Category Archives: Politics

Sex, Maslow and a Camperdown Brothel

News moving cities can’t hide you from.

As a former Sydney Inner-West resident the story has been hard not be kept up with.

“Australia’s largest brothel”, it was touted.

“The Westfeld of brothels” one local rag had called it.

An existing large brothel in Camperdown has made submissions to the NSW Land and Environment Court to have their current premises more than double in size into a three story, 50 bed Gargantua. This has, of course, raised the ire of local residents. If the Star Casino is allowed to have a 150m brothel exclusion zone around it to give the impression that it isn’t a shady institution, why shouldn’t Camperdown residents be afforded the same dignity? The brothel’s development application has already been knocked back once.

But then the brothel owner made an argument I certainly didn’t expect. The story hit the SMH this morning. Essentially the brothel owner argued that the redeveloped mega-brothel would be “in the community interest”.

The Herald article quotes from the brothel’s submission to the court,

”The development is in the public interest as the regulated supply of sexual services to the community meets a basic human need,” the submission read.”

Did you catch that?

To my mind, in this one sentence there are several hidden premises smuggled into the argument (e.g. a “regulated supply” of sex is good for society) but I’m not going to deal with those. My contention is with the five words.

Sex. It’s a basic human need. Everyone knows that. Right?

It’s one of those truisms. Sex is just like eating. But one of the things that is never really explored with this argument is ‘what happens if this “need” goes unmet?’ That hypothetical seems all too horrible to ponder. It’s why we have movies like 40 Year Old Virgin.

Is the implication that a person who doesn’t have sex will die (in the same way as a person who doesn’t eat will die)?

Is the implication that a person who doesn’t have sex secedes from the genus “human”?

Of course these suggestions are ridiculous. We show we know these suggestions are ridiculous in all sorts of ways. Most obviously, if they were true then age of consent legislation would be evil (because you’d be preventing children from being human or starving them of something they need for survival).

We know that this is crazy, so why do we labour under this false assertion?

I can’t claim to offer the origins of this belief, but I can propose its most significant proponent. In 1943 Abraham Maslow published a paper entitled A Theory of Human Motivation. This paper was then expanded into his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. In these works Maslow came to express human needs in a hierarchy (often illustrated in the pyramid below).

Source: Wikipedia

Maslow’s hierarchy has been the the water that educators, psychologists, development workers, economists and marketers have swum in for over 50 years. It has been treated as so self-evident that theologians and philosophers have forgotten that it is in fact a product of modernism (self-actualization as the goal of humanity should have been the giveaway). Indeed worthy attempts by some to question this presentation (such as economist Max Neef’s excellent work on the inter-connectivity and societal fulfillment of human needs) have failed to gain traction – not because the presentation is less compelling, but because our current just-so story allows us to hold onto irrational ideas like “sex as survival need”.

Note the bottom rung of the Maslow ladder. Granted we need air, sustenance, clean water, sleep, a functional antiviral system and the ability to poo and wee or else we will die. But sex? Doesn’t putting sex in that list further depreciate single people in our society (a group of people we have already done far too much to depreciate).

I for one really hope that the NSW Land and Environment Court see through this community good guff. The commodification of sex only serves to further our modernist white-anting of “community”. The commodification of sex on a far grander scale all the more so.

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liberalism and gambling reform

I’ve been wondering for some time now about this whole gambling reform legislation. No, I haven’t been wondering if it’s a good idea – it is. We have massive problems in Australia with problem gambling. Figures that suggest that less than 1% of the population are genuine addicts miss that for every addict there is a damaged support system, there are damaged families. The only reason it seems the governments of Australia have dragged their feet is that they themselves are profiteers, with the steady increases in poker machine revenues meaning they don’t have to do anything unpleasant like increasing taxes to pay for essential services.

No what I’ve been wondering about is whether our worldview can handle it. Since it’s inception as a British colony Australia has been a nation of liberals. I don’t mean the party here, I mean that for over 200 years our society has been based on the idea that the greatest good is the freedom of the individual. The catch cries of the French Revolution which were then appropriated by the market economy mean that we believe that our own individual liberty is a moral absolute. When we see it being encroached on by others or our governments we baulk and use phrases like “nanny-state”. In this sense Australia has two “liberal” parties, they just focus on the liberty of different groups of people.

But every now and again evils pop up that our moral absolute has no way of fighting against. Addiction is one of the most obvious examples of this. Addiction involves someone compulsively causing harm to themselves and, in-turn, others around them. Liberalism has no workable solutions to this. Any attempts to curb an addict’s self-harming behaviour, while at the same time defending their liberty are doomed to failure. This is why the alternative voluntary pre-commitment legislation proposed by the clubs and the Coalition is so amusing. Truth be told, Labor is only really dealing with this problem because their hand has been forced by independent MP Andrew Wilkie. It’s because of the strange time in political history that we live in that this little anti-liberalism experiment gets a guernsey.

What are Christians to make of this? One of the best things about Christianity is that it invites us to see the world differently to modern liberalism. Christians, at their best, are meant to be the exact opposite of rank-individualists. Not communists, but communitarians. Because our God is Triune, a complex three-in-one, he is anything but concerned for his own liberty. God is wholly other-person-centred. When he made the world he made us as relational beings. From the moment we are conceived, we never know life separate from our connectedness with others. This isn’t something to forlornly accept, it’s something to celebrate. Knowing and being known by others is the thickest and most delectable aspect of what it is to be human. This is also why the brokenness we experience in all our relationships, with God and with other people, is such a tragedy. It’s why when we see others compulsively destroying their relationships it grieves us. We see something of them in ourselves as we compulsively, addictively rebel against God, the life giver. It’s why Jesus, being the wholly other-person-centred guy he is, forfeited his life to reconcile us to himself and renew us so that we don’t have to experience this brokenness forever.

When Christians reflect on this self-giving of their God, they can’t help but want to emulate it. It means we willingly burden ourselves with the brokenness of others, knowing that we are no better than they. We joyfully inconvenience ourselves for the sake of others. It means we ought not to complain if our taxes go up as a result of a smaller state government pokie income. It means we ought to write letters of support to Labor MPs in marginal seats where the clubs industry is running an insidious ad. campaign.

Can the liberal worldview support genuine gambling reform? Nup. But Christians can. As we value others higher than ourselves we can’t help but be supportive of plans to serve those trapped by addiction.

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A win against Unilever

Another small victory I thought I’d share. I recently wrote the the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore about a Lynx promotion staged at Martin Place. I won’t go into the details of the Lynx promotion, but suffice to say that if I worked in an office on Martin Place, went down to the street, took a photo of what was happening and then set that photo as my computer wall paper, I would be in serious danger of a sexual harassment case. We don’t put up with the sexualisation of women in the workplace so why should we put up with it on the walkway?

So here’s the email I sent (it took me 5 minutes) and below is a link to her office’s response.

Hi Clover

My name is Steve Boxwell, I’m a student living in Newtown.

I’m writing to you about the recent Lynx “pop up spa” campaign staged in Martin Place. I’m growing increasingly concerned that women are being objectified in our society. If you didn’t catch the recent opinion piece about this on the ABC you can find it here.

I’d like to know what you as Lord Mayor of Sydney plan to do to curb this kind of blatant sexualisation of women for advertising.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Steve Boxwell
9 Little Queen St Newtown.

Her office’s response is here.

– the good news is that Sydney Council is going probably going to be a bit more vigilant in how it allows companies to use public space.

– the bad news is that the action taken was to write to the Australian Association of National Advertisers. These guys are the Advertising industry’s self-regulation unit. The trouble with self-regulation is that it’s akin to asking a puppy not to eat the cupcake on the plate in front of them and then walking out of the room – it’s unlikely to work.

So, consider writing to the Australian Association of National Advertisers here to ask them to extend the guidelines to cover outdoor promotions.

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On Voting and Jesus, Part 5

This post is part of a series

Election Principle 5 – You don’t just vote for the leader

I was speaking with a mate this afternoon and we were talking about who he should vote for. He told me that although he was on board with things like the mining tax and other policy areas of the Labor government he was drifting towards the conservatives on character grounds. This stance is not exclusively a Christian one. If you have a look at Facebook groups like “Friends don’t let friends vote for Tony Abbott” you find an equal and opposite set of reasons not to vote for Tony on character grounds.

Both Labor and the Coalition have been hammering each others’ leaders in a series of attack and fear spots. Fortunately we’ve entered the media blackout so we’ll be spared some of this hype now.

If you’re thinking about making your decision in this election based on the character of the leader, here are some things to consider:

– You don’t elect the Prime Minister. Unless you’re in the seats of Lalor or Warringah you don’t get to ‘vote’ for Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott. So not only do you not just vote for the leader, you don’t get to vote for the leader. You elect a Member of Parliament who is aligned with a party or coalition of parties. If enough members of that group are elected to the House of Representatives then that party or coalition of parties forms government.

– A lot of the rhetoric surrounding the this election mirrors that of the US style Presidential election where, as I’m sure you are aware, you do get to directly vote for your leader.

– There is no guarantee (constitutional or otherwise) that a party will keep the same leader after the election (as we have seen). Indeed a party may choose to select a new leader after they win the election and before they form government!

So what can the person who wants to vote on character grounds do?

– Vote on the ‘character’ of the party. That is, have a look not just at the leader, but at the whole party and consider whether they are well placed to take Australia in a direction you are comfortable with (taking into account what I’ve already said about so-called ‘moral’ and ‘economic’ issues). I admit it. This is a sneaky way of me telling you to vote on issues rather than character.

– But it would be remiss of me if I didn’t also say it’s worth electing a government that you believe will have the resolve to enact the policies they are promising to, or at least will give you a good reason why not.

– Finally a word on the Christian – Atheist thing. As has been done elsewhere, can I encourage you to remember that all Governments belong to God, regardless of whether the leader recognises it or not. Vote for a party that will establish justice.

This Election101 – Votiquette

So for today’s Election101 I thought I might try a fun little experiment: During the UK election I stumbled across this post, which detailed some useful dos and don’ts for UK voters.

Trouble is, I can’t find anything remotely the same for Australia. So I’m keen to build one – will you help me? What I’m looking for is an answer to as many of the questions below as possible. Here’s how we’re going to do it.

What we need to do is to email the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) info@aec.gov.au with one of these questions. I don’t think they’d take it seriously if I sent them an email with all the questions below, but if we all choose 1 question that we like, email them, then when you receive a response, add it to the comments then together we’ll build an awesome Votiquette list for tomorrow’s post.

Incidentally if you know the actual answer to any of these questions tell us all that too!

Here are our questions:

–        Can I bring my pets in with me to vote?
–        Can I wear political clothing?
–        I’m meant to pick up my friend and take him to the polling station but he has been to the pub last night and still looks drunk this morning, can he vote?
–        It’s my first time voting. Can I take a photo?
–        Can I cover my face with a hoodie or something else?
–        Can I wear a giant rosette?
–        Can I talk with my spouse about the candidates while voting?
–        Can I play my favourite music to inspire me while voting?
–        Can I use my “lucky voting pen” instead of the pen provided for me?
–        I’ve made a mistake. Can I vote again?
–        I’m a bit nervous. Can a friend come and help me?
–        Can I bring my children in to show them what happens?
–        Can my children fill in the numbers for me?
–        Can I write a message to the politicians?
–        Can I sign my ballot paper?
–        What if there’s a fire while I’m voting at my polling station?

Go for it guys, get emailing otherwise tomorrows “This Election101” section is going to look lame!

Policy area – Closing the Gap

You may have heard talk about the Close the Gap campaign, or seen the bumper stickers, but do you know just how big the gap is between indigenous and non-indigenous lifespan in Australia? 20 years. 20 years!

Probably my favourite question on the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) election site is their question about indigenous welfare. Christians have had a checkered history with Australia’s indigenous people, at times their greatest advocates and at other times acting with compliance to indefensibly evil public policy and even initiating horrendous evil themselves.

However in recent times Christians around the country have worked extremely hard to serve Australia’s first peoples. One of the finest examples of this is in the area of indigenous language preservation. It is Christian Bible translators rather than our governments who are working at preserving the scores of language groups still spoken around the country.

But there is one very significant area where our governments need to be working harder – in indigenous health outcomes.

The Close the Gap coalition, a group of mainly not-for-profit charities, are calling on our Federal, state and territory governments to take action to achieve Indigenous health equality within 25 years by:

  • Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ access to health services
  • Addressing critical social issues such as poor housing, nutrition, employment and education
  • Building Indigenous control and participation in the delivery of health and other services
  • Getting governments at state and national level to work in partnership with Indigenous communities and Indigenous health organisations and experts to develop and monitor a plan to tackle the Indigenous health crisis

I think these are fabulous goals, and ones that we are going to need to keep the pressure on governments to provide on. Labor hacks might be able to help me here – I know Rudd promised an indigenous health report card, is that the policy of a Gillard government too?

What can you do?

Have a look at the ACL page and preference parties that look like they are going to do something for indigenous health.

Come back tomorrow for the epic conclusion to this Election 2010 series.

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On Voting and Jesus, Part 4

This post is part of a series

Election Principle 4 – You don’t just vote on economic issues

Last post I suggested that just voting on “moral” issues was a lazy way for Christians to vote. Today I want to push back against that a little bit and speak to a different group of people – the economic ideologues. Today I want to suggest that if, when you vote, the only issues you consider are the “economic” issues (e.g. taxation, workers’ rights, big or small government, quarantine, childcare rebates, government welfare, economic stimulus, the baby bonus), then there’s a problem. Again, I keep thinking back to Romans 13:1-7 as a useful text for thinking through this issue. Paul tells his readers that it is appropriate to pay tax (sorry Liberal Democratic Party) because governments are God’s servants. But we owe these taxes because they are God’s servants for the administration of justice.

Governments are meant to administer “justice”; they are meant to keep their constituents safe; they’re meant to make sure their citizens aren’t exploited; they’re meant to nurture the poor; they’re meant to commend the good and punish the evil (Romans 13:3). So ideologues – I want to encourage you to put down your economic ideologies (and I know this pains you to do so) and consider the whole field. What shape of government is going to defend the cause of the fatherless and the widow best?

This Election101 – Polls and Worms

I don’t know whether it’s just because of recent events, but I feel like this election, more than previous ones, is all about the polls. Everyday the media are running stories about little else (to get a feel for the sheer prolificacy of polls this election check out the pollbludger).

Interestingly also this year the worm (the squiggly thing at the bottom of televised Prime Ministerial debates) was divided by gender (which is funny because I was fairly certain worms were hermaphrodites).

Polls (of which the worm is a very specialised version) are dangerous things. The are the kind of story that self-perpetuate. The polls, for which the average punter rarely knows the sample sizes and exactly what questions they asked were to come to their results, are then reported as news. The stories are usually framed in terms of discontent (either for the government of the day or the opposition). Discontent feeds on itself.

The trouble with polling is that it is not a tool able to weigh up the benefits of policy – rather it is a tool that weighs up the strength of the PR companies the elected governments are employing. That tells us very little because respondents can only answer on the spectrum (you know… Strongly Disagree through to Strongly Agree).

In many ways it was these polls that toppled the Rudd Prime-Ministership. As was widely reported, a Senior Labor figure suggested Rudd, “… never bothered to build a base in the Party and now that his only faction, Newspoll, has gone, so has he.”

What are we to make of this? I think it’s important for us to remember that we have a system designed to topple governments that don’t listen to the people – they’re called elections. The proportional sample of an election in Australia is second to none. There we hear the will of the people, there the consequences of being responsive or irresponsive should be felt.

What can you do? Well I think the most important thing you can do is buck the trend and vote on issues, rather than on popularity. I mentioned a bunch of webtools in my previous post to help you figure out what the issues of importance to you are and which parties best align with those issues. Don’t be fooled into feeding on discontent. Find your own good reasons to be discontented! 🙂

Policy Area Mental Heatlh

I want to focus specifically on mental health, not because I think the healthcare system in Australia is perfect except for this one area but because it’s of specific importance to us as Christians, given sheer numbers of people who suffer mental ill-health in their lifetime. Conservative figures suggest that 1:6 people will suffer mental ill-health in their lifetime (I’ve seen figures as low as 1:4). I don’t have to think very hard to list ten friends of mine who are suffering mental ill-health and receiving treatment for it. Sadly many, many people in our churches and communities do not receive any or adequate treatment because of their inability to access services, particularly in regional areas.

According to the National Mental Health Summit (NMHS), mental illness affects over four million Australians every year. Mental illness is estimated to cost the Australian economy around $30b each year. In spite of this mental health is allocated 6% of the health care budget, but represents at least 13% of the health care burden.

Again from NMHS, every day:

  • 330 Australians presented to Emergency Departments with serious mental illnesses are turned away with less than 1 in 15 referred to any other service;
  • Over 1,200 (!) Australians are refused admission to a public or private psychiatric unit;
  • At least 7 people die as a result of suicide in Australia, with more than a third involving people discharged too early and/or without care following hospitalisation; and
  • Another 180 Australians attempt suicide and of these 84 are hospitalised.

We have to do something about this. This is a disaster in slow motion.

But what can you do?

– Go to this part of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website and get the emails of the candidates standing in your seat for the house of reps. Send them a two line email, asking them whether, if they were elected, they would commit to working for lifting funding in this area. Tell them their answer will factor into how you vote this election. Generally candidates are very good at getting back to these emails (especially if you add the last sentence).

Post below if you have any success stories!

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On Voting and Jesus, Part 3

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Election Principle 3 – You don’t just vote on “moral” issues

Christians generally have a pretty bad name for this. Ask any of your friends who aren’t Christian what they think are a Christians top two policy concerns in any election and they will tell you:

1. Abortion

2. Gay Marriage

No wonder the world thinks we’re uppity about sex! Now I’m not writing this to deny that these are legitimate concerns for but all too often in the political discourse from pulpits and pamphleteers, these issues are presented as though they are the only issues. Yet more bemusing is the suggestion that only the Coalition (Liberals and Nationals) can be trusted to maintain the status quo.

A few things to consider

– Both the parties capable of forming government are against amendments to the Marriage Act in its current form (i.e. that marriage is between a man and a woman).

– In the 11.5 years of the Howard Government there was no repealing of abortion laws, indeed we had the introduction of the RU486 drug – a prescribed abortion pill, which many coalition members voted in favour of.

But far more than this, we need to remember that a moral/amoral distinction in policy is pretty artificial. Should we not consider things like taxation in moral categories? Shouldn’t we consider our shockingly low budgeted amount of international aid in moral terms? Aren’t matters like the rights of workers and employers, plain branding of cigarette packets, services for the mentally ill, junk food advertising to children, salary caps for top executives of corporations all, in the end, moral matters?

So this election don’t be tricked into a myopic view of what issues are moral and which ones aren’t.

This Election101 – Left v Right

So what’s the deal with people and parties being called Left or Right wing? The language of leftwing and rightwing comes from the 18th Century French parliament. The parliament was arranged so that the more radical members sat on the left and the more conservative members sat on the right. This shorthand way of explaining political positions has picked up by all other western democracies. As has been said elsewhere, traditionally the Left includes progressives, social liberals, social democrats, unionists, socialists, communists and anarchists. The Right includes conservatives, reactionaries, capitalists, monarchists, nationalists and fascists. But sheer difference within those groups shows us just how weak the explanatory power of the old “left-right” spectrum is. There is a huge difference between an anarchist and a democrat, a fascist and a capitalist.

So a simple one dimensional spectrum doesn’t really explain the full raft of difference, you need a 2D diagram.

This diagram has way more explanatory power, because not only does it give you a way of expressing economic matters (should we have a big government [left] or little government [right] should we tax the rich at a higher rate for the sake of the poor [left] or should we reward them and tax them less, screw the poor [right]) but also lets you express what kind of cultural world you think would be best (we keep things the way they are for the sake of the public good [conservative] or we should change things if it benefits minorities within society [progressive])

How does this help me in voting?

– Firstly you should try and figure out where on the political spectrum you sit. I really like the political compass. It’s a great little web quiz that asks you a set of questions and plots you on the diagram above. If you’re after a dumbed down version, the Murdoch papers have released a simpler one with less questions (interestingly on both I popped out as Ghandi!)

– To complement this Fairfax (the company that publish the SMH, The Age and even highly prestigious Daily Advertiser in Wagga!) have produced a tool they call the vote-a-matic. Not to be out done, the Murdoch papers produced the vote-a-matic 2.0. Both these tools ask a few questions and determine which of the three major parties (I’m still not used to referring to the 3 major parties… it’s weird!) This is good but not as good as the political compass because it may be that a minor party (like the Non-Custodial Parents’ party or the Socialist Alliance) actually scratches where you’re itching better than a major.

Policy area – Foreign Aid

As I’ve already mentioned above, Australia’s level of foreign aid is woeful. Foreign aid isn’t really a vote winner – it doesn’t directly benefit voters (though parties wanting to increase our foreign aid sometimes appeal to an indirect benefit, like say lifting people out of poverty so they don’t become terrorists). As I’ve already mentioned, the Christian is to be other person centred as they vote and this extends to other people who aren’t from our country. As a nation we emerged extremely strongly out of the GFC and so we are in an excellent position to increase our aid budget.

So

– Preference highly a party that will increase our international aid.

– Compare the parties here

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On Voting and Jesus, Part 2.

This post is part of a series

Election Principle 2 – You don’t vote to spread the Gospel

Again, I this may have been said elsewhere but it’s worth more than a head nod. Although I’d dearly love to go into an extended exploration of Church and State here I haven’t got the space. For now it is enough to say that it is not the job of government to make Australia more “Christian” – that’s the role of churches. Government’s can make this easier and harder for churches to do. But we shouldn’t look to the State to make people Christian.

This sounds obvious enough, but it’s important because often when people slip into the line of argument that describes Australia as a “Christian nation” what they are describing is a country with a Christianised, moral legislative agenda (i.e. our laws resemble the Christian worldview). Christianity is not a just moral framework. To suggest it is sells Christianity short. It is a relationship with God, through Jesus.

Consider this: No one has ever woken up in the morning and thought “hmm… My moral values delivered to me by my country’s laws are so aligned with Christianity that it seems obvious to me that I must become a Christian”. No, rather it’s through individual Christians working as churches to introduce people to Jesus that people become Christians.

So don’t feel like as you vote this Saturday, that if you make the wrong decision then it’s going to have ramifications for the Gospel going out. It won’t. God has it in hand. He is the one who establishes governments (Romans 13:1-7)

This Election101 – Marginal seats.

Congratulations if you live in Herbert (QLD), Dickson (QLD), Longman (QLD), Flynn (QLD), Dawson (QLD), Forde (QLD), Leichhardt (QLD), Bonner (QLD), Brisbane (QLD), Bowman (QLD), Ryan (QLD), Hinkler (QLD), Robertson (NSW), Macquarie (NSW), Gilmore (NSW), Macarthur (NSW), Bennelong (NSW), Eden-Monaro (NSW), Page (NSW), Dobell (NSW), Lindsay (NSW), Hughes (NSW), Paterson (NSW), Cowper (NSW), Corangamite (VIC), Deakin (VIC), Melbourne (VIC), McEwen (VIC), La Trobe (VIC), Bass (TAS), Braddon (TAS), Kingston (SA), Sturt (SA), Swan (WA), Hasluck (WA), Brand (WA), Cowan (WA), Stirling (WA), Canning (WA) or Solomon (NT) – this election is all about you.

For the rest of us, not so much. I drove from my place (in the seat of Sydney) to a bookshop (in the seat of Bennelong) on Saturday and I felt like I was stepping into another world. Bennelong (John Howard’s old house of reps. seat) is held with a margin of 1.4%. That is to say if 2 in every 100 people decided to vote in another way (taking into account where your preferences go) then they would have a different local member (John Alexander instead of Maxine McKew). If you are fortunate enough to live in McEwen in Victoria then if 3 people in ever 1000 voted differently then the seat would change hands! The major parties spend lots of money in these 40 seats because it’s much easier to change a few people’s minds than a few thousand (as in my neighbouring seat of Grayndler where Labor won the equivalent of 41 802 more votes than the Liberal candidate in the last election after preferences).

What do we do with this information?

– The first thing we need to do is pray for the people in these seats. Pray that they’ll make wise decisions, pray they’ll make decisions in the interests of the country rather than their own.

– Then we need to look carefully at our local candidates (you can find them on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website) and think through what their local policies are. Do your local candidates look like they’re going to serve the interests of your local area?

Anything I’ve missed?

Policy area – Assylum Seekers

Before we start, 2 great vids, one from the Hungry Beast and the other from Getup!

There is a lot of hype in this election and to describe “boat people” as a political football is a hopeless understatement in this election. The Liberals have Tony Abbott promising to “Stop the Boats”. The ALP looked for a moment like they were moving in a more humane policy direction but then for reasons of political expediency decided to move towards a low-fat Howard government plan. The only noticeable difference between the two policies is that one involves East Timor (a refugee rights charter signatory) (ALP) and Nauru which is not (LP).

Some points to consider:

-Remember, there aren’t very many votes. The number of boats is extremely small, the amount that we spend on stopping those not-very-many boats is disproportionately high.

– You can’t stop the boats. Though Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott would like us to think that our domestic policy (they policies of our country) have a big part to play in stopping asylum seekers, they really don’t. If you had to flee your country because of you were in severe danger, do you think you’d stop to peruse the varying immigration policies of the major parties of whatever nation you’re fleeing to? No of course you wouldn’t. The political situations in volatile countries is by far and away the first concern of those fleeing! The saber rattling is nothing more than that.

– If you could stop the boats, you shouldn’t. The suggestion has been made that boats should be nudged back out into international waters. To do so would result in the deaths of many people as the boats are deliberately sabotaged by the people smuggling crews. This is untenable and we are meant to be more compassionate than that!

– Jesus was a refugee. This sounds like a silly point but go with me. Jesus, as a child, was taken by his family to Egypt, because King Herod was performing State Infanticide and Jesus’ life was in grave danger. If Egypt had the same immigration policies as Australia has had over the last 20 years then he might have still been in a detention facility when he was to start his public ministry! Jesus’ situation is not disanalogous with many who are fleeing to our country. Iraq is at the moment in nothing short of civil war with Kurdish and Christian Iraqis fleeing in their thousands from militia sanctioned slaughter. They flee here. We need to find more compassionate policy alternatives than either of the 2 major parties are offering.

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