing and removal.

  • Mandatory detention helps deter children and families from coming by boat to Australia.

  • It is too expensive to support children in the community during visa processing.

  • It is too difficult to codify human rights protections for children in detention in legislation.

  • There is nowhere to put unauthorised arrivals.

HREOC rejected all six objections as being unfounded.  The government followed up with Ministers Ruddock and Vanstone labelling the HREOC report as disappointing, unbalanced, and backward looking.  They continue to claim that there are only three policy objectives to the mandatory detention of all unvisaed arrivals including children: (1) monitoring the integrity of our migration program (whatever that means); (2) Ensuring people are available for health, character, security and identity checks (achievable in days or weeks rather than months or years);  and (3) ensuring that failed asylum seekers are available for removal (after the 92% of refugee children have been finally released into the community).  So there is still no coherent rationale for detention.   It is to the everlasting shame of us, the present generation of Australians, that we permitted government to institute such an unnecessary, unjustified and inhumane regime for the treatment of these children, 92% of whom were found to be refugees.  Let’s join with Commissioner Sev Ozdowski in the plea: “Let no child who arrives in Australia ever suffer under this system again”.

I am delighted that church leaders have continued to agitate against the ongoing detention of asylum seekers.  It is to the credit of many community groups that all members of Parliament, except the Coalition parties who are never allowed to express publicly a view contrary to the Prime Minister on such issues, now declare that mandatory, universal detention post-health and security assessments is unnecessary and unwarranted.  Eventually the truth will out, no matter what discipline is imposed on our political parties. 

There is still plenty of work for us to do in ensuring truth and respectful dialogue in determining the circumstances in which Australia will go to war in future without the authorisation of the United Nations.  Church leaders have received some pretty rough handling from government since September 11.

Government's treatment of Church Leaders

Given that we are celebrating the memory of an Anglican clergyman this evening, let me take an example from the government's treatment of the primate of the Anglican Church, Peter Carnley.  Anglicans John  Howard and Alexandeer Downer continue to be upset about the remarks made by the Anglican Primate after the Bali bombing in October 2002.  Preparing for the next election, John Howard is not prepared to let go the Carnley interviews of that time.  The Adelaide Advertiser of  16 February 2004 carried this report of the Prime Minister:

"I think church leaders should speak out on moral issues but there is a problem with that justification being actively translated into sounding very partisan," he said, in an interview with The Advertiser. "I don't deny the right of any church leader to talk about anything."

"But I think, from the point of view of the unity of the church, it stresses and strains when the only time they hear from their leaders is when they are talking about issues that are bound to divide their congregations."

Mr Howard singled out an attack by Anglican Primate of Australia Peter Carnley after the Bali bomb blast, which included suggestions the bombers believed Australia was too close to the US.

Echoing a speech by Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer in August, Mr Howard said a church leader's first responsibility should have been to deplore the attack.

"I know something of the composition of church congregations," he said.

"There are a range of political views and you can offend. Particularly (when) some of the church leaders have been particularly critical of our side of politics, they end up offending a large number of their patrons."

Some church leaders also mounted a campaign just before the Iraq war last year, trying to convince Mr Howard to find a way to end the crisis peacefully.

Mr Howard, an Anglican, said the churches' "primary responsibility is spiritual leadership", which he respected and supported.

"They can say what they like but, equally, they have to understand that if they say things that are unreasonable, a lot of people are going to have a go back," he said.

Last August, you will recall that Alexander Downer had commenced his Playford Lecture in this way:

Let me begin with a personal anecdote. Listening to the ABC’s AM on Saturday morning 19th October I was dumbfounded to hear the announcer Hamish Robertson say “well, the head of the nation’s Anglican Church says the Bali Bomb attack was an inevitable consequence of Australia’s close alliance with the United States…Dr. Peter Carnley says terrorists were responding to Australia’s outspoken support for the United States and particularly its preparedness to take unilateral action against Iraq.”

Here was the head of my own church, reported by the ABC as rushing to judgment and blaming the Australian Government for bombing incidents in which so many of our people were killed or terribly injured.

Whether this report was fair or not, it struck me hard. There was no concentration on comforting the victims and their families, no binding up of the broken-hearted while a shocked nation mourned. Yet surely that first and foremost is what was needed and what we were entitled to expect.

It was a stark reminder of the tendency of some church leaders to ignore their primary pastoral obligations in favour of hogging the limelight on complex political issues –and in this case a national tragedy –in ways which would have been inconceivable in the Playford era. This is something that has troubled me for some time.

There is always need for caution when you have a senior politician with a team of researchers and speech writers ten months later deciding not to quote directly what his victim said.  Downer was taking exception to Carnley's address to the WA Synod on 18 October 2002 in which Carnley actually said:

Most of us now believe that such a well planned and strategic placing of a bomb speaks clearly enough for itself. Retaliation against America's allies has been verbally threatened for some months.

The targeting of a nightclub, which is known to have been popular with young Australians on holiday, suggests that this terrorist attack was aimed both at Australia, as one of the allies of the United States of America and, at the same time, at what is seen by militant Muslims to be the decadence of western culture.

Does anyone now seriously doubt what Carnley was saying?  Australians were being targeted both because we are identified with the decadent west by militant Muslims  and also because of our close relationship to the United States.  There may also have been other factors, including our intervention in East Timor. 

There was controversy at the time with Carnley's address.  He then sought to set the record straight with his published letter of 29 October 2002:

A number of your correspondents have alleged that I laid the blame for the nightclub bombing in Bali on the Australian Government. This is incorrect.

Those who take the trouble to read the text of my Synod address on the evening of Friday 18 October, and the transcript of the press conference that followed it, will find that at the press conference Tanya Nolan explicitly asked: 'So are you therefore criticising the Howard government's vocal support of American-led action.'

The record shows that my reply was: "No I'm not wanting to criticise the Howard government's support. I think we did think earlier on that we were unwisely supporting unilateral action by the United States in Iraq. I think we've moderated that position. If anything I think the Howard government is to be commended for backing away from that and for supporting UN inspections."

It is public knowledge that I wrote to John Howard as long ago as 8 August expressing the concern of Anglican Bishops at Australia's support of the US 'first strike' policy. That is a matter of fact. It might now be alleged in the spirit of "I told you so" that the bomb attack in Bali had been brought upon the Australian people. In response to that suggestion I once again said: "No; I wouldn't say the Howard government brought the bomb attack on Australian people. I think it was our lot in fact to suffer because of our close association with America anyway. I think any government with an alliance with America would have been in the firing line.'

Clearly, far from laying blame I resisted being led in such a simplistic direction. The fact is that the Church is not into the culture of blame. Its business is to help people process the trauma of an utterly despicable event that we will wrestle to understand and agonise about for many years to come. Some of your correspondents are apparently content to contend that the bombing was a reprisal for Australian support of independence for East Timor, or even that the large number of Australians killed or injured can be explained simply as a kind of geographical accident: the proximity of Australia to Bali means that naturally there would be a good number of Australians there.

For many of us, however, such an explanation of a well planned and deliberate targeting of a nightclub when it was common knowledge that large numbers of Australians would be present, seems both too narrowly focused and at the same time too shallow. The shadow side of human motivation to hatred is surely much more complex.

We will be whistling in the dark if we do not take note of the actual reasons expressed by the terrorist network itself. Within recent weeks there have been explicit reported threats against America and its allies. For this reason alone, it is entirely understandable that a Newspoll conducted last week for a Sydney newspaper found that 69% of respondents believed our support for the US was a factor in the Bali attack.

Islamic fundamentalist invective against western culture- whose global intrusiveness is resented and hated- has been long sustained. The addressing of hatred is a religious and not just a political matter. You cannot bomb away hatred. That is why Christian leaders have a responsibility to enter into dialogue with moderate and peaceable Islam and work actively to overcome the deep seated alienation that so clearly exists at present between East and West.

It is not by denial, but in owning up to some of the harsh and difficult realities of our situation, and in grappling with them together, that we will be able to move forward. By this means we will give ourselves the understandings to marginalise- and eventually neutralise and eliminate- the destructive forces of suspicion and hatred that feed world terrorism.

Though this lengthy correction of public misperception by Carnley counts for nothing with Howard and Downer, should they not at least acknowledge that Carnley was trying to deal with a highly nuanced issue in a responsible way? How can anyone honestly read this letter and then ten months later make Downer's outburst about clerics " hogging the limelight on complex political issues –and in this case a national tragedy".

It is quite dishonest of Downer ten months later to claim, "There was no concentration on comforting the victims and their families, no binding up of the broken-hearted while a shocked nation mourned."  As Downer well knows, on 14 October 2002, before the Synod address and immediately after the bombing, Primate Carnley issued a statement full of comfort for the victims and  binding up of the broken-hearted.  Consider the text for yourself:

The head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth, today expressed his horror at the murderous attacks in Bali yesterday.

"I am shocked at the ferocity of the attacks and deeply concerned for the victims and their loved ones," Dr Carnley said. "The loss of life and injury caused is tragic. This has shattered any illusions we may have had about the threat to Australians posed by terrorists. Terrorism can rear its ugly head even in the most idyllic surroundings."

"This tragic event also reminds us that evil people are operating close to home."

Dr Carnley said he had some sympathy for the suggestion that Australia might need to give priority to using its military and intelligence resources to pursue the architects of terrorism within Australia and in cooperation with its near neighbours.

Archbishop Carnley said that for the Balinese, who depend so heavily on tourism, this was a double blow. They had suffered heavy casualties as Australia had, and many would lose their livelihoods.

Dr Carnley said that all Anglican parishes would offer prayers for the victims, their friends and families, regardless of their nationality or faith. He said he had called on members of the Anglican community to offer whatever support they could at a local level.

"My prayers are with the families and friends of those who are victims of this atrocity."

Two months before Downer's Playford Oration, the government was arguing for an expansion of ASIO's powers in the Senate.  Government Senator Santoro told the Senate: [1]

We know from horrific experience that not only do Australians face the same level of threat as any other people but also, as was the case in Bali in October last year, they are very specific targets.

What Santoro said is quite consistent with Carnley's position.  So what's the problem?  Are we not permitted to speculate on why Australians are very specific targets.  Or is that no role for reflective church leaders?  Carnley's sentiments were on all fours with the more recent comments of Federal Police Commissioner Keelty.  The ferociousness, vindictiveness and dishonesty  of the ministerial responses leaves one with the perception that government has something to hide.

Though there was spirited debate and cabinet resignations in the UK because of Mr Blair's ready membership of the Coalition of the Willing,  Canberra compliance with prime ministerial directives was complete.  It was very troubling to hear the mixed messages from Prime Minister John Howard and Mr Tony Abbott about the increased risks of terrorism to Australian citizens.  Abbott, the Leader of the Government in the House, told Parliament, "There is the increased risk of terrorist attack here in Australia". [2]    Next day, the Prime Minister told us, "We haven’t received any intelligence in recent times suggesting that there should be an increase in the level of security or threat alert." [3]   Regardless of who was right, their contradictory statements provided incontrovertible evidence that there was minimal debate, discussion and discernment within our Cabinet and political party processes prior to making a commitment to war in such novel political circumstances.  The thinking was done in Washington.  We signed on, presuming that our national interest and the international common good would be served by Alliance compliance.  In these circumstances, there is a place for church leaders to speak out.  If they are misunderstood and then correct the public record, that should be acknowledged by our very sensitive political leaders.

The Prime Minister's Spin on Church Statements About War

In the lead up to the war, the church leadership in the US, UK and Australia was remarkably united in its criticism of the public rationale offered for war. However, there was a variety of views about the margin for error to be afforded to government. When asked about the clear opposition from church leaders such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Howard told the National Press Club:

There is a variety of views being expressed. I think in sheer number of published views, there would have been more critical than supportive. I thought the articles that came from Archbishop Pell and Archbishop Jensen were both very thoughtful and balanced. I also read a very thoughtful piece from Bishop Tom Frame, who is the Anglican Bishop of the Australian Defence Forces. The greater volume of published views would have been critical, but I think there have been some very thoughtful other views and the ones I have mentioned, I certainly include in them.

Once the war commenced, Archbishop Jensen said, "For my own part I remain unpersuaded that we ought to have committed our military forces, but I recognise the limitations of my judgment and the sincerity of those who differ."

In the month before the war, Bishop Frame had said: "I am now inclined to believe a campaign against Iraq during the next few months involving Australian Defence Force personnel would be just." Three months after the war, Bishop Frame said: "If it is established that the weapons did not exist and the Coalition did or should have known this, the war will not have been justified and must be deemed immoral. A case for war against Iraq based solely on ‘regime change’ would have been inadequate and I would have been obliged to share this conclusion with those for whom I have a pastoral responsibility. " On Palm Sunday 2004 Bishop Frame announced his "considered conclusion that the war against Iraq was neither just nor necessary". Let me give you a selection of quotes from his Palm Sunday address to the ecumenical peace rally held in Perth:

My conclusion is simply that the war cannot be reconciled with just war principles nor, in my judgement, are there grounds for claiming it was strategically necessary.

One year on, it would appear that no-one now seriously entertains the prospect that WMDs will ever be found in Iraq.

I do not agree with those who say it is still too early to make ethical judgements about the war itself. Perhaps it is too early for political and strategic assessments but there is sufficient data to allow ethical determinations to be made.

As I look back on the events of the last twelve months I continue to seek God’s forgiveness for my complicity in creating a world in which this sort of action was ever considered by anyone to be necessary. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

It is helpful to quote Bishop Frame at some length for three reasons. He was the clearest public advocate for war in the Australian church hierarchies before the war. He is a senior military chaplain who was himself an officer in the services before his ordination. And most significantly as he now tells us:

In the weeks leading up to the commencement of hostilities on 20 March 2003 I had direct dealings with the Prime Minister and senior ADF officers concerning public anxieties over the prospect of Australian involvement in a US-led campaign against Iraq. I wrote two articles for The Australian newspaper concerning the matter because I was asked by many ADF members to assess ethically the case for war as it was presented by the Government.

In April this year, Bishop Frame spoke up again, telling the Canberra Times that he no longer believed the war was justified. The newspaper summed up Frame's analysis in these terms: "But one year on, except that the war itself had been brief and civilian casualties had not been unreasonably high, the case for a just war had failed on all other just war criteria." Bishop Frame said:

I took the view the case the Government was putting was really only a fraction of what was actually known and that the Government was not in a position to disclose all it knew.

The many people I consulted believed once the campaign was waged we would see the full extent of what Iraq possessed.

It was put to me including by some members of the Government that Iraq was a reprehensible regime. We are not proposing to take similar action against equally reprehensible regimes around the world.

I have never and do not now believe the Government deliberately misled or lied to the Australian people. The Government just assumed the weapons would be there.

In future the public is going to be far more unconvinced about threats to Australia's security than before. That may be no bad thing.

Speaking on ABC Radio National on 14 April 2004, Bishop Frame said in light of the absence of weapons of mass destruction and the absence of means or motive for Iraq to have been a threat to its neighbours, "It would be impossible for me to say now that the war in Iraq was just….I could not and cannot take that view now and that's something that sits very uneasily with me but it's the way my conscience has driven me when I've considered what's at stake here."

Despite the Prime Minister's fudging of the issue, Cardinal Pell has never given any public indication that the war was justified. Pell did not make any clarifying statement once the war commenced. He left stand his earlier caveat, "The public evidence is as yet insufficient to justify going to war, especially without the backing of the UN Security Council," as well as the statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference to which he was a signatory: "With the Holy See and many bishops and religious leaders throughout the world, we believe that the strict conditions of Christian teaching for the use of military force against Iraq have not been met. In particular, we question the moral legitimacy of a pre-emptive strike. Indeed, any action against Iraq without broad international support and the mandate of the United Nations Security Council would be questionable." The Prime Minister's statements and the Cardinal's later silence left many Catholics confused. Presumably the Prime Minister drew solace from the cardinal's pre-war observation, "Decisions about war belong to Caesar, not the church." Though Caesar makes the decision, the church must discern and comment on the morality of that decision. Church leaders must publicly help their people make the moral assessment. It is not good enough to suspend the moral faculty and simply trust the government of the day. If we do that with war, then why not with any other moral issue?

Last month, Cardinal Pell for the first time since the Prime Minister's misrepresentation of his position in March 2003 clarified his position on the Iraq war.   He told a press conference in Ballarat:

I never publicly endorsed the second war in Iraq. I wrote publicly about it and I said at that stage the case was not established.  They said they were going to Iraq basically on two grounds: that there were weapons of mass destruction there; and that Saddam was actively supporting Al Qaeda.  Neither of those two grounds has been established. ... I didn't endorse the war.

Presumably the Cardinal has had the opportunity to express these views to the Prime Minister privately many times since March 2003.  I would even presume that there would have been some opportunity for discussion between the Cardinal and the Prime Minister back in March 2003 when the Prime Minister, at least by implication, was invoking Cardinal Pell as one of three church leaders giving him greater room to move in joining the Coalition of the willing with arguably just cause.  Though the Prime Minister purported to distinguish those views of church leaders that were "thoughtful and balanced" from those that were critical, we can now appreciate how misleading it was for the Prime Minister to group the Pell and Jensen comments together with the Frame comments.  At no time did Pell and Jensen give the war the tick.  Frame did but has since retracted, obviously having good reason to revise what he was told by the Prime Minister and senior advisers before the war.

Conclusion

John Roffey once wrote that  “poverty is an inevitable price for refusing to worship the state”.  As Archbishop Carnley can attest, so too is abuse.  As Archbishops Jensen and Pell can attest, so too is misrepresentation.  And as Bishop Frame can attest, so too is manipulation.  We are still in turbulent waters assessing what is a moral response to the new world situation in which the Americans have put us all on notice that there is one rule for the US and one rule for the rest of the world. Imagine, for example, if India and Pakistan were free to engage in pre-emptive strikes.  In September 2002, the United States National Security Council published The National Security Strategy of the United States of America:

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

After the Iraq debacle, it is essential that we return to a more critical application of just war theory.  If the western democracies on the UN Security Council are not unanimous about the international threat to peace and security posed by a rogue state, it is unlikely that such a state poses an imminent threat warranting armed intervention.  Given the mistakes made before and after the Iraq intervention, I leave you with one simple question:  Why is it so unthinkable that we Australians should become a little more like the New Zealanders and Canadians, rather than surrendering our moral faculties and subscribing to armed intervention whenever requested by the Americans?  Kofi Annan is right to seek clearer guidelines for the future, setting down criteria for humanitarian intervention.  Let's hope we Australians can constructively contribute to such a discussion rather than our recently acquired taste for bagging the United Nations.

It is a pity that we now live in a democracy where government is never allowed to admit that they were wrong and where officials are encouraged to make sure that ministers do not know the truth about complex issues which could cause political embarrassment.   In such difficult times we need greater trust and a greater commitment to truth, justice and peace.  When making decisions which impact on the Afghan Muslim asylum seeker or the Baghdad resident, we need to be sure about our motives.  Crass utilitarianism that permits suffering for the few in the name of greater happiness for the many, and primitive national interest that permits war on the "other" in return for benefit to the state are insufficient moral tools for navigating the turbulent new waters of pre-emption, humanitarian intervention, adequate border protection and ordered migration.  Our task was set down by John Roffey when he said, "Without an applied commitment to our common humanity, we lose what is sacred, at the expense of liberation and justice."  Let's never forget that "the cause is the heart’s beat and the children born and the risen bread".



[1] Hansard 11685, Senate, 17 June 2003
[2] Hansard, 18 March 2003, 12551
[3] Interview With Steve Price, Radio 2UE, 19 March 2003

 

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