In Federal Parliament yesterday, Labor MP Graham Perrett moved a motion calling on the Federal Government to restore funding for overseas aid.Read more
Our budget is a moral document. It is how we as a people decide to spend our collective money.Read more
In fact the organisers had earlier had to cancel a talk by a Sydney-based Muslim speaker titled Honour Killings Are Morally Justified.
So as I walked into the Sydney Opera House on Saturday I decided to approach the festival with an open yet skeptical mind.
What I was really interested in was a talk by Kajsa Ekman on the topic of surrogacy. Ekman is a Swedish journalist and activist. She’s the author of the book Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, surrogacy and the split self.
Given the recent controversy surrounding surrogacy, including the heart-wrenching story of baby Gammy, I wanted to hear what Ekman had to say.
Here are three things I learned about surrogacy from Ekman’s talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
Surrogacy is baby trading
This position is difficult to refute. The surrogate mother doesn’t get paid for being pregnant. Rather, she is paid for handing over a baby. Money changes hands and the item being purchased is a new born baby. This is the ultimate in the commodification of humanity and is blatant buying and selling of children—a modern form of human trafficking.
Surrogacy exploits women in poverty
Supporters of surrogacy argue that women who are trapped in poverty can change their circumstance through selling the rights to their womb. Singles or couples are prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a child.
In defending the right to commercial surrogacy we are defending the interests of the world’s richest people to purchase a family.
Some people argue that because some women are poor, they should sell their womb in order to survive. Poverty becomes an excuse for exploitation. Is that the kind of world we want? This is commercialising life itself – everything is for sale, while those facilitating the transaction get rich. Surrogacy demeans the unique mother-child bond as women can now solely be used as breeding machines.
Surrogacy violates the rights of children
Surrogacy is too often a bad bargain for both the women and children involved in the process.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child affirms that a child must not, "save in the most exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother", and yet surrogacy does exactly that. It is deliberate and premeditated.
Australian ethicist Professor Margaret Somerville condemns any deliberate destruction of the child's biological identity. She says:
"It is one matter for children not to know their genetic identity as a result of unintended circumstances. It is quite another matter to deliberately destroy children's links to their biological parents, and especially for society to be complicit in this destruction."
Helping an infertile couple to have a baby of their own is seen by many as a generous and compassionate gesture from a woman who can help. In this way, everyone can have their own children without having to be pregnant, and poor women can earn some extra money. It looks like a win-win situation. But at a closer look, the surrogacy industry is an exploitation of women's bodies and a sophisticated form of baby trade.
The vast amount of money developing countries lose as a result of these practices could be better spent providing essential services such as healthcare, education and water to millions of people facing poverty around the world.
Micah Challenge is encouraging people to get on board with this campaign by uploading a 'shine the light selfie' to its campaign website and sending it to their politician to raise awareness of the issue and promote change.
To find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved, visit the official website at shinethelight.com.au.
Micah Challenge has launched a campaign urging the government to reverse its planned $656 million cut to foreign aid. We encourage you to join with them in calling on MPs and the Prime Minister not to cut aid.
*Please note: the below information is from the Micah Challenge team*
Whether you've been campaigning with us for a long time, or have only just recently come on onboard, we know you share our deep disappointment with the Government's intention to remove $4.5 billion from Australia’s overseas aid budget over the next four years – including cutting $656 million from this year’s budget.
This $656 million cut, if it proceeds, represents:
- 11% of the 2013-14 aid budget,
- the largest ever cut to Australia’s overseas aid budget,
- and the first cut in aid since Prime Minister John Howard signed on to the Millennium Declaration and committed Australia to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty.”
At just 1.4% of the Federal Budget, aid represents a small investment by the Australian Government, but one that provides huge returns in human welfare and improvements in stability, security and opportunity in our region and beyond.
Among many other things, Australian aid in 2011 helped:
- almost 500,000 children in Bangladesh receive vaccinations and over 125,000 women receive skilled medical care during pregnancy and childbirth, reducing the maternal mortality rate twice as fast as the national average in four targeted districts,
- an additional 2.3 million people in Vietnam gain access to clean water,
- more than 20,000 households in Cambodia produce at least one extra rice crop,
- the people of Timor-Leste receive better services by increasing government direct tax collection revenues by 38%,
- 29,681 extra children in Papua New Guinea enrol in basic education,
- 370,000 malnourished children in Somalia receive urgent medical treatment.
The question is, who will pay the price if this cut goes ahead?
Please take urgent action before Parliament resumes, calling on your MP to tell the Prime Minister, “Don’t Cut Aid!”
1. Email your MP, urging them to call on the Government to reverse the planned $656 million cut.
2. Share the stories of effective aid and the communities who will potentially be affected by this cut. We have infographics on our website showing the impact of Australia's aid program in six different countries which you can share on social media, email, or print out.
3. Invite others to join our campaign to hold the Government to account for ensuring Australia makes a full contribution to help end extreme poverty around the world.
Click here to visit the campaign page on the website and take action.
For release: Thursday 5th September 2013
The Coalition’s decision today to cut $4.7 billion from overseas aid is deeply disappointing, according to Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton.
“I think Australians are generally proud of the fact that we have been increasing our aid to the world’s poor in recent years,” Mr Shelton said.
“Under the Coalition’s plan, we’ll now build better roads for ourselves with money that could have helped keep kids alive in countries where sealed roads are a luxury,” Mr Shelton said.
“We all want to see Australia prosper but compared to many countries in our region we are rich and our aid budget is very modest compared to what we spend on ourselves,” Mr Shelton said.
Australia currently spends 0.37 per cent of Gross National Income on aid with Labor promising to get to 0.5pc by 2017-18 – still well short of the original Millennium Development Goal promise Australia made to reach 0.75pc by 2015.
Labor recently diverted some of the aid budget to fund asylum seeker costs, something the Coalition condemned at the time.
Christian churches and particularly young people through Micah Challenge have been at the forefront of campaigning to keep our national promise to the world’s poor.
“It is disappointing to see bi-partisanship on this now gone,” Mr Shelton said.
“Many Christians will feel let down by both major parties in the lead-up to this election.”
To see where the parties stand on aid and other policy issues go to http://australiavotes.org.au/.
The ACL places a strong emphasis on changing the state of poverty and justice in Australia through public policy; as Christians, we are called to be "generous to the poor" (Proverbs 19:17) and to "give to the needy" (Luke 12:33).
This week, the Pastor of a church in Sydney's Kings Cross urged the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to focus more on the needs of the unemployed and homeless during this election campaign. In an interview with ABC News' Sally Sara, he says the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless and asylum seekers, are being dehumanised by the level of fear in the current political debate, and that more and more, we are becoming a country with no heart.
Also this week, welfare group St Vincent de Paul Society demanded an anti-poverty strategy for Australia in the election campaign. Its CEO Dr John Falzon said that nearly 13 per cent of the population was living in poverty, including more than half a million children. The group has called on both sides of politics to commit to meeting the Homelessness White Paper target of halving all homelessness by 2020.
According to Homelessness Australia, there are over 105,000 homeless people in the country. That means that on any given night, 1 in 200 people have no home to go to. The rate of homelessness is also on the rise; the 2011 Census showed that in five years, the rate of homelessness increased by eight per cent. This is caused by a number of reasons, including a chronic shortage of affordable and available rental housing, domestic and family violence, and financial crisis.
ACL's Katherine Spackman recently interviewed Mission Australia's CEO Toby Hall about the need for political parties to address the issue of homelessness in Australia. Mr Hall said that both sides of politics have been weak on the issues; Kevin Rudd has loosely made comments about halving the poverty rate in Australia by 2020 but this has not been backed by any policy or money, and there has been very little focus on it by the Coalition. Mission Australia is asking both sides to partner together to provide the necessary resources and affordable housing to combat poverty and homelessness on our streets.
In the lead up to the federal election, the ACL sent a questionnaire to political parties designed to educate voters of party positions on issues of particular importance to Christians. Follow this link to find out their answers to the homelessness question.