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Upper House: West Australia
Lower House: Brand, Burt, Canning, Cowan, Curtin, Durack, Forrest, Fremantle, Hasluck, Moore, O’Connor, Pearce, Perth, Swan & Tangney
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|Previous Reviews:||2019 — 2014 (VIC) — 2013 — 2010 (as the Christian Democratic Party, prior to their split. See below for more details.) — all these are on Cate Speaks|
Policies & Commentary
Before I get too far into this, I should point out that I was raised Catholic, but I’m not one anymore for a number of reasons (many of them to do with a former teacher of mine). I don’t think that all Christians are bad – Cate was one of my dearest friends, after all – but for myself, spiritually I’m an empirical agnostic, and politically, I’m deeply anti-authoritarian, and a strong proponent of separating church and state. What I’m saying is, I am not predisposed to like this party, and nothing I read while researching this changed my mind. I cannot claim to be unbiased in this review, and indeed, I may at times struggle to keep my sarcasm under control. Just so you know.
And now, on with the show:
A little history first, so that you’ll understand where this party comes from. It was formed when the Victorian and West Australian branches of the Christian Democratic Party (originally founded by Fred Nile) broke away after the 2010 election to form their own party. (Cate reviewed that party back in 2010, if you’re interested.) The Australian Christians have contested all federal elections and state elections in Victoria, Queensland and West Australia in the last decade. In 2017, the Victorian and West Australian branches split again, with the Victorian branch leaving to become a part of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Australian Christians are only contesting seats in West Australia this time around. (Which does make their name seem a little inaccurate, but then, that’s hardly a new thing for the name of an Australian political party.)
The Policies section of their website does a better job of concealing than revealing their policies. I’d say they were moving in mysterious ways, but there’s no mystery here. They clearly understand that many of their policies would not be widely popular, and seek to make them sound a little other than what they are. Nothing is an outright lie, mind. It’s just couched in terms that can be readily misunderstood while dogwhistling to the party (and church – there doesn’t seem to be much of a distinction between the two here) faithful.
It’s divided into three subsections: Core Values, Mission and Beliefs, and Prayer. The Prayer section is literally that, a prayer, so points for honesty there. The prayer itself is… let’s just say non-inclusive, shall we? It’s specifically a prayer for the success and wellbeing of the party, with many exhortations about unity that probably have their origins in the history I described in the first paragraph of this section. And just in case you were unclear on what flavour of Christian we’re talking about here, there’s a Dominionist dogwhistle or two in each verse of the prayer – Make us a shining light in the darkness and a spearhead for the advancement of Your Kingdom is a sample of what I’m talking about here.
The Core Values are Hope, Honesty & Integrity, Respect, Freedom, Moral Law, Justice and Sacrifice. Each of them has a brief paragraph ending with a statement about what WE BELIEVE (caps in original). Their takes on these are… unusual. For instance:
HOPE. Hope is the expectation that things will improve in the future. But, in order for that to happen, Australians must make right choices now. Wrong choices could harm everyone, from individuals, to families, to society at large. WE BELIEVE that if we all work together and do what is right, Australia will have a bright future.
The definition is reasonably unexceptional – I’d probably say “desire for” rather “expectation that”, but that’s quibbling. What’s really notable is the way the rest of the paragraph has literally nothing to do with hope. Also, note the invocation of “what is right” without any definition or explanation provided. Moving on.
HONESTY & INTEGRITY. Australians want to know the truth, and deserve a party that will not cave to pressure or political correctness, or spin, but speak honestly in order to achieve the best outcomes for all Australians. WE BELIEVE that the pursuit of truth is vitally important to this nation.
So in a time of political corruption unparalleled since Federation, this party has nothing to say about that, but instead identifies the real threat to Australia as “people who disagree with us”.
RESPECT. Respect is an attitude of admiration for somebody or something. In a time when many of our institutions are under constant attack, we have respect for our government, judiciary, police, church and community leaders, and many others. WE BELIEVE that marriage, families and the intrinsic value of human life from its beginning to end, should also be respected and valued.
Respect, but only for authority and traditional values. The idea that some of these institutions might deserve to be “under attack” isn’t important – we should respect them anyway, regardless of whether or not they deserve that respect. And of course, it’s not hard to see the anti-same sex marriage message, although this is as close as they come on this page to declaring a stance on abortion, albeit in dogwhistle fashion. If, as they claimed in the previous core value Australians… deserve a party that will… speak honestly, so far, it isn’t this one.
FREEDOM. In Australia we enjoy freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and many other precious freedoms. WE BELIEVE that these freedoms are vitally important, and flow out of our mutual respect for one another. Some of these freedoms are under threat and we will fight for the retention of these and other freedoms.
It’s interesting that this value has more to say about respect than the previous one did. Plus, again, more dogwhistling: whose freedoms are under attack? What evidence is offered to substantiate this claim?
I’m not going to go into the full detail regarding the last three – Moral Law and Justice both specifically invoke the Bible, as you might expect. Sacrifice, not at all coincidentally, is illustrated by a picture of some poppies, and surely I am only hearing “Onward Christian Soldiers” in my head right now?
Finally, there’s the Mission Statement, which has five points. The first calls on fairly flimsy argument (a single reference to “Almighty God” in the preamble of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act – an act of the British Parliament, and not a section carried over into the actual Constitution) to claim a constitutional basis for Australia as a Christian nation. (In case you’re wondering, the only other reference to God or religion in our Constitution is Section 116, which guarantees freedom of religion without naming any of them.)
The second is a little more worrying. It reads To promote true welfare for the people of Australia by bringing all legislation into conformity with the will of God as revealed in the Holy Bible, with a codicil adding that this should be done with a redemptive emphasis on the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians.5:18). This seems to sit ill at ease with their fine language about freedom, above, except that for a Dominionist sect such as this, there tends to be an unironic belief that freedom actually means submission to the will of God. (One assumes they don’t read a lot of Orwell.)
The third point, at last, is a bone with some actual meat on it, although even that is thin gruel:
To support and build on our Christian heritage by promoting the Judeo/Christian ethic with pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-child, pro-moral, pro-life, and pro-Australian policies
At least it’s relatively unambiguous, for once.
The fourth and fifth points are, respectively, that they want to elect a lot of people like themselves into every electable role, and that they’re opposed to a republic, with a reference to a Christian-based Constitutional Monarchy suggesting that they may believe in the Divine Right of Kings.
Underneath the Mission Statement on the same page is a section entitled “STATEMENT OF BELIEF”. The key point in this section is the second one:
We believe the Holy Bible to be the inspired, inerrant written Word of God and the final authority in all matters, above human laws and government (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Not to get too theological here, but that verse uses the phrase “God-breathed” to describe scripture, which is generally interpreted to mean divinely-inspired rather than inerrant. More importantly, the idea that the Bible is above human laws and government is one that collides head on with Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, among other things. Frankly, if that one sentence was the only thing I knew about this party, it would be enough to guarantee them a place at or near the bottom of my preferences, even if the party name was was The Sunshine and Lollipops Party of Australia. I wish I could stop here, but it actually gets worse.
Proceeding down the page and sticking to the highlights we get a definition of marriage that is exclusively between a man and a woman; god-given laws regarding sexual morality; the entirely predictable anti-abortion policy; the importance of Christian run educational institutions; an attempt to square the circle of separating church and state when that’s the last thing they actually want to do (“We believe that the separation of the structure of the organised Church and the State in Australia does not mean the separation of Christian faith from government. No nation can survive or thrive within a moral and spiritual vacuum“); almost immediately followed by that statement that We believe Civil Government to be under the authority of God and God-ordained, coupled with the intent to actively promote Christian principles, ethics and faith as the most effective basis to Australian law, legislation, society and culture; a quick sop to the inconvenient fact that there are other religions and that Australian law protects their right to exist as well; the closest thing to an economic policy they have to offer: We believe that the Biblical principles concerning economics and stewardship should consistently and actively be respected and upheld by all levels of government; a brief discussion of national defence that seems as worried about internal subversion as external invasion; and finally, some pearl-clutching about “media morality“.
And that’s it. There are no overt statements of policy, almost everything is implied rather than detailed (except for economics, where “implied” seems too strong a term – “vaguely gestured at” perhaps). I don’t live in West Australia, so I won’t be seeing this party on my ballot paper, but if I did, the only people I’d preference behind them would be actual fascists.
Just a reminder that Maz and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂