June 2016

Moving beyond “what’s in it for me?”

Two weeks out from a Federal election, may we all weigh up what is most important and precious to us as a people and as residents of this earth, says Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS

Promises, promises and more promises! This is the rhetoric of politicians as we Australians move to a Federal election in two weeks. What is the average Joe or Joanne to make of it all?

There are the short-term promises, which will provide a few extra dollars in the pockets of some families now. But these people are left with uncertainty about what kind of future awaits their children and grandchildren.

There are the long-term promises, which only hang together with an optimistic but fragile hope in our increasingly globalised and fractured world.

It seems that the mighty dollar is presented as the only criterion for measuring a policy benefit or cost, rather than the validity and effectiveness of a policy’s capacity to improve the well-being of the nation as a whole.

I agree with the sentiments of Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, who recently called on politicians to speak for a “genuinely human economy” founded on policy rather than simply presenting short-term tactics which are superficial and unsustainable.

What would a “genuinely human economy” look like?

First of all, people and their environment would take precedence over the profit motives of, for example, multi-national conglomerates and their environmental destruction through open-cut mining and deforestation.

There would be sufficient financial resources to be shared among the populace. There would be enough for all to live at an acceptable standard of living. The gap between the extreme wealthy and the poor would be minimised. Perhaps homelessness and destitution could be a thing of the past in this first-world country of ours with its significant wealth.

The economic paradigm of constant growth would be challenged by the recognition that this earth is a limited resource and cannot keep giving up to an insatiable human demand for more. I would extend the Archbishop’s reference to a “genuinely human economy” to include a genuinely ecologically sustainable economy.

In this human and ecological economy, there would need to be change in the national language from “taxpayer” to “citizen”. The common good might just override the self-focussed question of “What’s in it for me?”

Rather than a constant litany of promises, perhaps our politicians could present some old-fashioned principles and values that are capable of creating: a society that includes all, even the stranger; a society where violence and racism are diminished; a society that reduces its prison population and provides rehabilitation programs; a society that cherishes its earthly home and environmental treasures; a society that places the first people of this land at the centre of respect and well-being.

Promises without values are empty and hollow, and are sure to disappoint.

Two weeks out from a Federal election, may we all weigh up what is most important and precious to us as a people and as residents of this earth. Let us seek to make our vote count for a genuinely human and ecologically sustainable economy.

As the Australian Catholic Bishops have said: “any society is ultimately judged not on how well it manages the economy but on how well it treats the thrown-away people… But it is not just individual people who are thrown away. The same can happen to the environment, both social and natural”.

Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is a former Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She served as leader from September 2005 until September 2017. In 2013, Clare was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission in recognition of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ work with asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians and the victims of domestic violence. In 2022, Clare was awarded an Honorary Doctor of the University from Australian Catholic University.

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