BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has warned that Australia faces a new political landscape where tactics replace policy, and the major parties – both Liberal and Labor – struggle to survive against the rise of micro powers.
Archbishop Coleridge has delivered his stark assessment as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition begins the difficult task of governing with a slender majority.
With Australia’s political landscape severely shaken after Australia’s longest election campaign, Archbishop Coleridge has implored our leaders to seek to restore a sense of national calm and confidence.
“What’s happening in Australia is just a classic illustration of what is happening more broadly. We see it going on in the USA in Europe and Britain. There is a serious question about the workability of traditional models. It’s not just Australia,” he said.
“The risk that Australia faces is ungovernability.
“We are seeing the diminishment and some ways the collapse of what have been the major political parties and the rise of the micropowers.
“Big is no longer beautiful, and big is certainly not as powerful as it once was.
“We’re seeing a political landscape in Australia and beyond where power is not what it used to be. It’s easier to get, it’s easier to lose and it’s far, far harder to exercise.
“The danger is that policy is replaced by tactics, that you have no serious making and implementation of policy but what you have is tactics to win power and retain it against the odds once you’ve got it.
“Policy requires vision and an ethical framework.”
Archbishop Coleridge said controlling debt was an example of a key issue that could certainly lose a government power.
“For a government to do what the nation requires will certainly lose it power.”
“The budget does have to be brought under control – we are spending more than we are earning – so something has to be done about the debt.
“How do we bring the debt under control but not reek social havoc.”
“I hope that everyone in the parliament understands that task and sets about trying to find that balance.”
Archbishop Coleridge identified old “running sores” as key issues that needed urgent political attention in the next six months – refugees and asylum seekers, the indigenous affairs and attention to marriage and the family which he said was “fundamental to the whole construction of our society”.
“How to shape policy to support the nature of marriage and the absolute importance of the wellbeing of the family,” he said.
“Employment for young people is also vital to give them a sense of purpose and dignity.
“You cannot have the human being as collateral damage in an attempt to balance the budget.”
Archbishop Coleridge said same-sex marriage would certainly grab media headlines in months to come, but it remained unclear whether there would be political backing for a plebiscite on the issue.
“The whole political arrangement is so fragile that it may be impossible to get a plebiscite through,” he said.
“If there is a plebiscite, one hopes there is serious debate beyond ideological axe grinding.
“What is seriously dismaying about the same sex issue is the lack of serious debate about the deeper issues.
“And it could be up to the Church to ensure that there is a respectful debate – however deep the disagreement.”
By Mark Bowling