It’s not for me to tell you how to vote this coming Saturday but I do want to remind you to think Christianly about your vote. So to stimulate your thinking let me share three particular ‘gripes’.
Gripe number one is that politics in Australia in the last few decades has been less and less about parties and policies and more and more about people and personalities. A stranger from another country could be forgiven for thinking that the whole Federal Election is being fought solely between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. Political leaders often further that kind of thinking by the way they talk about what they have done and what they will do – rather than about the policies of their party. I don’t want to play down the importance of party leadership. Political parties need good leaders. But many of us have struggled with this issue of personality over recent years as we have seen leaders dumped mainly because of unpopularity in the polls. We live in an era where we tend to judge who will vote for on the basis of which leader has the most charisma or which leader has the best television persona. We need to ask, what’s more important: policies or personalities? Please do some investigation into the policies of the various parties.
Gripe number two is that when we do look at personalities we are increasingly being told these days that what a person does in private has no impact on their position in public life. We’ve recently witnessed in federal politics what became known as the Peter Slipper saga. There was a reluctance on the part of the parties to deal with the matter because people argued that this was private business that didn’t affect their work. We hear that argument often: the private life of a politician has nothing to do with his public life. I strongly disagree. In the Christian church leadership is based very much on one’s private life being reasonably in order. Of course no leader is ever perfect but when you read the requirements for office in Scripture you find a checklist of values in private life that need to be in order. Should we expect anything less from our nation’s leaders? How can we trust someone when there is a credibility gap in their private life? Some candidates should not be re-elected.
Gripe number three is that at election time the major parties all play Santa Claus. So much of the debate in these last couple of weeks has centred on the hip pocket. That has been the issue not only in promises of tax relief (scrapping the carbon tax) but it is also the bottom line in the promised parental leave scheme. Of course these things are not unimportant, but the problem is that few people are stopping to address the principial policy issues. So I guess most people will vote on the basis of them thinking themselves as being better off financially under the party of their choice. Whether the nation will be better off in the long run hardly comes into question. One should not forget either that election promises are notoriously quick to be broken or amended.
You’ll be asked to vote next Saturday. Make sure it’s a thoughtful vote and that you are not taken in by personalities and promises – there are bigger issues at stake.