Wansbrough launch Brochure Resurrecting MAI

Speech for Launch of AFTINET’s World Trade Organisation negotiations: resurrecting the MAI? Jubilee Room Parliament House Sydney 24 April 2002

Rev. Dr. Ann Wansbrough UnitingCare NSW.ACT

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Uniting Church at this launch.

We have funded this pamphlet because we see the issues involved as fundamental issues of human rights. For us, they are also issues about our faith, and about the God in whom we believe – a God of justice, community and peace-making.

The right to health and the right to education are two of the human rights that are at stake.

There are some aspects of human life that should not be commodified, and should not be turned in consumer items. They are not mere matters of taste and style. They should not compete with other goods for consumer dollars in the market place.

There are many dimensions of globalisation that are good. But the creation of a single global market through which all investment, goods and services are traded by a uniform set of rules, independent of local and national needs and wishes, is most certainly not good.

This pamphlet shows that the rights of corporations are being enforced in international law in a way that human rights cannot be enforced. This is a form of idolatry – the worship of a false god.

The WTO agenda puts trade and profit-making ahead of human rights. The same can be said, of course, for the bilateral and regional agreements. There is one agenda for them all.

Health is a human right. But health does not depend simply on the consumption of health services.

It depends on clean water, adequate housing, income levels, the state of the environment, the availability of services such as communications and transport, and so on. All these are at risk.

Good treatment depends on the doctor putting the interests of the patient, not shareholders, first.

Health depends on governments ensuring that all citizens, no matter what their age, ability, or income level, have access to all the basic services that they need.

The internationally recognized human rights are based on the concept of human dignity. That is why the Christian churches support human rights.

We believe that human beings are made in the image of God. We are moral beings, creative beings, beings who are capable of love and care and community. Those aspects of our nature reflect the nature of God herself, and are God’s gift to us.

The move to limit the ability of governments to order their national economic life and public sector is a move away from respect for human dignity and community, and away from moral responsibility.

It is a move towards individualism and consumerism, a move that in the case of services like education and health care destroys the very nature of what is being offered.

In seeking to make a profit from providing such services, truth and care become distorted.

That is why the Uniting Church has funded this pamphlet. But you will notice that the Mercy Foundation is also mentioned, as providing campaign funding for AFTInet so that the pamphlet and other materials can be widely distributed.

This is not some esoteric concern of one church alone. Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, the Reformed churches and also the Orthodox churches over the last few years have all raised in various ways their concerns about globalisation of the economy based on laissez-fair economics.

The Lutherans, in a very sharply written analysis, talk of idolatry. In 1999, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Head of the Greek Orthodox Church challenged the values underlying globalisation at the Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Several of these churches see the provision of health care and education as part of God’s mission in the world. It is not to be left to profit-takers.

I cannot speak on behalf of these other churches, but simply suggest that the Uniting Church has very good reason for believing our concerns on this issue are those of mainstream Christianity.

Human life is not about making the biggest profits. It is about creating the most caring communities in which all share in the prosperity of humankind so all flourish. Trade in water, or education, or health care, or community services is not the way to do this.

In closing I want to thank Patricia Ranald for writing this pamphlet. Our prayer is that it may empower people of goodwill around Australia to take action to challenge the trade in services agenda.