Brennan castigates public for complicity in kickbacks

The public, not just the Government, turned a blind eye to the Australian wheat exporter AWB's kickbacks to the discredited regime of Saddam Hussein, according to Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan.

Currently a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University, Fr Brennan was delivering the Seventh Manning Clark Lecture, presented in Canberra last night by the National Library of Australia (see text link below).

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that he "condemned the emergence of a tough pragmatic ethic where the end justified the means and public morality turned on political and social consequences".

It was the same "collective moral torpor and national irresponsibility" that led to the public's "nonchalant acceptance" of the Government's assurances that strict sanctions were being observed as the nation prepared for war against Iraq. It had allowed the rights of asylum seekers, like those from Indonesia's Papua province, to be trampled by a Government "implementing a popular policy driven by fear".

In the lecture, titled "5 R's for the Enlargers: Race, Religion, Respect, Rights and the Republic", Fr Brennan said it is one thing to pursue ministers "asleep at the wheel of the ship of state".

"Let's also castigate ourselves and remind ourselves that it is only a materialistic, utilitarian people which is collectively able to work the public conscience into such a state of submission so that the nation is able to trade successfully with a despot while convincing itself that necessary and justified sanctions are honoured and all is in readiness for war."

Fr Brennan is professor of human rights and social justice at the Australian Catholic University's Institute of Legal Studies. During the 1990s Wik debate on native title, the then prime minister, Paul Keating, labelled him a "meddling priest".

Priest castigates the public for complicity in kickbacks (Sydney Morning Herald 3/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Fr Frank Brennan SJ: 5 R's for the Enlargers:
Race, Religion, Respect, Rights and the Republic (Text of Seventh Manning Clark Lecture, Manning Clark House 2/3/06)

ACU National

Priest says Govt can't be selective in listening to Church (CathNews 22/9/05)
Brennan lecture to expand on religion and politics comments (CathNews 20/9/05)
Jesuit says dishonest politics making Australia a terror target (CathNews 16/3/04)

Priest laments society's 'moral lethargy' (The Australian 3/3/06)

3 Mar 2006