Fair distribution of wealth will enrich Australian society
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Fair distribution of wealth will enrich Australian society

The common good must motivate our nation at every possible level.

PETER Costello, in his ''Sermon without substance'' opinion piece yesterday, does not fully address the key points of my Good Friday article.

By all means let us have vigorous and forthright debate, but let it be on the substantive and critical issues facing our nation.

Anyone who attended St Paul's Cathedral on Good Friday or Easter Day and heard me preach knows that my sermons were wholly about the orthodox doctrines of Christianity: Christ's death and resurrection and their implications for humanity. No mention of a bank or a mining company! That did not stop the excitement of secondary reporting. I called for a renewed commitment to a vision of the common good - by business leaders, politicians (of all stripes), the unions and indeed all Australians, transcending party politics.

I agree with Mr Costello that a strong and profitable banking and mining sector has brought many benefits, but in this sector and elsewhere there are issues of inequality to confront.

I invited Australia's business and political leaders to reflect on how wealth can be shared equitably ''for the betterment of the whole community, and to improve the lives and opportunities of all Australians''.

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For the past five years I have conducted conversations in Federation Square with the broad theme of ''What kind of a society do we want Australia to be?''

I urge the corporate sector - including the banking and mining sectors - the union movement and the general citizenry to make a commitment to a new social contract in which there is a sense of responsibility for one another, and founded on Judaeo-Christian principles that have been responsible for the creation of the fair and decent society, including participation in the social, health, educational and economic benefits that a fair distribution of wealth makes possible. This is surely better than a few amassing wealth at the expense of many.

I call on our political leaders to tell us, in clear and simple terms, what they believe constitutes a good and decent society, and what Australia needs to do to achieve it.

I believe the 2010 election campaign failed to excite the public imagination because no one appeared to offer a clear overarching narrative about the sort of Australia they believed in, hoped for or dreamt about.

My words were: ''Let our overarching narrative be that we are a nation of people who believe in a fair go for all, an equal access through education and employment to the wealth we need to support our lives and families. That the innate goodness in all of us leads us to care about our fellow citizens and be prepared to share and benefit in the prosperity of our country.''

It is hard not to feel that while there are some in our community who are going ahead, many are falling behind. Australia has pressing social problems which require all Australians working together for the common good.

These problems include the lack of affordable housing, particularly for the young; insufficient investment in infrastructure and public transport on the growing fringes of our cities; lack of adequate support for the disabled, many of whom depend on overworked and underpaid carers; lack of equality of opportunity for indigenous Australians; educational disadvantage of many in poorer suburbs; and the growing incidence of depression and mental illness among the young.

Australia could do better, too, in the area of helping more people to become employed.

Mr Costello criticised my singling out ''for special mention'' the Occupy Movement. But the Occupy Movement has in part been a response to the gap between the rising wealth of a few and the awareness that many others are being left behind.

The Easter message of God in Christ, risen from the dead and alive in our world has been proclaimed by all church leaders throughout this Easter weekend. John's Gospel (Chapter 10 verse 10) reminds us that ''I have come so that all might have life, and have it abundantly''.

A full and good life for all includes a fair sharing of wealth, and commitment to the wellbeing and happiness of all.

I said in my Easter message: ''Easter is an invitation from the living, risen Christ to open our hearts to the light of his love, so as to dispel the darkness of whatever is holding us back from living by this light, and living as we are truly meant to be.''

I hope that Christians will live in the world in the light of Christ, striving to contribute to a good society, speaking up for those without a voice and supporting all who are in need.

Dr Philip Freier is the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne.

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