Archive Article: Drop The Debt. 4 July 03.
December 23, 2008

One of the world’s biggest scandals is the way that children are starving so that their governments can repay old debts to bankers. Australian churches are part of an international campaign to help those children.

Jubilee Australia is calling on all Australians to push for the total cancellation of unjust debt owed by developing countries.

For example, almost three decades ago, the corrupt Marcos Government in the Philippines ordered a nuclear reactor from an American company. The eventual reactor was built on an earthquake fault and it will never produce electricity. Coincidentally, I was on the election platform with Mrs Aquino in January 1986 when she promised that, if she beat President Marcos, she would not go ahead that reactor. She won the election and kept her promise. But her Government – and her successors – are still paying the debt on that useless reactor. Or perhaps more accurately, the ordinary people in the Philippines are repaying the debt.

The debt crisis has occurred because developing countries borrowed money for various projects and then the interest rates increased suddenly. The actual sums of money themselves that were borrowed have been repaid. We are now talking about the debt on the interest – and the interest on the interest payments.

For every dollar given in aid by Western governments, they receive back from poor countries three dollars as debt repayment.

Australia is part of this greedy process. For example, it sent Ethiopia $1.5 million in emergency famine relief in 2001. But in that same year, Australia took back over $2 million in debt repayments.

By the way, with all the discussion over Australia’s involvement in an international military and police effort in the Solomon Islands, it is worth noting that Australia is still chasing $10 million from the Solomon Islands in old debts. Given that the crisis in the Solomon Islands is due partly to economic turmoil, perhaps Australia ought to write off the debt and work for economic stability – rather than just sending in police and military forces.

The international Jubilee Campaign to drop the debt was supported by Christians around the world. About half a million Australians signed the international petition. Wesley Mission was one of the churches that collected signatures. The petitions were then tabled at a conference of the main eight Western government leaders in the year 2000.

While some progress has been made on writing off the debt, it is necessary for ordinary people to keep the pressure on governments and bankers.

Therefore, Jubilee Australia is producing a lot of useful resource material to assist churches and others on how to keep the pressure on the Australian Government. While this is an international issue that requires international action, it is also an Australian issue. For example, going back to the Solomon Islands, the total amount of debt owed to Australia is about what Australians spend in a single day on cigarettes. It would not therefore cost Australia very much to cancel the debt.

Broadcast Friday 4th July 2003 on Radio 2GB’s “Brian Wilshire Programme” at 9pm.