The Catholic Weekly of Australia writes, “A call last week by the Reserve Bank of Australia for a national debate regarding Australia’s banks and bank profits has been welcomed by church welfare agencies.

The Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society national council, Dr John Falzon, said the call for a public debate on the size of the banks’ profits was a good idea.

“Now is the time to reignite the debate about the common good,” he said.

“If we want to create a more just and compassionate society we must start by analysing the causes of inequality. We have to look honestly at the way wealth in Australia is distributed and we need to ask whether those at the top of the income distribution contribute their fair share so that the community as a whole can benefit from the public provision of essential services,” Dr Falzon said.

“We need especially to look at the impact of excessive profits on the lives of the poor, including the growing cohort of working poor. As Pope Benedict commented in Spain last year: ‘The economy cannot be measured by the maximum profit but by the common good’.

“The St Vincent de Paul Society is a daily witness to the effects of inequality and exclusion in prosperous Australia. This is why we embrace the wisdom of Blessed John Paul II when he said: ‘The needs of the poor must take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of the workers over the maximisation of profits,’ Dr Falzon said. “Inequality is bad for society as a whole, not just for the people who are forced to bear the brunt of it.”

The Reserve Bank statement warned the banks they should “avoid taking unnecessary risks or cutting costs indiscriminately in a bid to sustain unrealistic profit expectations; this could sow the seeds of future problems”.

The call for a debate, by chance, followed a few days after the Australian Catholic Bishops issued their annual Social Justice statement, this year titled ‘The Gift of Families in Difficult Times’, devoted to the well-being of families.

In an address at the launch Dr Falzon said we lived in a time of market-idolatry and that government too often withdrew from some of their key responsibilities.

“This has resulted in essential service being left to the market to provide. Now the market is an excellent mechanism for producing an array of choices for consumers who have the means to participate within its parameters,” he said. “But it is not good at ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of essential goods and services.

“In line with Blessed John Paul’s particular observation about priorities, in Australia today the needs of people in the lowest 20% of income distribution must take priority over the desires of the people in the highest 20%.

“Our problem in Australia is not the ‘idleness of the poor’ as proposed by apologists for low social expenditure…our problem is inequality.” Dr Falzon said. “This is a social question, not one of individual behaviour.”.

The chair of the Australian Bishops Social Justice Council. Bishop Saunders quoted Pope Benedict that “the one-sided logic of sheer utility and maximum profit, as not being conducive to the good of the family or to building a just society.

Bishop Saunders said equity should be built into the market to ensure the demands of justice were met as the economic process took place, “…not afterwards or when the damage has already been done.”

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