I voted today

I dutifully sent off my postal vote today. It was an underwhelming experience. My favourite bit was preferencing people last as punishment for the most lackluster campaign of all time.

The LNP ran an abhorrent campaign with a bizarre focus on asylum seekers.

The ALP are a power-hungry group controlled by faceless apparatchiks who will do and say anything to stay in government. Plus the clean feed is possibly the worst policy ever invented and trades on fear and paranoia in order to sell a solution to a distressing problem that is tantamount to selling snake oil. It won’t work. It’s an awful slippery slope and has been sold using brute tactics to silence opposition.

The Greens are untenable. Their policies are half incredible, half terrifying.

Family First. Well. I won’t go there.

I was almost tempted to cop a fine, Mark Latham’s “blank paper” idea was stupid and how that clown keeps getting air time is completely beyond me. The decision to engage him as a political commentator speaks volumes about the farce politics in our country has become.

That is all.

Peter Jensen on politics

This interview with Peter Jensen on the current election is worth a listen. I’m surprised it hasn’t been spoken about more in the blogosphere this week. Perhaps it’s not controversial enough. It’s from Sunday night.

Q: Do Christians necessarily vote from the viewpoint of faith, do you think?
A: Yes we do. And fortunately in Australia it’s perfectly possible, even across the range of options, to vote from faith and to vote differently. You can not say to a Christian in Australia “you must vote for such and such a person. It’s a matter of balance. You’ll work out which way you want to go.”

He discusses Gillard’s atheism and its impact on Christian voters frankly. He discusses Abbott’s faith and its impact on voters with equal frankness.

Julia and the Big Red A(y)

Julia Gillard is in line (depending on the rest of the election campaign) to be our first elected female prime minister. As far as I can tell the only people more excited than the red heads and the females in the electorate are the atheists – because Gillard is out and proud. She’s not definitely the first atheist PM (as far as the internet is concerned Bob Hawke was an atheist, though he told Denton he’s an agnostic not an atheist). She could well be the first. And I thought there had been a pretty muted response from the Christian community – there were even a couple of great articles (one from John Dickson in the Herald, one from Greg Clarke on the ABC website, and one from Michael Jensen on sydneyanglicans.net) suggesting that it didn’t matter.

But the scaremongering has kicked in in the last few days – and more and more Christians I’m speaking to are expressing concern about the idea that Julia, an atheist, might be running the country. I don’t think that the disendorsed Liberal Candidate from Sydney, David Barker, speaks for all Christians when he says this – but he taps into a scary undercurrent in Christian thinking:

“I’m not anti-Muslim. I believe every one should have their own beliefs,” he said.

“But I don’t know if we want at this stage in Australian politics a Muslim in the Parliament and an atheist running the Government.”

Why don’t the atheists deserve a place in a democratically elected parliament? Shouldn’t the parliament be representative of the electorate. This means 10%, roughly speaking, of our politicians should be atheists. The fact that one rises to the top of their party is a testament to their ability and the faith their colleagues have in their ability to do the job.

I’m wondering at what point people think her atheism will impact her ability to govern. Or her ability to act as the leader of the nation. We don’t have the “Christian heritage” the U.S claims as they ban atheists from holding certain positions in public office. There’s nothing in the Bible that suggests the leaders of our nations should be God fearers (we’re not Israel – despite some people trying to insist that the Old Testament should apply to our legislative body today). The New Testament affirms the government of the day as a government chosen by God – and the Roman empire was perhaps the most anti-Christian regime of all time.

I don’t care that Gillard is an atheist. I care more that she sounds like a character out of Kath and Kim. I’ll weigh up my votes on policy alone. Some of those policy positions may be reached as a basis of the application of my faith. That’s my right as a voter. Even if my vote (which won’t go to Labor at this stage) counts for nothing (or just for one) and Labor retain power I’m not going to sleep poorly knowing that an atheist resides in the lodge. At least she’s open about her beliefs rather than claiming to be a lapsed Anglican – one wonders how much time John Howard has spent in church since losing power.

I think John Dickson’s advice for Christian voters is pretty awesome.

“Christians should be willing to change voting patterns after Christian reflection on particular policies. A believer who cannot imagine voting for the ”other side” has either determined that only one party aligns with the will of God or, more likely, is more attached to their cultural context than to the wisdom of scripture…

…So, what principles guide the Christian vote? First, a Christian vote is a vote for others. It is basic to the Christian outlook that life is to be devoted to the good of others before ourselves. In the political realm, Christians should use whatever influence they have to contribute to others, to ”consider others better” than themselves.”

If Christians are worried about Gillard’s moral compass (using the tired old chestnut that atheists can’t be moral) they should perhaps remember two things – all people, atheist or otherwise, are made in God’s image. I assume that includes some sort of moral compass coexisting with the sinful nature, all people (including Christians) have the capacity to act immorally, and all governments (atheist or otherwise) are provided by God. Even the ones that oppress Christians. We should cherish the opportunity we have to have a say in who rules us – but a vote based on scaremongering, or a “Christian Values Chart” like the one Simone rightly loathes, is a wasted vote.

New PM

It would be somewhat remiss of me not to comment briefly on our new PM. Congratulations to Ms Gillard for making history and all that…

By my reckoning she’s the first “ranga” PM, the first female PM, the first challenger to oust a sitting PM in their first term, the stager of the fastest bloodless coup in history and the PM with the best hairstyle (which I put down to having a hair stylist for a partner).

Surely everybody saw this coming from the moment Rudd and Gillard formed an uneasy relationship as leader and deputy. K-Rudd’s love-hate relationship with the Australian public and the ALP respectively came to an end in a pretty abrupt moment. Labor has form for ousting elected political leaders in favour of party apparatchiks. It’s not uncommon for the party to foist premiers upon the unwilling denizens of our states – and Channel 10 are about to remind us that it’s all to typical of Labor at a Federal level as well – with its docu-drama Hawke. Labor does anything to hold on to power – even sacrificing one of its own, even if its own happens to be the most popular PM ever – who ousted the PM they loathed.

Rudd’s problem was his chalk and cheese relationship with those around him – the voters, who knew him not, loved him. His party, and any members of the opposition who knew him, reserved incredible disdain for the man. In my former role I dealt with pollies and political pundits, I shared a desk briefly with the PMs infamous chief of staff (as he phoned through some interview transcripts). Of all the people I’ve met, and of everything I’ve read, the impression I get is that Rudd operated with a veneer of courtesy which covered over a multitude of flaws and sins. His outbursts of rage – now common knowledge – were apparently typical of his treatment of those in his way. David Marr’s fascinating political obituary shows where he went wrong.

He had to do everything himself. He couldn’t trust and didn’t delegate. He worked his staff ruthlessly. His temper was formidable. The office operated in a strange atmosphere of rush and delay. Everything happened at the last minute, more often than not to suit the next media hit. This didn’t change when he became PM. While he rode high in the polls it hardly mattered. His party accepted Rudd’s demands for near absolute control. Cabinet was reduced to a shadow of itself.

Part of the problem was Rudd’s old ambition to find decent solutions to the nation’s problems. Decency is personal, intuitive, hard to delegate. Marry that to a sense of indispensability that is right off the Richter scale, and you had a recipe for ruin. Once again, Rudd had enemies everywhere.

Rudd is what happens when ruthless efficiency meets the intention to do good things. His motives were pure but his methods were not.

I couldn’t figure out where Abbott was for the first 24 hours of the coup. Had he come out strongly against Labor and the murky backroom operations of the factions and the unions Gillard’s political nose may have been bloodied from the opening moments of her ascension to power, instead, Labor get a bit of a bump in the polls.

The reaction amongst my Facebook friends was interesting – most seem unhappy with the manner in which Rudd was dismissed, happy to see the back of him, and split on the question of whether Gillard’s hair colour or gender was more historic. Having had the chance to see which way most of my friends swing politically in the last few days I’m struck by what a conservative batch they are. Maybe I’ll vote ALP just to be contrarian…

What I can’t understand is Gillard’s appeal. She seems merciless. She’s the most extremely left wing PM we’ve ever had. And she sounds like a character from Kath and Kim.

The Labor PR machine was impressive. Every Labor talking head, from union bosses to exiled former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie (speaking from Wyoming), had their talking points in order. They praised her as a “strong and decisive figure,” “a born leader,” “an excellent communicator,” and the person who would get Labor’s focus back on the big issues. And each person mentioned the same issues. This was all impressively “on message.”

Possibly my favourite part of the post-coup coverage was Crikey’s collection of photoshopped versions of Julia Gillard (henceforth J-Gill) in the situations she said were more likely than her challenging K-Rudd.