A despairing cry from the heart
A disillusioned voter on feeling ‘left behind’
The 2022 federal election has been decided with our nation electing its 31st Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The ALP will, according to all the experts, govern in its own right with 76 lower house seats. The huge talking point for political pundits is the rise of the Greens and the so-called ‘teal’ independents to whom voters turned in droves, expressing their dissatisfaction with the two-party system. The ALP will govern with its lowest primary vote since 1919. Yet as senior ALP politician Tanya Plibersek said on election night, “A win is a win is a win”. It sure is!
This dissatisfaction of the electorate was tangible and palpable and yet the major parties didn’t seem to sense it. If they did, they seemingly ignored it, hoping it would all go away and people would adopt previously held voting patterns. It’s a mistake both parties need to learn from, especially the LNP and its desiccated remnant.
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If you were one of those disillusioned who delivered a body blow to the government by electing someone outside of the major parties, then waking up Sunday morning must have felt so good.
But as a person of faith, I went to bed on Saturday night and woke the following morning feeling continuing frustration that my voice didn’t seem to have been heard at all. In fact, I know now what it is like to shout in the wind. Before polling day I had learned a hard and painful lesson: people of faith are mistaken in the belief that if we get the right people in the right places, change will take place.
No one heard my cries for ‘religious freedom’ to be codified in some form in Australian federal legislation.
No one heard my cries for ‘religious freedom’ to be codified in some form in Australian federal legislation. Certainly, the LNP didn’t and if it did, introducing the Religious Discrimination Bill into parliament so late in the term was devastating. This ancient and sacred human right codified in December 1948 by the United Nations Universal Charter on Human Rights, yet not codified federally in Australia, still remains a distant hope for people of faith. The moderate and somewhat flawed Religious Discrimination Bill was withdrawn from the Senate in February 2022 after five years of LNP false hopes invading the souls of faith communities everywhere.
The Religious Discrimination Bill was barely mentioned by the major parties, rejected by the Greens, and not mentioned by the ‘Teals’. Despite the fact that Australia has Anti-Discrimination Bills in the areas of age, sex, disability and race, religion doesn’t seem to demand any urgency in the federal parliament.
It seems that if the ALP does introduce another Religious Discrimination Bill it will reduce the scope of the statements of belief clause so that it applies only to allegations of religious discrimination. Will they repeal Section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Bill in its entirety? What about the suggestion that the ALP will introduce a religious anti-vilification clause, the impact of which is unclear because it has faced no public or parliamentary scrutiny?
Although a pastor of a local church for 31 years, I resent being labelled a ‘conservative’ or part of the ‘religious Right’. In fact, I find the application of any label to me offensive. My faith in God is genuine and forms who I am. My guiding philosophy is to ‘love my neighbour as I would want to be loved’. Hopefully, I am tolerant of others’ views and intolerant of injustice and hatred in any form. As a result I, and many other people of faith, serve our community in ways that are unseen and unheard of by people in power in Canberra.
Yet no one seems to hear my cries that I feel ‘left behind’.
In the early 2nd century, the son of a Roman Centurion, Tertullian, a Roman citizen, who had converted to Christianity wrote “… religious freedom was an essential component of human nature …. every person should be able to worship according to [their] own convictions.”
Election Day taught me that the frustrations of my unheard cries cannot be remedied by my voting for a certain candidate in any election. So my please is, will someone in this next parliament listen to me?
Mark Edwards is Senior Minister at Cityhope Church in Ripley, Queensland.