SEAN Cleary is on side with Australia’s Catholic bishops who have urged the faithful to vote on behalf of the “voiceless” at the upcoming federal election.
Mr Cleary, who works for Catholic advocacy group Edmund Rice Centre, said there was no evidence in the election campaign that the dignity of the voiceless was a priority for Australia’s two major political parties.
“Human dignity is being given a secondary value,” he said.
Mr Cleary identified young people and indigenous groups as voiceless Australians, but said their issues were displaced by a heavier focus on economic growth.
“Young people are now in a materialistic society that is so focused on economic growth that it seems to destroy the planet rather than acting in stewardship of the Earth,” he said.
“It’s a failed economic model that doesn’t protect the dignity of young people who are hoping to find their place in society.”
Mr Cleary was among eligible Catholic voters from Church, community and lobby groups who welcomed a statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to “vote for the voiceless” at this year’s Federal election.
He said both the Labor and Liberal parties had not challenged the “dominant paradigm” that served a materialistic society.
“It is emblematic of that same underlying illness where human dignity is placed after the sense of success or winning,” Mr Cleary said.
The bishops’ statement, released on May 16, asked voters to remember “the unheard and unseen”, those who were most affected by what Pope Francis termed “a throw-away culture”.
“The voices of the thrown-away people will not be heard in the long and rowdy campaign,” the statement said.
“Yet unless their voices are somehow heard and their faces seen, we will not have a truly human society in which economic management serves human beings rather than the other way round.”
In pushing for a balanced election campaign, the bishops also asked Australian voters to identify the voiceless in their communities and vote in their favour and how the country could care for them.
Judy Haines, who is a retired doctor and a member of Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, said her vote would go towards policies protecting asylum seekers, people with serious mental health issues, the intellectually impaired and the unborn.
“Asylum seekers are an obvious case, as they have no voice because they are afraid to do anything that might jeopardise their chances (of living in Australia),” Mrs Haines said.
“All people with serious mental health (issues) and the intellectually impaired people, they’re a voiceless group who find it hard to be heard.
“And then the unborn is huge, as they are totally voiceless.”
Mrs Haines said priority was being given to Australia’s rich and powerful.
“Who are the people with the most voices?
Well, in this society, with capitalism gone made, it is those who have money, the people in power, they have the voice,” she said.
Mrs Haines said protecting the voiceless would require a “total rethink as to what our priorities are”.
She suggested Catholics turn to Pope Francis for guidance.
“As Church people we can push Laudato Si’ because it says more than just conserving the planet, but it’s a total rethink of what our priorities are,” she said.
Queensland Community Alliance has also focused on communal solutions ahead of the Federal election.
QCA Logan Assembly community organiser Devett Kennedy said several unions and Church communities, including the Bracken Ridge Catholic parish, would be holding forums to find “community-led solutions” on issues like retail and hospitality penalty rates, asylum seekers and people with mental health issues.
Citing the bishops, who said some policies could undermine marriage and family, Mr Kennedy said many personal stories he had heard so far were around policies that were putting pressure on marriages.
But the bishops lamented support that marriage and family – with Labor leader Bill Shorten promising to make same-sex marriage legal if they win the election – would not be “a big vote-winner”.
Australian Family Association spokesman Luke McCormack said it was time for lay Catholics “to stand up and be counted” on family and marriage issues, including IVF, abortion and same-sex marriage.
“Indeed the human person has been trivialised in Australia and usually through commercial interests,” Mr McCormack said.
“After all, the laity will be the first victims of anti-family policy,” he said.
“Who will stand up?”
By Emilie Ng