Musings of an antipodean contrarian

Archive for the category “health”

Who funds the tobacco industry?

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 13 Jan 2013.

Despite tobacco advertising bans, restrictions on the display and sale of tobacco products, graphic health warnings designed to convey the ugly truth about the negative effects of smoking, and most recently the introduction of plain packaging, many consumers continue smoking.

But it’s not only retail sales that warrant scrutiny.  Superannuation funds, investment funds, and state governments have billions of dollars invested in the tobacco industry. In November, the NSW Government said it planned to dump more than $200 million in tobacco investments and place a ban on future investment. And First State Super claimed in July 2012 to have disposed of all its tobacco investments. But the Victorian Government says it has no plans to divest its $100 million stake in the industry, and the federal government’s Future Fund has more than $200 million invested in tobacco.

It is simply wrong for governments to support smoking reform while allowing their investments to be used to get poor people overseas addicted to tobacco.

I’m Rod Benson for the NSW Council of Churches.

Seven billion reasons to share the love

Who’d have thought that the divine command in Genesis 1:28 for our first parents to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth” would lead, in 2011, to seven billion people all alive at the same time on Planet Earth?  But that’s what happened on Monday October 31, when baby Nargis, born in a small village in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, became the symbolic 7 billionth baby.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was right to focus attention not on the individual but on the whole human family.  He warned of rising public anger at the lavish lifestyles of a few, but poverty for too many others.

A majority of the world’s population today experience deprivation and limited opportunity in a world that has never before known such abundance and material prosperity.  A majority of people today are poorly educated, face poor health, poor employment prospects, housing stress, and a declining quality of life.  And a majority of people are separated from their Creator by religion and ideology.

A massive challenge for the privileged few to do more, care more, and love more.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 6 November 2011.

Preventing HIV/AIDS infections

It’s 30 years since the AIDS epidemic first came to public attention, and people began falling ill, and dying, as a result of what was – and is – a disease largely spread through promiscuous sexual intercourse.

Today AIDS is treatable, but still incurable, and the challenge facing health professionals and governments is: how many people do we want to save from death by AIDS? And who’s going to pay for it?

About 33 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In 2009, the last year for which we have complete statistics, 2.6 million people became infected, and 1.8 million died from AIDS. It’s estimated that by 2031, global AIDS costs could top $35 billion US dollars, completely unsustainable.

Despite anti-retroviral therapies, and increased circumcision, and campaigns to reduce promiscuity, the AIDS epidemic is still way out of control. By mid-century, there could be 70 million people living with HIV in Africa alone. Clearly there are tough challenges and hard decisions ahead. The key lies in preventing infections, and the best way to achieve that is sexual fidelity within marriage.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 10 July 2011.

The NT Intervention turns four

This week marked the fourth anniversary of the former Coalition Government’s Northern Territory Intervention, which suspended the Racial Discrimination Act, banned alcohol and pornography in selected Northern Territory communities, compulsorily acquired land, and compulsorily managed the incomes of Indigenous people in 73 communities.

These unprecedented actions were the Howard Government’s response to the Report of the Wild-Anderson Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse. Cycles of violence and abuse were evident in many Aboriginal communities, often fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse, petrol sniffing, and access to pornography.

The problem, of course, is a national one, and not confined to Indigenous communities. Like alcohol and drug abuse, child sexual abuse occurs in many Australian towns and suburbs — it’s simply more easily covered up, and hushed up, in more urban and affluent areas. The government’s intent was good, but lack of consultation and a heavy-handed approach has lessened the positive impact of the Intervention, which has been carried on by the Labor Government.

Legislative and punitive measures alone won’t deliver lasting moral reform. That requires an intervention of the heart — something Christians have been commending to all Australians since 1788.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 26 June 2011.

More child and maternal health aid

On Wednesday (23 June 2011) I attended a Micah Challenge breakfast at Federal Parliament where Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd commended Australian churches for their strong focus on justice, and assured us that Australia remains on track to meet its foreign aid target of 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015.

Another speaker, Esther Indriani from World Vision International, briefed church leaders and departmental staff on maternal and child health issues in the Asia-Pacific region. She noted that in Indonesia, 163,000 children under five yesra old die every year; and in India, the number is 1.7 million. This is due to poor nutrition, low education, highest workloads and lowest incomes for women, and difficulty in accessing family planning.

The key to addressing child and maternal mortality is a stronger aid commitment to health. Yet despite significant growth in Australia’s aid budget, the proportion spent on health is declining.

In a world where 22,000 children die every day from preventable causes, and approximately 1,000 women die every day from complications during pregnancy, much more could be done — if only our politicians had the will to ensure that aid dollars went to where they were most needed.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 26 June 2011.

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