The Australian Catholic bishops' Feast of St Joseph the Worker pastoral letter on social inclusion is as remarkable as the report of the Government's Commission of Audit released on the same day, writes Michael Mullins in Eureka Street.
It brings to Australian shores Pope Francis' radical economic thinking, centred on the dignity of the human person. This is in stark contrast to the Audit Commission's putting efficiency and capital ahead of human need.
The Commission says it's the 'sustainability of the nation's long-term finances' that should guide government spending. The Bishops, on the other hand, believe it should be 'animated by a concern for dignity of workers and their families.'
It's hard to imagine a more stark contrast in thinking about priorities for this month's Federal Budget.
The Commission does mention the need to 'protect the truly disadvantaged,' though there is no thought for those who are relatively disadvantaged. In practice it leaves intact superannuation concessions and other tax breaks for high income earners, while targeting payments for those who rely on welfare benefits.
The argument of the Commission is that spending cuts that produce a balanced Budget will make us all better off because we will have a stronger economy and more jobs. On the other hand, the bishops quote Francis' skeptical assessment of such 'trickle-down' economic theories in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
'This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.'
Those excluded include the young unemployed. The Commission envisages that they would be required to move away from family and friends to areas of high employment, or they will lose access to unemployment benefits.
FULL STORY What Pope Francis thinks about Abbott's Audit (Eureka Street)