by Julie Macken
A former Prime Minister once noted that when we change the government we change the country. I disagree. I think we change the government because we have changed as a country.
We are about to enter a federal election with war building in Europe, a pandemic that is anything but over and a traumatised global community. Since the last election in Australia we have witnessed the death of over a billion animals, the death of 34 people and millions of hectares burned to the ground. We have seen over 4,500 of our loved ones die from the pandemic and entire local economies destroyed. Every election matters but some matter more than others. This election matters more than most.
I say that not because of any particular political leader or party, but because this election we need to show ourselves and each other that we have changed. That all this suffering and hurt and mourning has changed us as a community. That we are more capable of empathy, of seeing suffering, that we are more aware of our interdependence on each other. That we are each other’s keeper and that is where our humanity is found.
While so much feels in flux, we do not enter this election blind. The good news – and the bad news – is that Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is not an interesting add-on to our faith. It is foundational to the call of the Gospel and to all that we aspire to be. As the federal election approaches, this teaching needs to inform, not only our prayers and our action, but also our vote.
Bushfire – like the pandemic – doesn’t just destroy, it also reveals the bones of the country, its contours and its crevices. Likewise, the pandemic has exerted so much pressure on all of us that the fault lines we had papered over in in times of plenty are now open wounds in the body politic. This is a rare and precious moment when the true condition of our democracy and the structures that hold us together as a community, not just a nation, can be seen very clearly. For that reason, we must not waste it.
Inspired by the energy and compassion that was unleashed in the call out for 150 Days of Action for asylum seekers, we will be using this time in the run up to the federal election to put social justice at the heart of our political assessments. The human and Christian dimensions of these issues are often ignored in the ongoing debate and political wrangling. This is of particular concern in the current climate when conviction politics has been replaced by retail politics and every meeting is defined by the transaction, not the relationship.
To counter retail politics, we have started a “thing” called Voting for the Common Good. It is a resourced invitation to communities and individuals to reflect on issues from the perspective of our humanity and our faith, rather than the from standpoint of political rhetoric. We hope that it will engender new conversations.
A group of us have created kits that have about dozen briefing documents on issues of profound concern to many of us. They will be made available shortly. We know we haven’t covered all the issues here and we know that some people will be primarily concerned with just one or two of these issues – please take what you like and leave the rest.
Over the next two months we will be using these documents as conversation starters, as a guide to quizzing candidates at Meet the Candidate forums and writing, thinking and praying about these issues. We would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to contact me, Julie Macken, at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I said at the start, my hope that these last three years of so much suffering, death and destruction has changed us as a nation. That we are more aware of our need for each other, our fragility and our need for hope.