Rudd, religion, and the body politic in Australia

As I watched the total collapse of the conservatives in the federal election, and the landslide of Labor wins, I mused...

Nobody in the media is saying it, but I think there are a number of reasons why the Howard government collapsed. They are: Tony Abbott, Phillip Ruddock, Peter Costello, Brendan Nelson, Amanda Vanstone and Kevin Andrews [Late note: and Julie Bishop]. These ministers have run an extremely virulent form of conservatism, kow towing to religious interests and trying to impose (variously) Catholic, Evangelical and Fundamentalist values on the body politic.

Abbott tried to impose the values of Cardinal George Pell with respect to abortion and stem cell research. Even the Parliament dropped rocks on that. Costello, and to a lesser extent Howard himself, tried to cultivate the Assemblies of God, and there is reason to think that the Exclusive Brethren supported the Liberals with donations, although they themselves do not vote. Ruddock and Vanstone have played the race card, and Andrews, the pig in the sty of the Haneef affair [see here, here, here, and here], well the less said about him, the better.

Elections are hard things to evaluate, being multivariate things, but at least some of the reaction to the conservatives is their adoption of American style "moral minority" politics and the consequent racism and intolerance that entails. I am pleased to see that Family First, the Assemblies of God political trumpet, did poorly in nearly every electorate.

Religion has no place in Australian political discourse. Rudd is religious, yes, but so far as I can tell, it's the social conscience kind of religion, not proselytising, but trying to make the society a better place. I have no objections to that. An essay by Rudd on the separation of church and state published in The Monthly a while back struck me as thoughtful, balanced and well informed. If he can impose on his cabinet the sort of values involved in that - tolerant, open, and egalitarian, he may avoid the mistakes of Howard's back to the future" style of discriminative politics.

I still worry that the new government will focus on industrial education to the exclusion of other kinds; this is a long standing error of Australian political parties for over 20 years, since the Hawke government decided that the only value of education was to make business work better. But at least we'll lose the need to do any more of those stupid Research Quality Framework exercises in bureaucratic masturbation.

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I'm hoping for good things. He/they'd better deliver!

All this talk from Australian bloggers makes me wonder if I don't want to emigrate/immigrate. ;-) Your politics sound much more fun than ours (South Africa). But hey, maybe I can rather stay and try to help fix our problems... ;-)

My cynical view of landslide elections and the resulting new regime was summed up perfectly by Pete Townsend in the 1970s.

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Congratulations on the marginal increase in the quality of your government and wish us well that the same failings in the 'Merkin administration will, at last, have a similar effect in the upcoming elections.

It's good to see that Australians have shown themselves once again to be a reasonable and decent people, seeing through the xenophobia, racism and religious pandering of Howard's government. Of course, eleven years is an incredibly long time to be in power in a democracy, and it's clear that Howard had long ago stopped listening to the electorate.

I am heartened to see the cynical mixing of religion of politics that has been going on in a number of countries, including the US, Australia and Canada, is starting to backfire. Here in Canada last month we had the Conservative Party in Ontario lose the election to the rather unpopular incumbent Liberals, largely because of the fiasco about extending the funding that Catholic schools get to other religious groups. The Conservative leader, hoping to firm his support with key religious groups, ended up blowing his support with mainstream Ontarians.

All the signs in the US show that the Religious Right are collapsing as a political force. The reality that none of their religious social conservative candidates have a hope in hell against either Clinton or Obama has forced some religious Conservatives to swallow their pride and so-called convictions and back Guilani.

It bodes well that the voters in the Western world haven't entirely forgotten why the notion of the Separation of Church and State was developed in the first place.

By Aaron Clausen (not verified) on 26 Nov 2007 #permalink

Even though Rudd is apparently at least as conservative a Christian as Howard was, he's working from within a party whose base is much more broadly secular. His personal inclinations will be pulled toward, rather than away from, secular values.