REPRESENTATIVES of Church organisations have seen opportunities as well as risks as Australia works through the implications of its post-election world.
Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) executive director Frank Quinlan said the shape of the new Federal Government after last weekend’s election “was difficult to predict” but “it seems clear to me that a large number of Australian voters rejected the traditional duopoly politics of the recent election campaign”.
Catholic Health Australia (CHA) chief executive Martin Laverty was reported on Monday as being concerned health reform would be stalled by a minority government trying to keep the support of independents to remain in power.
Caritas Australia chief executive officer Jack de Groot had similar concerns, noting “with national stability likely to dominate the post-election landscape, we’ll be urging our leaders not to neglect Australia’s responsibility to the world’s most vulnerable communities”.
Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) executive officer Peter Arndt said “a big message from the election outcome was the public is fed up with the current situation where too many politicians and their advisors are living in some sort of vacuum, disconnected from the community”.
The comments came as the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National Coalition continued negotiations with three independents and a Green candidate to decide which party formed Government.
Mr Quinlan said CSSA was looking for “two things from the current negotiations”.
“The first is an agreement that yields certainty and stability,” he said.
“It is in no-one’s interests to have single issues being traded off in some kind of bidding war.
“To the credit of the current players, this does not seem to be the case.
“Secondly, I would be hoping for a government that works harder to develop good social policy.
“That means a government that listens to those who are closest to the problem and considers evidence ahead of ideology.”
Mr Quinlan said Australians “should not lose sight of the fact that our political system is fundamentally stable, and this is something that all should celebrate”.
“Even in this period of interregnum, Australians still enjoy access to services and civil order. The same is not true in many parts of the world.”
Mr de Groot said “as Australia enters a new political era, we will be looking to the Government of the day to ensure Australia’s aid and development program delivers for the poorest of the poor”.
“Given the bipartisan support for Australia’s current commitment to official development assistance (0.5 per cent on Gross National Income by 2015) we are optimistic that Australia’s aid budget will at the very least be maintained under a minority government – as was the case in the United Kingdom earlier this year,” he said.
“But as the dust settles, we’ll be calling on the next Federal Government to strengthen Australia’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and move swiftly to deliver more aid, better aid and just aid for the long-term stability of our region.”
Mr Arndt said he was “deeply concerned about the major parties’ paralysis and stagnation on two major issues – indigenous affairs and climate change – where significant change is desperately needed”.
“Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisors are deeply concerned that both major parties are committed to the same course of action on indigenous policy,” he said.
“Both sides seem committed to the continuation of paternalistic approaches to addressing problems in indigenous communities.”
Mr Arndt said what also seemed likely under both Labor and Coalition was effective action on climate change would be put on the back burner.
“There is a need for substantial and urgent action and it does not seem that either side is willing to do this,” he said.