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Anglican anger over Australian asylum policy: The Church of England Newspaper, July 28, 2013. p 6. August 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Immigration.
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Anglican leaders have denounced as “inhumane” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd new asylum policy. The Bishop of Tasmania, the Rt. Rev. John Harrower denounced the new policy as un-Christian, taking to Twitter to write: “Dear Prime minister, Jesus weeps.”

The prime minister’s plans to settle asylum-seekers arriving by boat in Australia in Papua New Guinea as was “politically driven, based on popular myth, and inhumane” the Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Rev. Jeffrey Driver said on 19 July 2013.

Under an agreement signed on Friday with the Papua New Guinea government, asylum-seekers arriving by boat will be sent PNG for processing and those judged to be refugees will be settled in PNG.

Mr Rudd said his government would “make no apology for the decision we’ve taken”. The Australian government sought to end the trade in immigrant trafficking he said, which saw smugglers load unsafe boats with desperate immigrants. “These folk are merchants in death and their business model needs to be dismantled, part of this policy response is to do just that,” he said.

However Dr. Driver, the chairman of the Anglican Church’s Refugee Network, said the new “policy claims to address the risks to people arriving by boat, yet it comes into play only after people have made the dangerous journey to Australia by boat.”

“This policy plays to the myth that somehow boat arrivals have ‘jumped the queue’, but in the disorderly and dangerous world of displaced people there is often simply no queue to jump. People do what they can to save their own lives and the lives of people they love,” the Archbishop said.

The Australian government should take “strong action against people smugglers”, Dr. Driver said, but added this plan penalizes the refugee, not the smuggler.

Mr Prime Minister, Jesus weeps. Whatever you do for the least of these… http://wp.me/p2E1Yz-78  via @wordpressdotcom

Australia’s asylum policy ‘un-Christian’: The Church of England Newspaper, September 2, 2012 p 6. September 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Immigration.
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Retired Australian Defence Chief Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston

Church leaders in Australia have voiced objections to new legislation to regulate entry of asylum seekers and control illegal immigration.

The Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr. Jeffrey Driver – the chairman of the Anglican Church of Australia’s Refugee and Migrant Network – said he welcomed some of the reforms, but was perturbed by the underlying philosophy of the government’s “Houston Report” on asylum seekers.

On 13 August 2012 a report commissioned by the government from an expert panel convened by Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston made 22 recommendations for reforming the government’s asylum policies including processing asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.  The report, which the panel described as “hard-headed but not hard-hearted” and “realistic, but not idealistic”, also recommended increasing the current number of asylum places from 13,000 to 20,000 immediately, and expanding it to 27,000 within five years.

Air Chief Marshall Houston said there were no quick and easy solutions to Australia’s boat people problem, but argued the panel’s recommendations were guided by fairness and  a sense of humanity. “Like all Australians we are deeply concerned about this tragic loss of life at sea … to do nothing is unacceptable,” he said.

The “Houston Report’s recommendation that boat people processed on Naura and PNG’s Manus Island should be forced to wait as long as those who claim asylum through more traditional channels before they are resettled is inhumane and will be prohibitively expensive,” Dr. Driver said.

“Using the fate of asylum seekers in this way to discourage people smugglers is like using the victims of crime to fight crime; it is punishing the victims in order to discourage the perpetrators,” he said.

The Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Philip Freier welcomed the quota increase, but worried there were no guarantees that asylum seekers will not be detained indefinitely on Nauru and Manus Island.

“It has been clearly established that long and indefinite detention severely affects the mental health of detainees. This is of particular concern in the case of children and unaccompanied minors,” he said on 16 August, adding that he urged “the Federal Government to place a limit on the time detainees, especially children, are held in detention.”

Prof. Andrew Dutney, President of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, said his church was “deeply disappointed at the recommendations of the Houston Panel on Asylum Seekers. And we are dismayed by the enthusiasm with which the Parliament has passed legislation which will see Australia close its doors to asylum seekers arriving by boat.”

The new policies a sign of a “grave moral failure” and of a “political process that has completely lost its moorings in the Christian heritage” and were “based on a theory of deterrence. The aim is, effectively, to punish new arrivals so that when others hear about it they will be deterred from attempting the same thing. The horrifying message we are sending is that, not only are strangers not welcome here, they are risking further harm at our hands,” he argued.

“A nation that is so determined to turn strangers away – to oppose the God whose mission begins with the stranger, the disadvantaged and the unwanted – cannot prosper in any way that matters,” Prof. Dutney said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Adelaide push for gambling controls: The Church of England Newspaper, March 16, 2012 p 6. March 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Gambling.
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The Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr. Jeffrey Driver, has called upon the Australian Federal government to institute a one dollar bet limit on computer poker machines.

“A $1 maximum bet, with losses limited to $120 an hour has the potential to reduce the great harm problem gamblers can do to themselves and those who are close to them,” Dr. Driver said on 8 March 2012.

In January church leaders denounced Prime Minister Julia Gillard after she backed away from a pledge to tighten regulations on “pokies”.

The chairman of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee, Bishop Philip Huggins said the prime minister “did not just break her promise” to her political allies, “she broke it with the coalition of groups who then lent their support to these reforms. She broke it too with those problem gamblers who bravely spoke in public about their plight, hoping their support of the reforms might give some meaning to their suffering and that of their families,” the bishop said.

Dr. Driver noted that “about a third” of regular pokie users had a problem with gambling addiction. “Nearly 100,000 Australians lose more than $20,000 a year through their poker machine habit. For every problem gambler there are many others affected; families, children, friends and co-workers. The human price is too high.”

“Polling has consistently shown that Australians support the introduction of measures to mitigate the harm of problem gambling. Apart from the government, Church agencies provide about 70 per cent of the caring services in Australia, so we are well placed to speak about the damage done to individuals and families across our country by poker machine addiction,” Dr. Driver said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.