After reading a plea by World Vision CEO Rev Tim Costello urging Australians to give more overseas aid, Robbie Swan from the Eros Association felt the need to highlight some hypocrisy.

“At the time of the Indonesian tsunami, Australia’s adult s-x industry association (Eros) raised tens of thousands of dollars from retailers in adult products, adult entertainment agencies, adult internet site operators and s-x workers who genuinely felt a desire to help out the victims,” Swan told Crikey. “It was a donation that was not to be made public …”

But the offer was refused as “‘tainted’ money and not acceptable to a Christian charity like World Vision,” says Swan. “Eventually, Doctors Without Borders gratefully accepted the money with no religious baggage attached.”

World Vision should issue a statement that says whose money is “clean” and whose is “unclean”, says Swan.

Tim Costello told Crikey this morning that World Vision does supply a set of guidelines. The 20 page document “Ethical Guidelines For World Vision Engagement with Corporate Bodies (TNCs)” states that sectors of specific concern to World Vision are:

a) Tobacco companies.

b) Companies whose main business is the manufacture or sale of weapons or other implements of repression 

c) Companies or trusts which are directly involved with gambling

d) Companies that make and are directly associated with p-rnographic products such as magazines, books and films. (This does not preclude relationships with cinemas or book shops which may stock these items.)

e) Companies which charge excessively high interest payments (ie at rates significantly above the market average).

f) Companies which are known to cause serious environmental damage and degradation through the course of their work.

g) Companies which use unethical marketing techniques to sell their products, for example, Nestle (infant formula).

h) Companies which do not respect basic workers’ rights as expressed in the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ie which tolerate the existence of exploitative pay, inadequate working conditions, excessive working hours, etc.).

i) Companies which profit from the use of child or bonded labour.

j) Companies which practice s-xual or racial discrimination or abuse indigenous land rights.

“…A lot of our work overseas, particularly places like Thailand and Cambodia, involves getting women out of brothels and to take that money may compromise our advocacy work…,” Costello told Crikey. “…we always recommend they give it to another NGO…”

World Vision was criticised for knocking back money from gambling sales to its tsunami relief fund back in 2005. After rejecting a $500,000 donation from Clubs NSW that Care Australia then accepted, World Vision then reversed its decision.

“Money is money and when people are suffering surely it is the height of arrogance for someone to refuse to pass on a donation?” says Swan.

Costello doesn’t buy that argument. “All money isn’t neutral. Money props up structures and systems that enslave and trap … The idea that money is just money is a rather naïve argument…”

Peter Fray

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