social issues

The Catholic Women’s League of Australia is delighted with the Federal Government’s Plan to halt internet porn. The league is fully supportive of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s determination to introduce mandatory filtering at the level of Internet Service Provider “to shield children from violent and pornographic online material”. The plan to require all internet service providers to provide a “clean feed” to households and schools, free of pornography and other inappropriate material is laudatory, particularly since Prime Minister Rudd has promised computers to every school child.

“Labour is committed to introducing mandatory ISP filtering” and “everything possible must be done to shield children from violent and pornographic online material” said Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. The Minister said the Australian Communications and Media Authority would prepare a blacklist of unsuitable sites and “clean feed” would prevent users accessing prohibited content. Minister Conroy said the Australian Communications and Media Authority would prepare a blacklist of unsuitable sites and prevent users accessing prohibited content. Any internet user who wants to opt out of “clean feed” will have to contact their Internet Service Provider.

We applaud the Minister’s courage and commitment in light of his realization that it will be difficult to achieve ISP filtering of the many sites since they change their names. It’s going to require vigilant monitoring and even then it’s not going to be 100 percent foolproof, but the Minister assures us that that he is undeterred. He said “if the people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd labour government is going to disagree”.

For those who admire his initiative - write their congratulations to:

Stephen Conroy, Communiations Minister
Level 4, 4 Treasury Place, Melbourne, Victoria, 3002

Betty Roberts OAM
National Social Issues Convenor

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Australia’s $3 million partnership with The International Planned Parenthood Federation

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to the Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s), Mr. McMullan MP, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development and Assistance launched the AusAID funded $3million ‘SPRINT’ program on the 18th February 2008.  The program, in partnership with International Planned Parenthood is aimed at Sexual and Reproductive Health in Crisis and Post-crisis situations in South East Asia, and the Pacific. The initiative purports to reduce the incidence of preventable maternal and neonatal deaths in the Asia Pacific region, and aims to achieve Millenium Development Goals 4) reduce child mortality and 5) improve maternal health by 2015.

The governments justifies the ‘SPRINT” program by saying “In the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of crises faced by countries in the Asia pacific region, either through natural disasters, climate variation, political instability or civil unrest”. CWLA rejects the government’s plan to achieve targets 4 & 5 through a partnership with the world’s biggest provider of abortion.

Catholic Women’s League Australia Inc. wrote to MR. McMullan questioning the abandonment of the Aus-AID Guidelines and strongly objecting to the Australian Government’s $3 million partnership with The International Planned Parenthood Federation. Clearly the Australian government views pregnancy as a humanitarian crisis.

The vast majority of maternal deaths are directly attributable to four major causes: haemorrhage, infection, hypertension and obstructed labour. Pregnancy in itself is blamed for these deaths, rather than the lack of pre-natal care, trained midwives and centres equipped for obstetric complications along with transportation to get patients to them.
Experience shows that excessive attention directed to population related-programs leads to under funding and deterioration of more basic, practicable and affordable health needs such as safe water, sanitation, vaccinations, nutrition supplements and antibiotics. Antibiotics to treat even the simplest infections are lacking, while in the most remote corners of the world, health workers report a surplus of contraceptives.

The following realities get to be sidelined.

•           Tuberculoses kills more women than all the combined causes of maternal mortality
(WHO 1998) and
•     the world is now faced with a drug resistant strain of tuberculosis – a death sentence

  • 1.3 million women and girls die each year from Diarrhoea diseases (Who fact sheet No. 104, 1998)
  • 1 million girls die each year from Malaria. (WHO 1998)
  • There are 1 billion people without safe drinking water
  • There are 3 billion people without adequate sanitation
  • Five million children die each year from diseases directly related to unclean water and inadequate sanitation

CWLA believes the Aus-AID funded $3 million ‘SPRINT’ program is intended to bring contraception and abortion to our Asia-Pacific neighbours whether they want it or not. I am mindful of what a Ugandan delegate said at the Hague forum “the international community gives us what they think we ought to have, not what we need…

Postpartum care has been a relatively neglected aspect of maternal care. One of the most significant causes of maternal death [around 20%] is anaemia. Timely intervention during the postpartum period can prevent deaths of both mothers and newborn infants.

The single most common cause of maternal death is obstetric haemorrhage, generally occurring post-partum. Life saving care includes the administration of drugs to control the bleeding and, where needed, blood transfusions.

Puerperal infections, often the consequence of poor hygiene during delivery or untreated reproductive tract infections account for 15%. Yet such infections can be easily prevented through careful monitoring, by ensuring hygienic deliveries, and detection and management of reproductive tract infections.

These are some of the issues that the Australian taxpayer would have addressed rather than providing contraception and abortion. We want our neighbours provided with basic health services, particularly vaccination programs to protect entire populations against infectious diseases such as poliomyelitis measles, rubella, hepatitis, mumps, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

Anti malaria drugs, screening for tuberculosis, substance abuse programs and the training of midwives and other para-medical personnel would greatly improve the health and well being of our neighbours.

People in the Asia-Pacific region rightly view their children as their wealth. Their family brings them joy as well as providing their health and aged care plan. Is AusAID planning to provide them with an aged care program?

It would be unfortunate if the recipients of the proposed Aid perceived it as the Australian government viewing them as unfit to have children or their children as unfit to be born. We strongly question whether providing Abortion Services is ‘responsible management of human, financial and natural resources’.

Have the people of Australia or the recipients of this ‘Aid’ been consulted or is the plan to be imposed on both donors (taxpayers) and recipients?

National’s Senator Ron Boswell asked in ‘Estimates’ whether overseas countries had come to us asking for help in funding abortion services. The Department responded that they were not aware of any particular requests to fund abortion related activities.

Senator Boswell then asked “why is the Rudd government even considering funding abortions in its overseas aid programs when it has never done so in the past?”

Democrat Senator Lyn Allison confirmed her presence at a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, at 8.30 am on Wednesday 14th May 2008. Senator Allison was able to confirm “The government is now considering their recommendation to abolish the AusAID Guidelines so that abortion services can be carried out with AusAID funding”.

Senator Boswell said that no legislation would be required to implement this historic policy change which could take funds away from programs for maternal health and child welfare, food and clean water. The government has not consulted with non-government organizations such as Caritas as to how they would be affected by aid funds being transferred to abortion services.

Senator Boswell says “Any decision to use Australia’s overseas aid programs, to further the idealogical aims of a pro-abortion lobby group at home, will be fiercely opposed by many Australians including the churches and their sister aid organizations who are the ones delivering the international aid in most instances”.

If you wish to have your say about the abolition of AusAID guidelines so as to allow funding for abortion please advise Stephen Smith, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600 – remember it is under consideration NOW!

Betty Roberts OAM
National Social Issues Convenor