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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3288

Ms McHUGH(10.46) —I rise tonight to speak in praise of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and in gratitude for the work that it has done. I speak not as a member of the Catholic Church but as a member of the Australian public and, of recent years, as a member of Parliament who is extremely grateful for the work that the Commission has produced. It is work which has raised the awareness of the Australian people of the needs of those Australians in poverty, homelessness and unemployment and generally in need of our compassion and care. Its discussion papers have consistently presented all points of view, especially on those most controversial issues such as nuclear disarmament and peace. It has raised for us the questions that have to be answered.

Let me list some of the papers that have been produced in recent years: In 1974 `Lucky Australia: Some reflections on the life of the Christian in the Australian affluent society', `Poverty, Power and the Church-A reflection on the social and political responsibilities of Christians', `Taxation: placing poor people first', `Which Road for Young People?', `House and Home-A Christian call for housing justice', `Beyond Unemployment: A statement on human labour' and, last year, the one that got it into all the trouble, `Work for a Just Peace', a contribution to the very necessary discussion during the International Year of Peace.

The Commission's work on poverty, housing, unemployment, Aborigines, taxation, women, the distribution of wealth in Australia and the myth that ours is an egalitarian society as far as income is concerned has been important to every Australian. The work of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has been for the rest of Australia a visible sign of the Catholic Church's commitment to social justice. It has generated respect in government circles. It has consistently produced its work and sent it to members of parliament. It has been respected by Ministers in discussions with them. Its work has been consistently valuable and of importance to all of us.

Let me read what a young woman in the Eastern Region Social Action Group said, in describing the sort of awareness that working with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace produced. This woman said:

Our work on the issue of unemployment-I felt it changed a lot of thinking . . . It was a very educational experience to understand what was really happening. And we had people coming from different groups . . . people who were unemployed.

We visited Mr Ellicott from the Eastern Suburbs . . . about ten of us went . . . we had a couple of youthful students, we had an old lady about seventy-eight, and everyone in between. It was rather peculiar group to face him-

that was Mr Ellicott some years ago-

and he had no idea . . . we had no affiliations with anything . . . and he was just very non-plussed, I think, because we didn't come under a particular label. And I found that very stimulating, being able to bring the concern of a very mixed group to someone like him.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has for many years brought the concerns of the people in need in Australia to the Australian public generally, and I am particularly grateful for its bringing that to the attention of members of Parliament. I speak again, and I will speak consistently, in praise of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. I thank it for all the work that it has produced over the years.