Monday, December 28, 2009

Comeback for religion among Australian politicians

The grumpy article below is by Leftist historian Ross Fitzgerald but does lay out some interesting facts. Australia as a whole remains overwhelmingly secular, of course

SUDDENLY, religion is making inroads again into Australian politics and our secular society. Not only have we now got a devout believer as Prime Minister but the Opposition Leader is even more devout.

The biggest influence is in NSW. When Catholic World Youth Day descended on that state in July last year, many taxpayers resented being forced to pay $20 million in security charges for the event and $40m for the use of Randwick racecourse. The reason that atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Anglicans and even a few Catholics were being forced to go along with this was essentially because then premier Morris Iemma and many of his fellow committed Catholics in the NSW ALP Right were born into that religion. They didn't want a confrontation with Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell over a cheaper location.

The idea that NSW taxpayers could be forced to fund a Scientology convention or a Rastafarian smoke-in would be laughable. But they're both bona fide religions in their own right and meet roughly the same criteria as Christianity and Islam for all the lurks and perks. Why was there little organised opposition, then, to this unpopular rort [abuse]? The main reason was that there was no significant dissent from within the parliament.

On the opposition side, a man who reputedly is influential in the NSW Liberal preselection processes, upper house MP David Clarke, is very strong in some of his Catholic views. Two other devout Christians, Fred Nile and Gordon Moyes, happened to sit on the all-important cross-benches in the upper house, with the result that the propriety of handing $60m in NSW taxpayers' money to support an already wealthy religion could have been better examined.

More recently, Clarke and Nile were guest speakers at last month's Australia's Future and Global Jihad conference in Sydney, alongside Danny Nalliah from the Catch the Fire Ministries. Other attendees were Peter and Jenny Stokes from the fundamentalist Christian morals group Salt Shakers Inc and Emmanuel Michael from the Assyrian Federation of Australia. Why would one of the Liberal Party's top policy-makers be at such a conference, which was backing the notion that our Christian heritage was under attack from evil forces? And what about Kevin Rudd's attendance at the Australian Christian Lobby's annual general meeting last month?

The secular Nathan Rees's elevation to the premiership in NSW afforded a glimmer of hope that the state's politics would not be dominated by conservative Christian ethics.

But those hopes were dashed by the recent ascendancy of another devout Catholic to the top job in NSW. Sporting a strange mix of American accent and fashion chic, Kristina Keneally boasts a BA in political science and religion and a masters degree in feminist theology from Ohio. She met her Young Labor husband at Catholic World Youth Day in Poland in 1991, which says much about her leanings.

The election of Christian hard-liners to positions of power and influence in NSW doesn't stop at Macquarie Street. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is a devout Baptist who worships at the influential Hillsong Church. He is responsible for the first official police Bible, bound in police blue with an official NSW Police crest on the cover. On Scipione's watch, all new NSW police graduates from the Goulburn Academy are routinely offered one of these special Bibles.

While Scipione is doing good work in trying to curtail alcohol-based violence, he has made no secret of the fact he brings his Christian faith into his policing work. Out at Hillsong that means treating homosexuality as a disease to be cured rather than an identity to be lived. But is it a fair whack that taxpayers are funding police Bibles? Will they also produce a Koran with a NSW Police logo for Muslim officers? With 38 per cent of our federal politicians being members of the devout Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, and a half-dozen well-known journalists in the press gallery claiming Jesus as their saviour, the non-believers, infidels, atheists, secularists and our many slightly spiritual but anti-organised religion citizens need to be delivered from this anti-intellectualism.

The final word on the Christianisation of Australian politics surely comes from the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, former SAS officer Jim Wallace. Unlike some stakeholders, Wallace has publicly claimed to have had regular contact with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy - Catholic - as Conroy developed his unpopular model for filtering our internet.

Last month Wallace sent out a media release urging other parties to preference the Australian Sex Party last in the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections, as they had done with One Nation. The Sex Party came third in Bradfield and a close fourth in Higgins. Wallace needs to take a cold shower. That there is now an Australian political party prepared to challenge the pious claptrap that dominates most of the other parties is refreshing.

The Newspoll survey published last month showed that 32 per cent of NSW voters thought there was too much religion in politics. With the orchestrated rise of Keneally and Tony Abbott, that figure may have risen.


Proposed Warmist laws: Grocery industry attacks fraudulent government cost estimates

THE grocery industry has sided with the Coalition's claim the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme will be a big tax.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said yesterday that claims by the Australian Food and Grocery Council that food prices would be pushed up by 5 per cent overstated the reality by seven times. "The Treasury modelling found that in 2013, the average price impact of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on food bills will be around $68 a year -- less than 1 per cent of household food bills," Mr Garrett said.

However, the council chief executive Kate Carnell said this was not realistic, given the role of electricity in the processed food supply chain. "The average shopping basket is about $200 a week, so the government's modelling suggests a barely 0.5 per cent increase off the back of increases in electricity prices of 20 to 40 per cent. That is not even vaguely credible in a manufacturing industry," she said.

Her estimate of a 5 per cent rise was based on internal modelling by food companies. She said the modelling had been presented to Coles Myer and Woolworths. "They didn't suggest we were off the money," she said.

Mr Garrett said that throughout the debate on climate change, "various industries have paid for modelling designed to suit their lobbying purposes".

A spokesman noted that Woolworths had rejected the council's claim of a 5 per cent rise when it was first presented in August. The company had put out a release in response, declaring its support for theemissions trading scheme, and noting that the exclusion of agriculture would reduce what was only ever going to be a "slight price rise". Woolworths is a signatory of the Copenhagen Communique on Climate Change, a document developed by global corporations and endorsing ambitious emission reduction targets. [Woolworths is obsessively "Green" in many ways]

However, the grocery council's renewed attack on the scheme highlights the Coalition's support base among industries which believe they will be adversely affected. Ms Carnell said baking, dairy and tinned processed food, such as canned spaghetti, were the most energy intensive parts of the food industry.


Blacks sidetracked from owning their own homes

Leftist governments want to keep blacks government-dependant -- a familiar theme in the USA

CAPE York leader Noel Pearson has called on the Rudd government to urgently realign its policies on Aboriginal housing, predicting that the many billions currently being spent on building public housing in remote communities will result in wastage on an enormous scale and little improvement in the livelihoods of indigenous people.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin's "obsession" with negotiating 40-year leases to provide secure tenure for public housing assets was "completely inconsistent with home ownership", Mr Pearson said. As The Australian revealed this week, negotiations over 40-year leases in Queensland have stalled, with Cape York mayors refusing to sign the leases and seeking legal advice.

Legislative changes introduced by the Bligh government more than 18 months ago to encourage home ownership have so far failed to result in one home loan being issued. "The priority at the moment is to vest 40-year leases in the Queensland Department of Housing, for public housing, and that is what all of the bureaucratic energies are directed towards," Mr Pearson said. "So home ownership is on the backburner and it's not a priority."

Mr Pearson said providing more public housing should not take priority over schemes that encouraged indigenous people to build their own homes or invest in homes that already existed, as risk encouraged responsibility. "We have got to get skin in the game by families, and the best way of getting skin in the game is through some form of home ownership. The second issue is, we've got to bring the construction price down, and the third issue is what the government has made its first issue, which is the urgent need for more housing."

Mr Pearson said the housing policies of successive federal governments had created an "irrational" housing market that made home ownership unattainable for most indigenous people, reflecting a government view that home ownership was only for the privileged Aboriginal few.

People living in Cape York - who, under Queensland policy, must buy the land they effectively already own before they can even think about building a house - have to spend an average of $500,000 to own a house. "It is an irrational housing market that governments are paying for here where the default position is always the most expensive option," he said.

A long-time advocate of private home ownership, Mr Pearson - a lawyer and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership - rejected the notion put forward by the federal statutory body Indigenous Business Australia that native title issues were creating insurmountable complexities in the process of achieving home ownership in Cape York.

Ms Macklin said the government was committed to addressing unacceptable housing shortages in remote indigenous communities, including through encouraging home ownership. "The Australian government is keen to support as many indigenous Australians as possible to achieve their aspirations to own their own home," Ms Macklin said. "Home ownership can bring important social and economic benefits."


Elective surgery wait shows that government hospitals are still not coping with many medical needs

ALMOST 200 Queenslanders have been waiting more than five years to have elective surgery. The 183 patients have conditions classified as "non-urgent" but under Queensland Health guidelines should still have had their operations within 12 months. Another 310 people have been languishing on the waiting list for up to two years, despite having more serious illnesses or injuries that should have put them in an operating theatre within 90 days.

However, the figures – revealed in an answer to an Opposition question on notice to the Government – have improved significantly in the past year. Twelve months ago, almost 400 Queenslanders had been waiting more than five years for surgery. The release of the figures comes as Health Minister Paul Lucas prepares to unveil a new initiative to tackle the so-called long-waits for elective surgery.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said yesterday the State Government needed to go back to the drawing board to address the problem. "No Queenslander should be waiting any longer than the recommended time for elective surgery, particularly these 310 category two patients who have waited more than 90 days even though some of them have quite serious conditions," Mr McArdle said.

Mr Lucas said hospitals performed 115,000 elective surgery operations each year, so it was a small percentage that waited longer than the recommended times, but agreed it was "not acceptable". "Frankly it should be 0 per cent. It is simply not acceptable to have people waiting more than five years for surgery, even if it is the non-urgent type," he said. "By this time next year, I want that figure reduced to zero." Mr Lucas remains tight-lipped on his plan to tackle long waits but earlier this month took time out to meet surgeons.

One of the options believed to be under consideration is turning the Royal Children's Hospital at Herston into an elective surgery centre once the new children's hospital opens in 2014. The move would help ensure elective surgeries went ahead.

According to the figures, 310 category two patients who should have their surgery within 90 days have been waiting between one and two years for surgery, 83 have waited up to three years and 21 for four years.


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