This country is constitutionally secular. Not atheist, but secular. S116 of the Constitution reads thus: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”
Parliament is more religious than we are
So that settles that question. Or does it? As the country becomes less religious, the Parliament becomes more so. Why is this? One would expect that the Parliament would reflect us more closely than it does, and by definition it would reflect our declining interest in religion.
There have always been outliers in the Parliament, those who consciously and publicy brought their religious beliefs to the table. But they always seemed to be a little extreme for most of us, slightly unbalanced when it came to matters such as abortion, or de-criminalising homosexuality. Vince Gair and Brian Harradine spring to mind; men of principle, but quaint and embarrassing. They were essentially lone wolves, not a part of a dangerous pack.
Are overly religious politicians dangerous?
Fast forward to today. Where did all these right wing warriors come from? Why are people voting them into power, and why are there so many members of Parliament who profess such strong religious convictions? On face value Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews are relics of a bygone age, Conservative Catholics, social traditionalists, old fashioned, lacking media skills, but successful, in election after election.
Even the high flyers who reached the top of the pile are strangely uncomfortable with modern mores, but somehow they have succeeded. Their beliefs are surprisingly uncommon. What is it about Kevin Rudd, and Scott Morrison, and Tony Abbott? All out and proud, professing a belief in the Christian god. Absolutely a private matter, most of us would think.
One of the great mysteries of life is how religious and political leaders are able to contort and twist the messages of their faiths, so that they become self-serving, self centred and frankly inhumane, especially when considering those of other faiths. Think of the major religious communities around the world, and their interaction with other faiths in their areas. There you will find examples of man’s inhumanity towards man. All of them do it. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and any other faith you can think of, guilty of persecution, of someone, somewhere, and happening right now.
A local act of social vandalism.
In 1997, Kevin Andrews, a resident of Victoria, succeeded in pushing a private member’s bill through federal parliament, overturning the first legislation to permit assisted suicide in Australia, which had been enacted in the Northern Territory. To reiterate, Kevin Andrews wilfully caused a Dying with Dignity Act to be repealed, after it had become law, in another state of Australia. His private members bill still disallows assisted euthanasia, in the Commonwealth Territories ie. the Northern Territory, Canberra and Norfolk Island.
How many dying Australians have that religious warrior to thank for their unnecessary suffering? How many Australians have cursed his interference, as their relatives wasted away in pain? Did it occur to Kevin Andrews that his act was inhumane, and incredibly selfish, and did he reflect on the fact that the overwhelming majority of Australians support at least some version of dying with dignity. The latest poll taken in 2017 showed 87% support throughout our nation. So on whose behalf did he act when he pushed that private member’s bill?
Our leaders have been found wanting.
Scott Morrison took the treatment of refugees to previously unexplored depths, which, to many Australians with a conscience, is and continues to be, inhumane, cruel and definitely goes against anything the nuns would have taught me. His continued insensitivity towards the unemployed, (aka the poor) forever memorialised by the “You’ll get a go if you have a go” absurdity, is compounded by his active refusal to increase NewStart. He also said, in 2015, that he would never support voluntary euthanasia. He didn’t support same-sex marriage, either.
Morrison is still friends with, and fully supportive of, Brian Houston, who is being investigated after the Royal Commission censured him, for his failure to report the sexual abuse allegations against his father. He also failed to avoid a clear conflict of interest, by investigating his own father, while serving as National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.
Kevin Rudd retreated from “the great moral challenge of our generation” - climate change. He then purposely set out to destroy Julia Gillard's Government. He had recently pledged loyalty. Tony Abbott and John Howard provided George Pell, a convicted paedophile, with a character reference, after his conviction. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. Surely raping children is proof of a deeply flawed character.
In 2006, Barnaby Joyce, who was the catalyst for the ‘bonking ban’, argued against the introduction of Gardasil, a vaccine which would prevent the spread of human papilloma virus (HPV). To be truly effective, girls must be vaccinated before they become sexually active. Joyce felt that making it available to girls would encourage promiscuity. Strangely he did not object to boys being vaccinated. Read Jenna Price’s article.
It is perhaps not their fault. I have always thought that those who profess strong religious beliefs seem to be searching for something indefinable, for some quality that they do not possess, a patch of still water in storm tossed seas. Notwithstanding that most of those named have risen to positions of great power and eminence, they are like lost children. Perhaps they need to study Matthew 16.26 again, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”