By Archbishop Mark Coleridge
Throughout the Western world it’s now clear that government is becoming increasingly difficult, with traditional major parties losing support, the centre being harder to hold and the extremes of left or right gaining ground. Instability has become the order of the day, with more frequent minority governments and elections. Queensland is no exception to this.
It’s likely that the forthcoming election will resolve little or show much of a shift from the prevailing pattern. It will be hard for either major party to win government without entering into a coalition fraught with compromise and complexity. We may well end up with another minority government which will depend upon minority groups and individuals to legislate.
Governments now also find themselves in a situation where the decisions they need to make for the good of the state or the nation are decisions which will lose them power. In order to win and retain power, they need to make other decisions which are not necessarily in the best interests of the state or nation. In such a situation, tactics tend to matter more than policy; and the moral vision required for good policy-making begins to blur.
Through this campaign we can hope for more policy than tactics, more leadership than game-playing, more straight-speaking than political theatrics. The economy will of course be front and centre. But the question is whether Queensland’s economy is and will be a truly human economy where the economy serves the needs of people rather than vice versa. Where people are made subservient to the economy, you end up with a kind of idolatry, as Pope Francis has made clear.
Another key criterion is whether a government serves the interests of the weakest and most vulnerable in the community. Children in the womb are among these, which is why abortion is on the electoral agenda. So too are those at the end of life, which is why euthanasia is also an issue. Child protection is crucial, which is why it will be important to know whether a new government will commit to the National Redress Scheme in support of the survivors of sexual abuse. Similarly protection of the elderly and respect for their rights needs to be a concern of government.
Questions of the economy also touch upon the care for the environment, and economic decisions which lead to deterioration of the environment can’t be in the interests of a truly human economy. We need government to support what the Pope has called “an integral ecology”, where care for the environment goes hand in hand with care for the weakest and most vulnerable who always suffer most from environmental degradation.
Support for the family also needs to be high on the government’s agenda. Faced with the growing trivialisation of marriage and the family – such as we see in popular television shows – governments need to do whatever they can to reinforce the sense that a society is only as strong as the marriages and families it produces. Not the individual but the family is the basic building-block of a strong and health society, and policy needs to reflect that. Care for the natural ecology needs to be matched by care for the social ecology.
Respect for human rights and freedoms is also basic to a healthy society. That’s why we need to ensure that the basic right of religious freedom and the rights of conscience are respected by government. The campaign needs to make clear that whoever is elected to govern will respect religious freedom and the rights of conscience, keeping in mind that religious freedom is more precarious