PETER Kindness finds beauty and quiet pleasure in birdwatching by Moreton Bay.
It’s a cherished pastime for the 80-year-old former union leader, who has known the rough and tumble of politics, has faced death and found God’s renewal, and stands up for his beliefs.
He’s been a staunch Labor supporter, was arrested for demonstrating during the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era, and is now speaking out against Labor’s proposed abortion laws in Queensland.
But around sunset at Wynnum, with his binoculars ready, Peter is fascinated by God’s simple mysteries, marveling at migrating birds that flock to the foreshore, then travel to Siberia and back each year.
“Seeing this, how can people not believe in the great Creator of the universe?” he said.
“I’m sure we don’t understand why it happens but there has to be a reason. It’s the wonder of creation.
“If it’s got feathers I want to look at it.”
Peter sees a clear a connection between his passion for birdwatching, the mystery of creation and the importance of standing up for the rights of the unborn.
“God created us, every life that comes into being is a gift from God,” he said.
“It has a purpose. It goes through a gestation, and in that moment it brings enormous joy and expectation to the parents, generally.
“It prepares both the man and woman for something beautiful … and when the baby is born it is awesome to see the beautiful creation.”
Peter grew up in an Anglican family, at one time considered the priesthood, undertook theological studies and converted to become Catholic 20 years ago, while a member of the Neocatechumenal Way in Wynnum’s Guardian Angels parish.
In 1980, doctors diagnosed him with a lung tumour and he was given six months to live.
In his grief, he remembers praying to God “Lord, when I die and come to you, I want to be acceptable to You – what do You want me to do? Make peace with the people I have hurt or even destroyed?”
“In the night, a voice came to me and said ‘Peter, you come as you are’,” he said.
“I woke up a different person.”
A day before major lung surgery, Peter had final X-rays “that revealed whatever was in there was shrinking” and surgery was cancelled.
“I had accepted I was going to die, now I prayed to God saying: You have given me back my life, what do you want me to do with it?” he said.
Peter will always cherish the answer that came to him: “I want nothing. The gift of life is free”.
Along his winding spiritual journey he has not wavered in conviction about the precious nature of life, and the importance of opposing abortion.
“The problem with abortion – they (supporters of the Queensland bill) talk about it being a women’s health issue, but many, many times the woman has no choice because of the pressures put on her,” Peter said.
While undertaking a clinical pastoral education course at Lifeline, Peter took a call from a woman who had been advised by her well-meaning friends that her third pregnancy would ruin her future plans for an overseas holiday with her husband.
They both sought counsel at a family planning clinic and the woman was advised to have an abortion, and she did.
Grief-stricken from having had the abortion, the woman rang the Lifeline number five times during the day.
She was hysterical and incoherent pleading for someone to take away the unbearable pain and grief she was suffering because of the horror of what she had done in terminating her baby’s life.
“Every time I recall the incident, I pray for her and her family,” Peter said.
“Apart from taking the life of a child, it has marked this woman to live in grief for the rest of her life.
“I pray the Queensland Government will have a rethink and become better informed before going ahead with its ill-conceived plan that will bring so much pain and suffering to ill-advised women.”
During his working life, Peter rose to become a Telecom senior technical officer (installing automatic telephone exchanges throughout Brisbane) and an assistant secretary of the ATA – the telecommunication workers union.
As a Labor supporter (but never a party member), he was at odds with the policies of the state government, especially during the latter days of uncompromising-conservative Country (later National) Party premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
He was one of about 30 members of a group called Concerned Christians arrested and taken to the police watch-house during an anti-government rally in a New Farm park near an electricity depot belonging to the South East Queensland Electrical Generating Board (SEQEB).
In an ugly and prolonged industrial dispute, the Bjelke-Petersen government had sided with SEQEB that wanted to be able to employ cheaper casual staff – and sacked 1000 Electrical Trades Union staff.
Peter remembers discussing with his wife Deidre the possible dire consequences if he was arrested because “Joh had passed legislation that meant our homes could be confiscated if found guilty of ‘harassing’”.
“We were standing under a cross praying,” Peter said.
“We had priests with us, from different denominations, Fr Pascoe was one of them, and a policeman hauling me to a police van said ‘What are you doing this for, mate?’
“I said ‘We are praying for everybody. We’re praying for Joh, we’re praying for the workers and we’re praying for the people’.”
In a full High Court case in which most of the Concerned Christians were represented by Tony Fitzgerald QC, Peter, unrepentant, chose to represent himself.
“I told the judge ‘I’m at the mercy of the court’,” he said.
The judge dismissed all allegations, against the Concerned Christians and Peter, including praying in public and harassing workers.
“I thought I was doing the right thing. Taking a stance against dictatorial behaviour,” Peter said.
At other times, as a union leader, Peter remembers speaking out to protect workers’ rights.
“I saw very clearly that there had to be some organisation to protect the livelihood of the people in the workforce and ensure that their families were able to live in reasonable comfort and enjoy the benefits of our society,” he said.
“I very rarely came across management that had a compassionate heart. They thought differently.
“At the same time there were some hardliners in the (union) movement – if anybody opposed you, they were an enemy. I didn’t see it that way.”
Decades later, Peter said he had “lost faith” with the labour movement.
He remains annoyed at federal Labor’s vote “Yes” stance during the same-sex marriage debate, and for the State Government’s support for abortion.
“Their reason for existing had shifted from caring for people in the industrial sphere into an area that they had no right to be involved in,” he said.
“Marriage is a sacrament of the Church given to us by God.
“And then with abortion – I honestly can’t comprehend how they could do it.
“(Queensland Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk is introducing legislation to kill babies in the womb right up to full term. And on the whim of whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
“Is it any different to Hitler – any different to eugenics?”
Peter said he would be knocking on the door of his local state MP – in his case, Labor’s Joan Pease representing Lytton – asking that she used her conscience vote to oppose abortion laws.
“And I would be advising every Queenslander to do the same,” he said.