On such a hot potato subject as this, a few preliminary disclaimers. First, it would not be wise for me to presume to tell other people how they should vote at the upcoming Federal election. That I will not do. Second, let me admit my biases up front. I used to be a radically secular leftist. Now I am a Christian who is more or less conservative. Thus what is presented here is not fully objective or unbiased. But I think no one is free of bias when speaking on such topics.
However I can lay out some general information to help us all think about what we as believers might do on polling day. Two things are clear: this election will have an impact not just on Australia, but I believe, on the rest of the world. And given the gravity of this situation, we must all think very carefully, and pray very hard, about how we will cast our vote.
With that in mind, let me offer just a few random thoughts on the two major parties. I will not really have anything to say here about the minor parties, the independents, preferential voting, and so on. These considerations are all of value, but this reflection will primarily deal with the Liberal/National Parties, and the Labor Party.
And the first thing to mention here is that this election is not really about either John Howard or Kevin Rudd. Yes, the leaders of the parties are important, and they need to be considered as part of the overall equation, but it is really the party – with its policies, its platforms, its philosophy and its factional manoeuvring – that matters most here.
That is, unlike the American political system, the party leaders have somewhat less overall influence and impact. For example, Kevin Rudd can make many claims at the moment, but if elected, he will have to please his own party, and keep in step with Labor policy. Factionalism will rear its head, and numerous power plays and manoeuvrings for position will take place, and Rudd will have a tricky balancing act to perform.
Radical elements within Labor are now being muted, but once in power, they will be making their demands for how Labor proceeds. And while Peter Garrett may say it was all just a joke, his very telling admission that once in office, Labor will reject its pre-election moderation and push a more radical agenda needs to be taken very seriously indeed. The idea that “Once we get in we’ll just change it all,” means that what we are hearing now may be so much posturing from Rudd and the Labor Party.
Of course the conservative side of politics is not immune from all this, but they seem to have less radical agendas waiting to be foisted upon a hapless population. And while there are obviously factions and infighting within the Liberal and National parties, they seem less pronounced, and the parties seem to be less dominated by special interest groups.
For Rudd to claim that the Liberals are dominated by lawyers is a bit misleading, since both parties are filled with politicians who came out of a legal background. But the claims of Howard that a Labor government would be top heavy with former union officials seems to be accurate, even if we quibble with the 70 per cent figure.
Another indication of an unhelpful influence which would dog any Labor government is the large percentage of those who are strongly pro-abortion. Consider just one indication of this, Emily’s List. As their website explains, “EMILY’s List Australia is a national organisation aimed at getting more progressive Labor women elected to Parliament.” And the word progressive is codeword for the feminist agenda, including a decidedly pro-abortion stance.
The site makes this startling admission: “At February 1996 there were 4 women ALP members of the House of Representatives. Today, there are 152 Labor women in parliaments of which 113 are EMILY’s List members.” And in this federal election 65 per cent of female Labor candidates are in EMILY’s list and actively pro-abortion. Those concerned about the unborn need to keep this in mind as they vote on November 24.
Another matter of concern is the ever-increasing bureaucracies and public service sector. Conservative governments are not free of such harmful trends, but they tend to get even worse under Labor governments. In many ways Rudd is a living example of the bureaucratic mindset. It seems every time some issue arises, the only thing we can count on from Mr Rudd is, “We will hold an inquiry into this” or “we will set up a commission to investigate this” or some such thing. Mushrooming government tends to create more problems than it solves.
Indeed, much of the Labor bureaucracy is a radical, socialist bureaucracy. Consider the words of Labor’s second in command, Julia Gillard: “For the Left to make any real advance all these perspectives on the relationship to Labor in government need to be rejected in favour of a concept of strategic support for Labor governments. We need to recognise the only possibility for major social change is under a long period of Labor administration. Within that administration the Left needs to be willing to participate to shape political outcomes, recognising the need to except (sic) often unpalatable compromises in the short term to bolster the prospect of future advance. The task of pushing back the current political constraints by changing public opinion would need to be tackled by the Left through government, social movements and trade unions.”
Although she now downplays her socialist past, her views, and those of many other Labor leaders, are clearly of the radical left, complete with social engineering agendas. They are a set of views that tend to be anti-business, anti-family and often, anti-faith. Indeed, speaking of faith, it is worth looking at the two leaders in more detail.
Howard, Rudd and the Christian Faith
Both leaders declare themselves to be Christians. Neither one is of the evangelical, bible-thumping variety. Both are now Anglicans (Howard was formerly Methodist, and Rudd was formerly Catholic). However, neither one seems to have a clear grasp of the biblical gospel when pressed. Both men were questioned about their faith at a recent ACL public forum. Mr Howard could only talk about a few parables of Jesus which had impacted on his life. The truth is, a New Ager or even a secularist could do the same. And Rudd could only go on about vague concepts of social justice.
But a real contrast seems to lie in the way the leaders make use of their faith. Mr Howard rarely brings up his Christian convictions and beliefs in public discourse, but he does not deny them either. He is content to simply govern, with his Christian convictions moulding how he looks at policy and public issues.
Mr Rudd, by contrast, has made much of his faith in public. While not meaning to doubt his Christian convictions, there is clearly a political agenda behind some of this. This becomes clear when we consider recent political history. When John Howard won the last Federal election, Kevin Rudd soon thereafter held a meeting of interested Labor colleagues, telling them that unless Labor could latch on to the Christian vote, as the Coalition had been doing for some time, Labor would have difficulty achieving office.
Thus he made it a deliberate political strategy to seek to portray Labor – and himself – as equally deserving of the vote of believers. Thus his continued public discussions about Christianity need to be seen – at least in part – in this context. Quite simply, he knows he has to win over a large chunk of the Christian vote if Labor is to win this election.
Consider another important faith issue. All of Australia now knows how bad religious vilification laws are, following the 5-year debacle in Victoria with the two Christian pastors. The case was a major miscarriage of justice, and the laws have not made for religious unity, but disunity. And the real intent of the law is to effectively silence those who wish to proclaim the Christian gospel.
We know that the major leaders of the Coalition parties are dead set against religious vilification laws. Yet when Kevin Rudd was asked point blank about a Federal version of the law at the above-mentioned ACL forum, he could not bring himself to say no to such a law. Indeed, we know quite clearly from other high-ranking Labor figures that a Federal religious vilification law is high on the agenda. This should be a matter of concern for all believers.
Finally, there is the issue of personal faith. This is an area we must tread carefully in. Again, we cannot judge our leaders – only God knows their hearts. Yet consider how in some natural opportunities to share their faith, our leaders either did, or did not do so. Recently, for example, Peter Costello was asked by a primary school student this interesting question: “Who made cactuses?” Without skipping a beat, Costello replied, “Well, that is a very … that’s one of the great questions of life actually. I think God made everything, so God made cactuses.” In itself this does not tell us much about Costello or his faith, yet it seems he is not bashful about honoring God when the occasion arises.
But consider an even more natural opportunity to highlight one’s Christian beliefs. Kevin Rudd was asked in an SBS interview this question: “Mr Rudd, do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?” And his answer? “Well, I’m a – I’m a, a person who attends church regularly.” This is a bit disappointing coming from someone so intent on telling us of his strong Christian convictions. It would have been a great chance to explain the Christian gospel, but instead we get this wishy-washy non-answer. And as Mr Rudd should know, simply being a church member no more makes one a believer than being in a garage makes one an automobile.
Other indications about faith can be mentioned. Consider this fact: After the last Federal Election, when the parliamentarians took the oath, 50 per cent of Labor MPs refused to touch the Bible, when given to them. (30 out of 60 MPs in Opposition). On the contrary only 1 MP out of 87 from the Liberal and National Coalition refused to touch the Bible.
Again, this is not the be all and end all of Christian belief, but it does tell us a bit about where the two parties are at in terms of faith and Christian belief. Secularism plagues both parties, but it seems to be much more widespread in Labor ranks than among Coalition members.
In this all too brief discussion I have of course been quite selective. These are just a few random aspects of the overall election situation which believers need to consider and pray about. Plenty of other issues could be mentioned.
For example, some might argue, ‘What about various social justice issues?’ As with the recently released Christian Values Checklist, some have complained that these sorts of questions are conspicuous by their absence. My response would be this. Both in this article and in the Checklist, issues in which there is a fairly clear Biblical position (such as the abortion issue, of God’s intention for human sexuality) were featured. If a politician is in favour of same-sex marriage, for example, that tells us a lot about their Christian beliefs, or lack thereof.
Yet on other issues the Bible gives us some leeway, and believers may hold to a range of positions. For example, all believers can and should be concerned about things such as wealth and poverty, but there is room to move among believers as to the best means of achieving economic justice. Some will favour a more free-market approach, some a more socialist approach. The Bible seems to allow for some discussion on these issues.
That is why such debatable issues did not feature heavily in the Checklist, or here. I have addressed these issues elsewhere on this website. All that I intended to do here was offer a few random considerations which might help the believer as they go to the polling booth in two weeks’ time. They are not the only considerations to take into account. And my version of events is admittedly one-sided.
Each believer must make up his or her own mind as to how God will most be honoured and Australia best served in the votes they cast. We all need to reflect very carefully, and in much prayer, on how we cast our ballots at this crucial election.