Shape business for God and good

Yesterday was a great day at City Hall in the heart of Brisbane.    IMG_3028                  IMG_3031

An unusual bunch gathered – business people with a wide range of experience; academics, pastors, lawyers, policy analysts and G20 watchers.

We had a couple of things in common: a desire to encourage the best standards in business at every level following God’s values, so that the whole community can flourish; and we wanted to use the G20 presence in Brisbane as an opportunity to explore some of the global injustices that hold back enterprise and development.

When we started the EXPOSED campaign we wanted to engage business people who see their work as mission to take the lead in integrity and provide positive models for the community. We did not want to bash business (or the G20). We just want business to be as effective, honest and successful as possible.

Mats Tunehag from the Business As Mission think tank summed up the important economic role of business in one statistic, “SMEs (small and medium sized business) provide as much as 90% of a nation’s tax base.”

So the vexed question of multinationals aggressively avoiding tax through base erosion (shifting profits around the world to the places where tax is lowest eg 1% in Luxembourg) was immediately relevant to all the business guys at the meeting – they want to do the right thing and feel that complex rules hem them in; but rules are needed to control rampant greed and unethical behaviour.

Professor Graeme Cooper, taxation specialist from Sydney University told us that tax is beautiful because it’s complex and it’s too important to leave to the politicians alone. Yesterday we affirmed that and decided to take personal and communal action because tax affects us all and is vital to development.

The highlights of the day for me?

1. Graham Power telling his story of making the radical decision to step away from corrupt business practice, when God convicted him.

2. the total agreement from everyone that business is not just profit – it must pursue financial, intellectual, cultural, social and spiritual good.

3. the statement that we produced together setting out what we want to see and how. It’s being finalised today but paragraph 2 says,

“As Christian business people committed to integrity, the highest quality service and proper use of all resources, we applaud the plans of G20 to institute effective global rules on tax and business transparency.”

Thanks to the ‘unusual bunch’ for a great day.

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G20 events underway – it’s good to be in the public square

November 9th

tax haven 2                       IMG_3012

Micah Challenge actions at the G20 have got off to a great start.

Reddacliffe Sq at the end of Queen St Mall became a mock tax haven, the world’s biggest mock tax haven in fact!

Because it was actually the first G20 ‘protest’ and because the team in Australia had done such a brilliant job, all the national TV stations were there plus AAP, radio stations and the Guardian online.We were on ALL evening news bulletins (national for 9,10, SBS and ABC), plus heaps of online news. I was on Channel 9 news for about 4 seconds!

The ‘tax heaven’ was very visual bright and humorous – but what the media were interested in was “protest” – would there be trouble?

If you believe the police and officials, the city is in for a torrid time – the big fences began going up yesterday – but our ‘protest’ set the tone for an event that was strong on facts, passion and positive asks, not just negativity.

I wanted to write to say Thank you for your prayers and support so far.

Please keep praying and talking – it has an effect

Cheers,

Amanda

PS. There will be 9 different services in Brisbane today featuring God’s economic justice. Praise God

Tax scandals show why we should speak out

November 6th

TI billboard

A few days ago, Brisbane Airport banned a billboard that it deemed ‘too political’ because it referred to tax evasion’s dirty money. (The photo shows the offensive advert being held by Maggie Murphy from Transparency International)

Why is that controversial when billboards promoting rampant consumerism or sexual innuendo are deemed acceptable?

And why is it ‘too political’ to talk about tax corruption when it is politicians who have the responsibility to govern fairly for all? It’s a bit like saying the police should not talk about robberies.

photo

And a huge story of tax evasion that broke today involving many major companies around the globe parking profits in Luxembourg where corporate tax rates are around 1% shows how important it is for people to know the secret economic deals that occur quite legally (and some that don’t).

The Financial Review used the example of IKEA in Australia, citing that in the past 12 years it had a turnover of A$4.76 billion but managed a profit of only $103m, because it shifts profits offshore to Luxembourg.

It is not just the companies that have been spotlighted. It is the accountants and auditors which promote such behaviour that should be held accountable.

And that is why we’re here in Brisbane. To shout about unjust scales that mean the richest actually contribute the least.

Find out what events are happening this coming week ahead of the G20. If you live within 100 kms of Brisbane – come!

PS. it took a team of 80 investigative journalists in 26 countries 6 months to piece together the web of transfer pricing and profit shifting by 1000 corporations – that is the positive power of media to unearth uncomfortable truth.

Put THAT on a billboard.

 

Shirtfronting havoc at G20

abbot and putin

Two weeks away from the G20 meeting in Brisbane, typical press stories have started to appear. They set out a narrative that’s all about conflict: Vladimir Putin is seen as the bad boy of the meeting whom the Australian Prime Minister is keen to put in his place; and already police have already started to talk about security problems.

PM Abbott is angry about the loss of Australian lives in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and in a colourful Aussie turn of phrase said he will “shirtfront” the Russian President.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Brisbane police, Katerina Carroll has warned, “There are some groups we know who will come to (the G20) to create disorder and to basically wreak havoc.”

The tendency to report on high level political meetings as personal testosterone fuelled dramas – Tony Abbott vs Vlad Putin and the police vs activists – fulfills the demands of newsworthiness. The Courier Mail in Brisbane has gleefully claimed, “police are bracing for an ­invasion of interstate and overseas thugs.”

But this style of talk and news reporting masks the real work of this G20 gathering involving thousands of negotiators from official delegations, journalists, security staff and civil society groups.

It’s designed to make people nervous but does not help us understand what is really going on.

The G20 will be talking mainly about financial issues, not usually a topic to excite great passion, but actually of vital importance to all of us. Jobs depend on businesses making the right decisions and the wealth of nations depends on generating taxes.

So hundreds of local Christians are going to be holding worship events and public actions to amplify the voice of churches around the world to talk about God’s economic agenda. As Dave Andrews, a respected Brisbane church leader says,

“Our churches want to find a strong-but-gentle way of confronting the worst aspects of predatory capitalism, with dignity, integrity and grace.”

We will not shirtfront or act like thugs, and we will hopefully represent God with dignity and grace over the next two weeks.

Isaiah 51:4,5 says “Pay attention my people. Listen to me nations. Revelation flows from me. My decisions light up the world.”

I pray God’s light shines in the meeting rooms of the G20 and in the media reporting.

80,000 voices from 172 nations going to Brisbane

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Waiting at Heathrow for plane to Australia. It’s a trip I’ve done many many times but none with this much scary significance.

Christians in Australia will represent over 81, 450 people from 172 nations who have signed the Global Call – people from Vietnam, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, Andorra, The Bahamas and China. From Slovenia, Malta, Nigeria, Romania and Suriname. It’s been wonderful to see the global response. People everywhere want to stop corruption.

We all know it’s not right and in the last year, we have also taken action rather than just shrugging our shoulders in despair or blaming other people for the problem.

As well as the 80,000 signatures – most of them signed in hard copy at church meetings – we have hundreds of selfies, and we have the support of the leaders of all main Christian networks – Evangelical, Pentecostal and Ecumenical – via the Open Letter.

All of these actions will be prayed over, and presented to political leaders in the coming weeks. There’ll be a  youth worship night on Friday 7th with Hillsong and Tim Costello; a contemplative worship time followed by a big public event on Saturday the 9th in Queen St Mall where we’re hoping 500 people will call for action on tax evasion; and a business roundtable with leading business people like Graham Power from South Africa, academics, Graeme Cooper and Ranjit Voola; and Greg Thompson from Transparency International on Tuesday.

Can we make a difference? Certainly.

God’s integrity, power and goodness are bigger than the kingdoms of earthly rulers – yet we also know the might of lies and greed.

So please pray for a turnaround in the attitude of corporations, governments and individuals to economic affairs. You can pray each day for 10 days from Saturday 7th to Sunday 16th.

Put it in your diary now. And could you organise your church to pray on Sunday 9th and Sunday 16th? Effective decision making could put billions more into development projects.

And in the meantime, pray for people on all sides of the tax debate to be reasoned, to listen carefully, to speak without rancour and to act with humilty.

Going to Brisbane

October 20th

I’m off to Australia this weekend to prepare for EXPOSED, #shinethelight events in Brisbane.

Lots of things on the to-do list:
1. Arrange meeting with the Treasurer to present Global Call signatures, shinethelight selfies and the Open Letter.
Together, these actions represent half a billion people!
Which is amazing.

2. Get lots of people in Brisbane involved – youth, activists, worship groups, politicians, media, Brisbane Council. And to do all that you need an uber-organiser so very grateful that Lauren, a law student in Brisbane is willing to give her time and energy to this project. Without the Laurens, Daves and Mikes, we could not represent and amplify the millions of Christians who have prayed, taken part in vigils, signed a petition and emailed a politician.

3. Blog, tweet, facebook, and contribute to our media effort. Communicating the message is important of course. How can people get excited and involved if they don’t see and hear the message.

So…..I’d love you to come with me (via this blog) as we see the impact of the EXPOSED campaign.