Australians go to the polls on 18 May, and should be thinking about political parties and therefore what each party stands for. A helpful way of deciding how to vote can be to look at what your personal non-negotiables are. The main issues in this election that could swing the major seats will be climate change, the generational gap, foreign policy and asylum seekers, the cost of living and political disrupters.
We talked to Maryka Groenewald from Australian Christians to get a Christian perspective on the political jungle for this election.
“I suppose for us because we have got that Christian element in the name when you go through our policies, when you see what we are about, it really does shine through where our heart is. And so, I think that separates us from a lot of the other parties because there is a lot of principle there, and of course for us, our preference arrangement as well,” said Ms Groenewald.
The Australian Christians are a political party based out of predominantly Victoria and Western Australia, founded in 2011. Their preference arrangement aligns them with either the most Christian or the most conservative candidate who is in line with Christian values in the given year.
“We are unashamedly pro-life, pro-family so for us there really is no compromise in those key areas, especially as Christians,” described Maryka. “I think at times that’s where we stand firm; there is no grey area for us on these key issues. And I think that’s what Christians really need to think about, where their particular party of choice stands on key issues that are important to them as Christians.”
Under current legislation by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Put simply this means that any person has the right to think and believe in whatever religion they accept as true, without any form of discrimination on the basis of this religion or belief. This legislation also requires the state to take measures to prevent and eliminate such discrimination.
The Morrison government in 2018 agreed after public and opposition pressure that they would change the law to ban religious schools from expelling students based on their sexuality according to Paul Karp from the Guardian. Religious groups view this, along with other comments about legislation change as a violation of the religious freedom act.
“There just seems to be this constant onslaught against families, against a traditional family unit, against Christians,” stated Ms Groenewald.
This political election could see change in some of the issues at the forefront of public debate such as abortion and surrogacy. Changes to any of this legislation would be dependent on which political party is voted into majority.
Maryka Groenewald described religious freedom as “…more than just for us to be able to say; ‘Oh cool’, that we can go to church on a Sunday. It’s so much broader than that. It means that we are able to be involved in public debate, chat about Christianity, have schools that teach the values that families instill at home.”
Christianity is the most dominant religion in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Twelve million people identify as Christians in Australia which is 86 percent of religious Australians. This is roughly a seven percent drop from the number of people identifying as Christians in 2011.
Maryka made reference to a study she had read the previous week, “And across the board it seems like there is an increase of people engaged in this Christian conversation. But I think perhaps people aren’t aware of what’s going on and I mean a lot of that may not be filtered through the different churches.”
People are being forced to become more politically aware and engaged on major issues with votes like the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite. Political engagement however is not up across the board which could be attributed to the public being unaware of how to engage or being worried about their engagement on taboo topics.
“We have to start equipping ourselves and being more aware of what is happening because it does affect us at the end of the day,” said Maryka Groenewald.
Written by Rebecca Low