Panic stations

Yes, you could be forgiven for thinking things have changed in Australian politics recently… until you notice the distinct aroma of desperation.

Rather than call an election, our PM has begun making noises about indigenous rights, gay equality and Tony Abbott has started dog whistling the religious right to improve his chances for re-election or leadership.

The thing that is probably most offensive about this turn of events is the fact that John Howard openly admits that he’s been struggling with the idea of offering Indigenous Australians a little dignity. Something that ought to be absolutely obvious and necessary, the acknowledgement of past abuses and a decision to do something constructive, let alone an apology, has taken ten years to sink in to his self-absorbed and greedy little mind. What an insult. This really gives the lie to the idea of having new Australian citizens take a citizenship test and agree to embrace “Australian values”. What values might they be? Turning a blind eye to racism and genocide? Allowing a proportion of our population, by virtue of their ethnic heritage, to live in appalling poverty and disease? To refuse to acknowledge the abuses Indigenous Australians have suffered for over 200 years? And that’s before we get to things like lying in Parliament to start a war, lying about knowledge of bribes and arms trading with malignant dictators, fabricating stories about children being thrown overboard by refugees in a re-election attempt…. Yanno, it might be better if prospective citizens took an oath to categorically reject these values exemplified by our Prime Minister and his ruling elite.

And not only is he not doing anything constructive, the discussion regarding Indigenous Australians is merely the suggestion of a referendum, some 18 months on, that an alteration be made to the Australian Constitution. Well, it would be nice if something were put in writing, like “sorry”, but this is so patently and transparently a pathetic suck up, it’s insulting.

What is equally insulting is the coalition’s noises about offering some semblance of equality to gay Australians. Like Africans, Asians and the unemployed, homosexuals have been a favourite scape goat of conservative politicians in Australia for years now. Note that the potential is only a rumour as yet, and it’s all about money, not approving same sex marriages. The author of the linked article notes that this could be a prop for Malcolm Turnbull, who looks pretty deservedly set to get his arse kicked otherwise.

Tony Abbott is making a play that is nauseatingly transparent and equally obnoxious.

Catholic social justice groups have expressed fears that the Government’s WorkChoices legislation unfairly affects the vulnerable and cuts the time families can spend together.

But Mr Abbott this week denied there were moral problems with the IR laws saying, “a political argument is not transformed into a moral argument simply because it’s delivered with an enormous dollop of sanctimony”.

The man who once wanted to enter the priesthood himself said in comments to the Institute of Public Affairs that were reported by the ABC: “I do think that if church men spent more time encouraging virtue in people and less time demanding virtue from governments we would have ultimately a better society”.

An interesting reply came from Tim Costello… btw, if you see Tim Costello and Peter Jensen agreeing on something, it’s worth having a closer look at!

World Vision head Tim Costello said Mr Abbott’s comments displayed a “fundamental misunderstanding” of Jesus and Catholic teaching. “Jesus didn’t get crucified because he just went around turning water into wine or wine into blood and saying ‘be good’. He got crucified because he asked questions about who really had power in the society and (talked about) how the kingdom of God includes the powerless and marginalised.”

The more conservative Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen sympathised with the difficulty of politicians making policy, but said “nor is it right to define virtue narrowly as though it is merely to do with personal morality”.

Archbishop Jensen said: “I have a problem with a society in which unionism is a dying phenomenon, because while unionism is not always effective or good, the capacity of being able to join with fellow workers to achieve results is a very good thing.”

Let’s leave aside the issue that the Kingdom of God might be a spiritual thing and not an excuse for Imperial agendas… And the fact that Jensen is one of those who supports the idea of female subordination, a concept that underlies the legislation of what is effectively financial abuse of single mothers and women in general through changes to taxation law, welfare law and industrial reforms… We’ll leave misogyny out of this and focus on the problems with separation of church and state.

Someone, somewhere thought it necessary to keep the two from getting into bed together, in order to avoid fundamentalist abuses, war mongering, an inherently heirarchical society in which many are excluded from power or an effective voice as participating citizens. In this debate and in the US in recent events such as those at Oral Roberts University, we see the lesson and explanation delivered in sharp relief.

Religion is *supposed* to be about supporting personal spirituality and individual lives, providing a structure and accountability for developing humanity. It is not about providing code word cover for legislating into effect blatant abuses and the creation of a class society. It is not about getting your conscience off the hook so you can keep on taking more than your share at the expense of others. It is not about, or should I say ought not be about, creating a political empire and attempting to legitimise its abuses with religious language.

Not that the Labor party is any better mind you. They’re simply biding their time after Rupert Murdoch decided that John Howard’s time is up and pandering to a middle class that have swallowed anti-intellectual resentment and religious white wash.

Just as the mass conversion to pentecostal and right-wing neo-puritan religion will eventually result in a mass exodus and rethinking of theology and spirituality in Australia, the end of the line for the Howard Government really ought to trigger some neck deep soul searching for all Australian citizens. It’s time to examine how this situation of exploitation, lies and damnable greed and hypocrisy came about. It’s time to alter the political system to prevent a single party holding control of both the House of Reps and the Senate. And it’s high time to educate ourselves regarding the use of lies and religious newspeak to cover for career politicians with narrow minds whose Government amounts to little more than theft and malice.

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