BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has challenged Australia’s political leaders to forge a “genuinely human economy” but warned that was not possible while politicians employed tactics rather than developed policy.
The Archbishop said short-sighted political decisions were working against an economy that should have people at its core.
“The economy can become an idol, as if it has a life of its own,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“We have to ask what a genuinely human economy would look like. One thing it would require is the development and long-term enactment of policy – a move beyond that short-term focus and the resort to mere tactics.
“Now, we have tactics rather than policy. As long as we’re caught up in that short-term and shallow world there is no way of having genuinely human politics and a genuinely human economy.”
Archbishop Coleridge’s comments, broadcast on an ABC Radio national forum, reflected the election statement released by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference which highlighted Pope Francis’ view that the economy “can become a kind of false god to which even beings have to be sacrificed”.
The bishops’ statement backed the pursuit of “a truly human society in which economic management serves human beings rather than the other way round”.
Archbishop Coleridge sympathised with the mainstream politicians who were struggling in a changing political landscape.
He said that volatile landscape was a significant factor in the repeated change in prime ministers.
“I feel for politicians because they’re being asked to do what is almost impossible. In this country, the expectations of the community are so inflated that no government could ever meet them,” he said.
“Governments aren’t trusted to do the things that are necessary for the good of the nation but, if they did that, they will lose power. There is a conundrum at work in this whole thing.
“In that sense, every government is doomed to failure so you have very short tenures, change of leaders and more frequent elections.
“I don’t think our political leaders are better or worse than they were but they are in a much more challenging environment in which it’s easier to win power but far harder to use it and therefore easier to lose it.”
Archbishop Coleridge said the Church was not immune from this changed landscape in which “micro powers” and “anti-politicians” were upending traditional power bases.
A recent Newspoll showed that a quarter of Australians were preparing to vote for minor parties at the July 2 election – the highest level for the non-major parties in more than three decades of polling during election campaigns.
“Christianity is far from over but we need to engage in ways that are quite new and creative and take account of that changed landscape that affects us, the Church, in the same way it affects the political class,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“There is a kind of collapse of the traditionally big powers. The big political parties aren’t what they once were and the big Church doesn’t have the influence in public life that it once had.
“With the collapse of the big and the fragmentation it implies you have the rise of anti-politicians like (US presidential hopeful Donald) Trump.
“Political power is far more constrained by the emergence of these micro powers.
“Power still matters but it isn’t what it used to be – anywhere.”
By Michael Crutcher