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Has the gap between wealth and poverty in Australia widened since the Catholic Bishops issued a major statement on the subject ten years ago?

Eight well known commentators tackle the question in a publication from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC), to be launched on Friday 7 March.  (Anderledy Lodge, 80 William Street, North Sydney, 5.30 to 7.30pm).

The 56-page booklet, titled A Fair Australia?  Common Wealth for the Common Good: Ten Years On, revisits the Bishops’ conclusions and recommendations, in the light of social, political and economic developments since September 1992, when Cardinal Clancy launched the pastoral statement on national television.  The document was later debated at length in both Houses of Parliament.

The overall conclusion, summarised by NSW Community and Disability Services Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, is that social exclusion resulting from income and wealth inequality is still “a growing issue of concern”.

According to sociologist Father Bruce Duncan, poverty has become “entrenched” in sections of the community.  He examines critically the challenges to estimates made by the Smith Family and others of the number of people living in poverty.

Other contributors to the collection, introduced by Michael Costigan, with a Foreword by Bishop William Morris (ACSJC Chairman), include Thomas Keneally, Julian Disney, Lowitja O’Donoghue, John Phillips, Veronica Brady and John Warhurst.

The co-sponsors of A Fair Australia? are the Bishops’ Committee for Justice, Development, Ecology and Peace (BCJDEP) and the ACSJC.  The launch will feature an address by Robert Fitzgerald, whose theme is the “unfinished business” of Common Wealth for the Common Good.