Friday, August 20, 2010

Are the Greens anti-Christian?

Is it possible for a Christian to vote for the Greens in good conscience?

Frank Brennan, Professor of Law at ACU, argues at Online Opinion that it is "unbecoming and unhelpful" for Christian leaders to single out the Greens as anti-Christian.
"If all the Greens' policies were truly classifiable as “anti-Christian”, I would have no problem with church leaders urging people to vote for another party. But given that some of their policies, and on issues which will be legislated in the next three years, are arguably more Christian than those of the major parties, I think it best that Church leaders maintain a discreet reticence about urging a vote for or against any particular political party."
All parties have positions unpalatable to a thoughtful Christian (though which ones are most repugnant may vary depending on a range of factors). It is only possible to vote while holding one's nose. One consideration in selecting the least worst is to weigh the relative importance of the various policies that one doesn't like; another is to estimate the likelihood of particular distasteful policies ever being implemented. Prof Brennan makes a good point: from a Christian perspective and taking the current political landscape and functioning of the Senate into account, the more objectionable Greens policies are far less likely to come up over the next six years than some of their more attractive positions.


Anonymous said...

Same Anon who asked you the first question here - thanks for all your answers. One of my friends, who knows I'm keen to vote along environmental lines, has encouraged me not to vote Greens because their policies are too drastic to ever be implemented - people aren't ready for the kind of changes they want. Therefore, he might argue, we should vote Labor (who got 50% on your scorecard) because at least they'll be able to achieve some good for the environment. (My friend also brought up the Greens 'anti-Christian' policies, but I think you dealt with that satisfactorily in this post).

Part of my response to my friend was that I don't actually want the Greens to have total power (and as you say, if they got it and sucked we could just vote them out). I just want to tell Canberra (all parties) that the environment matters to me, to 'this voter', in the hope that whoever's in charge will give the environment higher priority.

I do wonder, though, if my friend has a point in that the Greens blocked the ETS - if they get the balance of power in the Senate (which they probably will), will they continue to block the government's attempts to do some good for the environment as 'not good enough'? I.e. Would it be better if we all voted for Labor and got an ETS than for us to give the Senate to the Greens and get nothing?

Many thanks for your advice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Byron

I've been toying with a Christian vote for the Greens that goes beyond the Senate vote that Brennan suggests: a protest vote in the Lower House as a way of telling the Big Two they're barking up the wrong tree.

It's all a bit tricky really, but I'm finding solace in the fact that politics is always fraught...


Michael Canaris said...

As it happens, I'm in some measure of agreement with Brennan SJ there. While far from keen on the Greens (if I had my druthers, my party would place the ALP before them on its GTV), barring exceptional cases I don't think it proper or prudent for high-ranking clergy to effectively anathematize parties.

byron smith said...

arthurandtamie - Did you know that your primary vote is associated with funding so that it is both symbolic and gives about $2.50 of commonwealth funding to the party of your first preference?

Anon - You've raised a very important point and one that I think is a far more interesting critique of the Greens than what I usually hear from Christians, that is, that by aiming too high, they don't secure lesser victories that they might have otherwise achieved. The other Gruen ad (apart from the one that went viral) tried to make this very point.

It is certainly something to consider in general about the Greens, though I think regarding the ETS it is something of a distraction. Let me explain why.

I think there were (at least) four failures concerning the ETS, and the Greens were only (partially) responsible for the last and least of them.

The first and largest failure was the failure of the ALP to listen to its own Garnaut review, and so to propose an ETS so woefully unambitious and inadequate in its targets and and making so many concessions to big polluters that it was worthy of serious critique. It was hardly the courageous leadership on the issue that Rudd had promised.

The second and very significant failure was by the Liberals. In ditching Turnbull for Abbott, they replaced a man of principle, willing to do what he thought was right despite the views of many in his party, with an anti-scientific populist. Remember that the Coalition supplied by far the most votes against the ETS (aided also by Senators Fielding and Xenophon).

The third failure was by Rudd in not calling a double dissolution election on the issue once he had the trigger and when a clear majority of the voting population have been in support of action on climate for some time. Indeed, by doing so, he could have not only shown up the weakness of the opposition, but also would have had a very effective campaign angle against the Greens too. Even if he went down, he would have gone down as a man of principle, instead of his actual and rather more ignominious demise.

And then the final failure was the failure of the Greens to accept a deeply flawed and inadequate response. Without two Libs senators crossing the floor, then this Green opposition would have been irrelevant anyway, since Xenophon and Fielding plus the Coalition would have been enough to block it. This final failure is the most ambigious (and least blameworthy) of the four, not least because it was quite reasonable for the Greens to believe that Rudd was going to continue to pursue an ETS on "the greatest moral challenge of today" and so to hope that they could goad or negotiate him into something a little more ambitious.

Finally, the Greens proposed a very reasonable short term measure after the initial failure to pass the legislation. It was actually put forward by Garnaut's review as worth doing in any case, which was to put an interim price on carbon of say $20 a tonne. This would have signalled the government's intentions to the market and given certainty to industry and investment over where things were heading, while allowing more time to improve the design of the ETS. The ALP considered the idea and floated some balloons to test public perception, but then dropped it. Another failure.

So that's my 2c on the ETS. I'm happy to discuss it in more detail.

byron smith said...

Sorry I didn't have time to provide more links to back this account up, but I can do so if you need me to.

nico said...

Thanks so much for these links and thoughts Byron. I have really been feeling the tension between the Greens potential to influence Australia for good, and their potential for harm; and how as a Christian I can possibly resolve this tension for long enough to mark my ballot paper!! I have come to the conclusion that - this election at least - I can vote Greens in much sounder conscience than I could for the other major parties. Wish I didn't have to compromise at all (or vote for Bartlet... sigh), but as Pete wisely said, "At the end of the day just vote for the party with whom you disagree least"...!

byron smith said...

Nico - Glad I was able to help. Pete's advice is always wise!

Bartlett doesn't exist in the real world. He would be kicked out in pre-selection as dangerously principled.

byron smith said...

Here's a link back to the Greens' deadlock breaking proposal of an interim price on carbon. It was a good idea sadly neglected.

Mark Stevens said...

Hmm, I am watching the election coverage and the Greens have had a huge swing (no surprise) and they have started spruking gay marriage. Just saying...

David Palmer said...

the more objectionable Greens policies are far less likely to come up over the next six years than some of their more attractive positions.

I view this statement as pure speculation, and unwarranted to boot!

Byron, you have obviously missed out on recent changes in Victoria to abortion law, making availability of assisted reproductive technologies available to lesbians and single women, new surrogacy arrangements that can eliminate fathers from a child's birth certificate with up to 5 persons involved in the production of a child.

There are real social justice dimensions to these matters as real if not more real than environmental, refugee (ie the bypassing of UNHRC/IOM procedures) issues that are said to favour the Greens.

The consensus between the coalition and Labor on same sex marriage a very fragile one, with a majority at the last Labor Party Conference ready to move in the direction of same sex marriage but for the intervention of Kevin Rudd.

I also question the Green agenda in relation to climate change as detrimental to a nation's health and therefore paradoxically to the environment itself, but that is another story that you and I have discussed elsewhere.

Whilst, in line with Reformational two kingdom theology, I don't believe the Church should be in the business of telling people how to vote, in a personal capacity I would seek to discourage any fellow Christian from voting Green.

Having said that, I think it would be good for more Christians to become active politically with preferably either the Coalition or Labor as parties suitable to align with.

Christopher said...

@Mark I don't think the Greens 'started' spruiking gay marriage on election night - they have been pretty clear on that.

In fact they are pretty clear on most of their policies unlike the major parties. This clarity and openness - important traits that Christians should expect from politicians - is something that attracts me to the Greens.

In these debates about whether Christians should or shouldn’t vote for a particular party, I think that the practice of politics is neglected. While there may be debates around which party has policies that best represent a 'Christian worldview', it is also important to look at the practice of politics engaged in by the parties.

The duplicitous and obfuscated language that has infected the major parties, and is largely accepted by the public as being " just the way politics is" needs to be judged as a reflection of the party just as much as the policies.

There are other practices too – polls, factions, focus groups, generating fears etc

Basically my point is that the focus for Christians has for too long been on whether individuals in a party call themselves Christians or whether the policies are favourable to a Christian worldview, rather than whether the party practices politics in a 'Christian' manner.

byron smith said...

Christopher makes a good point, though it's worth noting that while they might on average be better procedurally (and personally, I find their website much easier to navigate to discover policies than either of the major parties), Greens candidates & members are of course perfectly capable of being just as nasty, fear-mongering and obstructionist as their colleagues across the spectrum. There is no monopoly on deceit and spin.

Mark - Christopher is right to point out that this has long been one of their policies and they make no secret of it. However, I agree with you that given such a big swing to the Greens under these circumstances, I doubt it is largely due to gay marriage. I am willing to be proved wrong by relevant data, but the obvious reading to me is that the Greens were receiving a protest vote from disgruntled ALP supporters over the ETS shelving. The swing away from the ALP was mainly to the Greens, not the Coalition, suggesting that the dissatisfaction was mainly coming from those who felt let down by the ALP but thought the Coalition was worse. Given the parties' positions (and actions) on climate and the timing of Rudd's loss of popularity, it's hard to say that climate policy wasn't a central driver for the Greens' popularity. Hence, politically, it would make most sense to be making noise about that on election night to show those voters who might have switched that you had "got" it.

byron smith said...

David - I have indeed missed some of those developments in Victoria and I don't deny that they are issues involving important questions of justice and ethics. Thanks for pointing them out.

I've never said anything other than that all parties are deeply compromised and so voting (a) can only ever be a small part of Christian political engagement and (b) can only be done while holding one's nose.

However, to say that the social justice dimension of these matters is "more real" than ecological justice or the plight of refugees seems a bridge or three too far and I'd need to hear some pretty good arguments to support that claim. Furthermore, the matters you raised (which I don't deny are important) fall largely within state jurisdiction.

You say that ecological justice or refugees "are said to favour the Greens". Do you think that there are parties whose policies on these issues (considered in isolation) are superior to the Greens?

David Palmer said...

Re Mark's comment, Adam Brandt who took Lindsay Tanner's seat of Melbourne has just nominated to Kerry O'Brien (ABC, 7.30 pm) same sex marriage as one of his key concerns in lending his support to Labor.

Commitment to progressive politics means a lot more than green politics.

David Palmer said...

Furthermore, the matters you raised (which I don't deny are important) fall largely within state jurisdiction.

Marriage is a Federal matter not a State matter.

Re other matters, you are correct, though with the tendency to centralisation (Canberra v States) don't count on sharp state/commonwealth boundaries.

Greens candidates & members are of course perfectly capable of being just as nasty, fear-mongering and obstructionist as their colleagues across the spectrum. There is no monopoly on deceit and spin.


David Palmer said...

Re refugee issue, I think the issue is not so cut and dried as you and Christopher and others may think.

I have had a lot to do with Sudanese refugees over the past 10 years who typically have spent many years in camps, principally in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya with no money to get them to Indonesia or for the boat trip to Australia. Please justify to me if you can why people with money should be able to bypass the sort of difficulties southern Sudanese incur in obtaining UNHCR/IOM/Australian Government approvals from refugee camps in Kenya, etc.

There is a larger political issue and that is the willingness of Australians to accept persons who bypass the normal procedures - at this point in time there does not seem sufficient support in the Australian community to accept the current level of boat arrivals.

Now you can rail (I'm not suggesting this of you personally) against (the majority of) the Australian public as well as the faintheartedness/immorality of the politicians but politicians are answerable in a democracy to the collective wishes of the population. The Greens may see themselves representing green/progressive interests and so only need to answer to a proportion of the Australian public, but in contrast both the coalition and Labor see themselves and present themselves as serving the interests of all Australians.

byron smith said...

with the tendency to centralisation (Canberra v States) don't count on sharp state/commonwealth boundaries.
Yes, you're right, though probably more in the long term on some of these issues. I doubt we're going to entirely abolish the States in the next couple of years (though there's a decent chance it could happen before too long).

Please justify to me if you can why people with money should be able to bypass the sort of difficulties southern Sudanese incur in obtaining UNHCR/IOM/Australian Government approvals from refugee camps in Kenya, etc.
I don't defend the difficulties refugees in camps face. The fact that 90% of boat people turn out to have their applications judged as valid shows that the vast majority of boat people are legitimately in fear of persecution and so are doing nothing illegal in seeking asylum in Australia. They have not bypassed the normal procedures and are not breaking the law if they have a valid claim, which about 90% of boat people generally do have (compared to only about half who arrive by plane).

The readiness of the Australian people to accept "the current level of boat arrivals" is largely irrelevant as to the moral question of whether they ought to be accepted and the leadership question of whether politicians play to our fears and exaggerate the size of the issue. Boat people represent a tiny fraction of Australian immigration and yet are presented as a "flood" by some politicians pandering to populist fears. That is irresponsible.

politicians are answerable in a democracy to the collective wishes of the population.
Politicians in a democracy, like all political authorities everywhere, are answerable to God. If they decide to pander to an immoral majority, then God will hold them to account.

If we take your argument, then politicians ought to make both euthanasia and homosexual marriage legal, as both are supported by large majorities.

The Greens may see themselves representing green/progressive interests and so only need to answer to a proportion of the Australian public, but in contrast both the coalition and Labor see themselves and present themselves as serving the interests of all Australians.
Evidence that the Greens hold a different position on whose interests they are representing?

byron smith said...

PS David - I'd love to know your thoughts on the DLP, esp given that it looks like they have scored a Victorian Senate seat.

David Palmer said...

I think in your reply to my question you have managed to avoid the (moral) issue I raised about the respective rights of those considered for acceptance into Australia as refugees: those who are stuck in deplorable conditions in an Ethiopian refugee camp versus those with money to make their way to Australia with money to present themselves as refugees. You may see no qualitative difference. I, and I expect others, see a difference.

I think you definitely underestimate the impact of democratic processes like 3 yearly elections on politicians. Yes, they may play to our fears as you say but they are still our fears that they are able to play to. Whether they exaggerate an issue rather depends on your point of view.

You speak of boat people being a tiny fraction of immigrant intake but in fact the number of boats arriving has jumped from 3 in Howard’s last year to 79 this year so far – that is a rather significant increase. The point about other immigration arrivals is that procedures laid down by the Australian Government are followed (if they are not, those caught as illegals are returned from whence they came). What you have with boat people is people bypassing procedures that others without money are not free to do. I think this is an issue with clear moral dimensions to it.

Re politicians being answerable to God – yes that it is true, but let’s be careful that we ourselves don’t try to play the role of God. My statement remains correct in a practical, real life setting - politicians are answerable in a democracy to the collective wishes of the population.

Politicians will make euthanasia and homosexual marriage legal if there is clear support in the Australian community without the chance of electoral backlash – that’s the way a democracy works. It is up to those who oppose euthanasia and homosexual marriage to do all they can as part of the democratic process to try to prevent such a thing happening, which is why I think a vote for the Greens a very poor moral judgment for Christians who seek to uphold the teaching of God’s Word, the Bible.

I suggest you might consider undertaking some reading in two kingdom theology and natural law theology – David van Drunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms – a study in the development of Reformed Social Thought would make a good start.

The DLP is a socially conservative, largely Catholic Party. I would judge a DLP presence in Parliament to be a good thing.

Christopher said...

Hi David and Byron,

Sorry if this is rambling or if there are misplaced apostrophe’s :)

Every person’s heart is blemished with sin, every ideal and project is infected with corruption, every ascription of guilt and innocence saddled with noninnocence. Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, p. 84.

I read this section from Volf this morning and I think it is important to remember when dissecting different political parties.

In what I said about the practice of politics I wasn’t suggesting the Greens in pursuit of their ‘projects and ideals’ avoid the ‘infection of corruption’. I do think that due to a number of factors – namely they are guided by a clearer ideological structure, rather than the polls – they are less likely to fall back on double-speak and cant. However, the emphasis of my comment was not so much ‘Christians should vote Green because they are straight-shooters’ but that the practice of politics should be equally, perhaps even more, of a concern for Christians as the substance of politics.

David said... those who are stuck in deplorable conditions in an Ethiopian refugee camp versus those with money to make their way to Australia with money to present themselves as refugees. You may see no qualitative difference. I, and I expect others, see a difference.

The first thing I note about this scenario is that my wife’s grandparents fled the Russian revolution with diamonds and gold sewn into the coats on their backs, enabling them to get to China and then to Australia – is this something they should be ashamed of? The second thing I note about this scenario is that it is always the better resourced in the best position to negotiate extreme situations. If calamity were to visit Sydney requiring my family to flee we have a variety of options available to us – regionally, domestically, and internationally – does that make us less deserving of kindness or compassion if we needed it? I believe that what the majority of Australians should see in David’s scenario is that they would be in the position of ‘refugees with money’.

The solution to the ‘poor’ refugees in Kenyan camps compared to ‘cashed-up’ refugees arriving via boat from Indonesia is not to make it harder for the latter because they have a) financial resources or b) a fleeing a country closer to Australia. The Australian government needs to look seriously at making it easier for refuges to arrive safely in Australia – whether they are coming from Africa or South-East Asia. The solution is not to make it more difficult for people to arrive in Australia.

For a decade people have been focusing on ‘queue jumpers’, but no one has paid too much to concern to either why there is a ‘queue’ and why is it so stalled forcing people to ‘jump it’. While I think the metaphor is mistaken Australia has a responsibility to reduce and quicken the ‘queue’ not blame and chastise the desperate people in it.

Christopher said...


I think these two statements need to go together:
David said ...politicians are answerable in a democracy to the collective wishes of the population.


...they may play to our fears as you say but they are still our fears that they are able to play to.

Obviously a large part of the democratic process is for politicians to respond to the population; however there is also the importance of leading the population, even to the extent that it may contravene the ‘collective wish’ – they then have a number of years to demonstrate that they are leading in the right direction.

Julia Gillard was right to acknowledge people’s fears and anxieties over boat people, but as PM she needed to lead people out of that fear and anxiety, not simply acknowledge its presence. John Rawls wrote “the politician looks to the next election, the statesman to the next generation.” And while these sentiments may seem like clichés and platitudes (probably due to cynical state of politics we are bound by), the role of leadership, of statesmanship has been in decline as politicians have sought to follow focus groups and opinion polls rather than lead the people based on any kind of moral/philosophic/ideological compass. Which brings me back to my initial point…

Martin Kemp said...

Hi Byron,
Given the talk of gay marriage by the Greens since the election I think it's getting harder to accept the line that the more distasteful polices (from a Christian perspective) are unlikely to be put on the table.
Methinks it's time for us all to put that hopeful assumption aside.

byron smith said...

Christopher - Yes, I am with you all the way. I agree that process is very important and that we ought to be concerned about it. I also agreed that the Greens are better than average on these matters. Your comments about poll-iticians vs statesmen (and women) is still very apt. It is a failure of our political system that those who pay too much attention to polls are often rewarded. It is also a failure that we have three year cycles, which is too short and encourages that kind of behaviour.

However, I think that this time, both parties were punished (esp ALP) for not standing for anything much. I read the large swing to the Greens as a protest vote against ALP lack of spine (seen both in ditching ETS and the leadership change).

Marty - It's not as though the Greens only started mentioning gay marriage since the election. And it's also not as though there aren't a huge number of issues likely to come up.

I suspect that the "Greens issues" almost certain to come up during the term of this crop of senators (6 years) will be: (a) climate change legislation putting a price on carbon, (b) funding of renewables, (c) balance of mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate, (d) immigration and refugees, (e) mining tax, (f) international climate negotiations, (g) international biodiversity negotiations, (h) taxation equity, (i) internet censorship, (j) indigenous affairs.

Reasonably likely to come up: (a) response to further global financial crisis, (b) Australian response to US hostilities towards Iran, (c) international treaty concerning the protection of the oceans, (d) creation of more marine reserves, (e) response to peak oil and increased international tensions over oil and increasing fuel prices, (f) health regulations (state/federal relations over health provision), including many details of how things are run and funded, (g) workplace relations laws (esp if Libs get in either this time or next time).

Decent chance of coming up, but far from certain: (a) changes to marriage laws, (f) outside chance of something on euthanasia, (g) something related to abortion laws could make a showing (though this is mainly State).

Very unlikely to come up: (a) prohibition of scripture in schools (is a state issue anyway), (b) needle exchanges "on every corner" (as Family First put it), (c) the silencing of Christians and their incarceration for preaching the gospel. These are all highly unlikely in the next six years because they are not Greens policies, though they seem to lurk in the shadows for some Christians in discussing the Greens.

I'm sure I haven't been comprehensive (nor was I trying to be) and we can argue about the relative likelihood of various items. I wasn't trying to be particularly precise. My point was simply that there are far more issues on the table than marriage laws. And, dare I say it, some of these issues are more important than how the state acknowledges stable homosexual relationships (not that that issue is minor or irrelevant, simply not as important as whether we have a sane response to peak oil or biodiversity loss).

I am no fan of the Greens on many matters, but I am even less of a fan of the major parties on many more matters, many of which are very likely to come up. I didn't vote Greens first, but I certainly didn't vote for a major party first either.

byron smith said...

David - I thought Christopher's response concerning asylum seekers was on the money, though a few further points may be worth making.

Asylum seekers with well-founded fears that their home country won't protect them are perfectly entitled to seek refuge in another country. They are not doing something illegal in coming here (under either Australian or international law). They are saving their own lives and the lives of their families. The fact that the government agrees that about 90% of them are indeed in severe danger vindicates their desperate actions as quite reasonable. If you haven't already done so, watch this.

Also, asylum seekers who arrive in Australia (whether by boat or plane (as 90% of those who seek asylum do)) are not rich people jumping a queue with poor people at the back of it waiting in their home country. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has separate categories and quotas for onshore and offshore humanitarian refugees.

As Christopher said, Australia can certainly afford to increase its offshore intake, since we don't take a huge number of refugees compared to other developed nations. On a per capita basis Australia is ranked 38th, slightly behind Kazakhstan, Guinea, Djibouti and Syria (that link is a little out of date, but still in the right ballpark). This can be done while also processing onshore asylum seekers humanely and without playing on the fears of the electorate for political gain.

The number of boats has far less to do with government policies and far more to do with the prevailing international conditions and the ebb and flow of international and national conflicts. The numbers have been rising under Rudd not because he was "soft", but nearly all countries have seen rising refugees numbers recently for a range of reasons. UNHCR’s figures show a 50% reduction of asylum seekers arriving in all industrialised countries between 2001 and 2006 (down to a 20-year low in 2007) followed by a continual increase after 2007 (esp from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the two major sources of recent boat people), indicating that Australia’s figures closely matched global trends irrespective of specific policy changes. Our numbers are "far below those recorded by many other industrialized countries".

I'm curious, David, are you seriously defending the Howard government's approach on this matter? Or am I misreading your comments?

byron smith said...

As for two kingdom theology, thanks for the references, though I'm fairly familiar with it. I just happen to disagree with it as an approach to Christian political theology. You might like to read O'Donovan's critique in The Desire of the Nations.

David Palmer said...

Hi Guys, happy to pursue refugee issue at later date, too much on my plate at present.

However, two other issues worth considering. Difficulties of Sudanese integrating plus needs of the their homeland have led me to consider resettlement in southern Sudan as difficult as that may be as a better way to proceed. This argument can be extended to other groups: Lebanese, Afghans, Sri Lankans. Also there is the issue of introducing racial and religious tensions (however deplorable we may consider this to be) into the refugee accepting nation - here I'm thinking of various UK difficulties, tension in Paris slums with regular car fires, Islamists planning/executing terrorism - already in Sydney and Melbourne in last year we have had trials and men found guilty of planning terrorism - Governments and general populace are not necessarily being racist in being concerned about these matters.

Byron, is there an accessible link to O'Donovan's critique of 2K theology, regarding which I might add (together with natural theology applied to the civil kingdom) has been rather standard stuff in Lutheran/Reformed thought from earliest days and largely in line with earlier thinkers like Augustine and Gelasius especially.

Is O'Donovan Barthian?

David Palmer said...

Several interesting articles in press today on the Green phenomenon.

From Andrew Bolt, The Greens are Labor’s One Nation

and from Paul Kelly, Minorities will be held to account.

Interesting days, that for sure.

byron smith said...

Sorry - I'm afraid I'm not aware of a good summary of O'D's take on two kingdom theology at the moment, though if you look in The Desire of the Nations, chapters 3 and 6 you get the guts of it. He's not Barthian. He's an O'Donovanian. :-)

In other news, an agreement between the Greens and ALP is being thrashed out. Here is what it is looking like at the moment (from the SMH:

"In return for Mr Bandt's support, Ms Gillard has offered to set up a climate change committee, make investments in dental care as well as $20 million to look at high-speed rail on the east coast.

"There will also be a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan and restrictions placed on political donations.

"The government had also agreed to move towards holding a referendum to change the constitution to recognise indigenous people and local government, Senator Brown said.

"The climate change committee, operating at cabinet level, would move towards setting a price on carbon."

So climate change (price on carbon), dental care, high-speed rail, political funding reform, Afghanistan, indigenous and local government recognition in constitution. No gay marriage (since they "didn't reach an agreement on that matter") and yet the Greens are "happy" with this agreement. Shows that gay marriage wasn't non-negotiable.

Martin Kemp said...

Just heard on 702:
"Euthanasia is top of Bob Brown's agenda": comment on his intension to push a bill as soon as parliament sits again.

C'mon Byron, I think its time to admit the more distasteful policies are right at the top. They are more front and centre than you would have liked to have believed.

byron smith said...

"[V]oting is only ever possible while holding one's nose. I've rarely voted with much confidence and never without some degree of regret, often quite deep."

byron smith said...

BTW, re David's question about a good introduction to O'Donovan's thought: I've learned recently that one of his ex-students, Joshua Hordern, is working on such a task. Stay tuned.

byron smith said...

(NB It's probably important to note that euthanasia was not top of Bob Brown's agenda when he was negotiating with the ALP after the election. That seems to have been climate change, and the formation of the climate change committee is the first result).

byron smith said...

ABC: The godless Greens? There is a striking gap between what is often said about the Greens and what the many Christians within the Greens say about themselves.

If you don't have time to read the whole thing, then here is the conclusion:
"Christians, like other Australians, hold different opinions about the appropriate response to environmental problems. Despite occasional references to a supposed "Christian vote," Australian Christians have never voted as a bloc. Nevertheless, some church and political leaders have portrayed one party, the Greens, as "anti-Christian," "pagan," "atheist" or "anti-religious." Prima facie, this claim seems challenged by the numbers of Christians who have represented the Greens as candidates, including the first Greens to sit in each chamber of the federal Parliament. Interviews with Greens candidates who identified as practising Christians, exploring the connections they drew between their theological and political commitments, found that they understood their choice of party as being not in spite of, but as an expression of, their religious beliefs. In addition to environmental concerns, human rights was a paramount motivation, especially Australia's treatment of asylum seekers.

"Claims that the Greens are "anti-Christian," "pagan," "atheist" or "anti-religious" are often justified by reference to aspects of the party's social policy, such as marriage equality and support for a right to assisted voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill. These topics are often the subject of heated debate within churches, and public opinion surveys suggest that support for such positions enjoys similar levels of support among Christians as in the general population. The candidates interviewed saw the Greens' position as a valid expression of a Christian ethic.

"In addition to reservations about social policy, claims that the Greens are "anti-Christian," "pagan," "atheist" or "anti-religious" have sometimes rested on the idea that concern for the environment is akin to "nature-worship" or to various heretical positions such as Gnosticism, antinomianism or Manichaeism, and that support for the Greens represents a fundamental assault on the philosophical roots of "Western" or "Judaeo-Christian" civilisation. As far as my historical study has been able to ascertain, these ideas were first introduced into Australian political discourse not by theologians but by mining executives. That at least some of those promoting the "Godless Greens" theme in the public arena today, although speaking under the mantle of parachurch organisations, nevertheless share financial interests with those who stand to lose financially from Greens policies (such as a carbon price, mining tax and higher use of renewable energy), should be a further reason to exercise caution about such claims."