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Monday, 01 April 2019 07:48

The Federal Election and the Art of the Possible

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Australians will be going to the polls in May, with only two possible outcomes: a Liberal government, headed by Scott Morrison, which will be ostensibly 'conservative' or 'right-wing', or a Labor government, a 'progressive' or 'left-wing' one, led by Bill Shorten.

As with last year's Viktorian state election, the watchword among Christians, especially pro-lifer Christians, is "keep Labor out." However, in that election, despite intese lobbying, Labor stayed in power and significantly, enjoyed a swing in its favour across most of the state.

There is, perhaps, a little hope that this pattern won't be repeated in the federal election, though. With the announcement of this year's budget, the Liberals envisage their plan will resonate more strongly with ordinary, overtaxed voters than will Labor's pie-in-the-sky plan for electric cars and emissions targets, on top of penalties for investors and free abortions in every hospital. But a Liberal government is only a marginal improvement over a Labor one. The liberals are notoriously vague when it comes to protecting religious freedom, for example.

Overall, the main problem with elections is that too few Australians vote according to morality; most vote according to party loyalty or to infrastructure or environmental policies. But as pro-lifers, voting for parties who are known to defend human life should always be the priority. We really do believe that once a nation gets the life issues right, everything else falls into place. A government committed to defending human life from conception will naturally enact tax policies that benefit the families who are going to care for those lives. Similarly, a government that doesn't rely on mass immigration to bolster its population will allow for infrastructure to develop more organically, rather than needing to accomodate an influx of tens of thousands of adults and children into major population areas with a frenzy of construction projects.


The Balance of Power

In a Federal Election, there is no chance of electing a pro-life party in the House of Representatives - the Lower House - where government is formed. Labor's commitment to providing unnatural death at both ende of the spectrum is well known to us all. And the Liberal Party, although once ostensibly pro-life, has shown no will to reform abortion law for the better or even to  curtail the number of abortions committed in the nation. Many Liberal members even approve of exclusion-zones. As has been the case for decades, the small, prolife voice heralded by the very few strongly prolife Liberal and Labor politicians is quickly stifled by the hostile pro-death voices in the chambers of our government and by the equally hostile media.

However, we do have the chance to make our vote count in the Senate, which is the Upper House. It is here that an independent or minor party Senator hold the balance of power and cast a vote that is crucial for a specific piece of legislation. That vote is secured by one of the major parties in exchange for the independent a supporting a piece of legislation dear to the minor party. 

An example of this is when pro-life Senator Brian Harradine backed the Howard government's partial sell-off of Telstra in the 90's, in exchange for their help in the initial banning of the abortion drug, RU-486 and also ensuring no foreign aid funds were involved in supplying abortion services. Senator Harradine wasn't in a position to ban abortions or to attempt to bring in any kind of abolitionist policy, but he did the best he could do in the position he held. Brian Harradine was totally pro-life - 100% - until the day he died. His legacy is one of admiration from within the pro-life community and notoriety from without. Senator Harradine was said to 'get the maximum benefit from his vote', embodying the 'art of the possible' philosophy which underpins modern politics.

Leader of the Australian Conservatives, Cory Bernardi, has given me his personal assurance that he will oppose any moves by Labor to expand abortion access, should they win the election. Bernardi is pro-life and has publicly stated this many times, both in the media and in the Senate, where he has commented on sex-selection abortions and other issues surrounding abortion and euthanasia. He is very sympathetic to the legal battle against abortion exclusion-zones, and is concerned about those laws' ramifications for free speech. Many members of this party have good pro-life credentials: Victorian senate candidate, Kevin Bailey, Queensland candidate, Lyle Shelton, NSW candidate, Sophie York, are the cause for hope that some good can be achieved in the Senate. The DLP is apparently planning to put up Senate candidates, as well; the defence of human life is written into their platform.

We have to be willing to show people like this our support, knowing that abortion will be legal - or at least freely available - in this country for some time to come. It is simply not realistic to expect the tiny minority of pro-life politicians to make much headway in this regard while the culture itself demands abortion on the current scale. That isn't to say that we should allow them to be silent on the very important life issues, but only that we can't expect them to achieve the impossible.


The Art of the Possible

'The art of the possible', is a quote which is attributed to Otto von Bismarck, the 19th Century German Chancellor. The saying may have good or bad connotations, depending on one's interpretation, but these days is often used as way of acknowledging that we need to be realistic when it comes to our expectations of politicians.

As Paul O'Rourke, of Emily's Voice, says, 'culture change precedes any political will to change abortion policy.' This means that politicians (in the major parties) will only listen when they percieve that sociey itself wants a change. 

So consider our culture: it demands death.

Death on the big screen, via obsessive reprises of superheroes, and death on the small screens, via video games - even childish, animated ones ones trivialise death and reward killers. Death is glamorised by academics who fly to Switzerland to end their lives, making an assisted suicide clinic seem like a sophisticated travel destination. Our culture decries death by terrorism then clamours for the death of the terrorist's innocent acquaintances. And then there's the death of the babies.

Oh, how much death! Millions upon millions of tiny lives have been slaughtered under the banner of Choice.

How long will it be until a culture like ours ends its love affair with abortion? Or to be more precise, how long until it ends its love-hate relationship with abortion - for our nation's reliance on it is a very unhealthy and schitzophrenic one. Most people want abortion to be legal, but don't wish to ever need one, or wish for their daughter to have one. Most people can stomach the idea of earlier abortions, when the tiny fetus hasn't yet developed fully and looks less cute and baby-like, but are shocked at the thought of a late-term one. Those who are firmly committed to the protection of human life at all its stages are few and far between.

Short of an act of God - and I'm not ruling out that happening - the process to building a culture that protects its most vulnerable is a long way off.

We are right at the beginning of our legal pushback against abortion.

The High Court challenge to exclusion-zones is the first major abortion-related legal challenge in Australia's history. It typically takes many, many such test cases in order to turn back the tide of abortion law. Matt Britton's report on exclusion-zone law in the US, found elsewhere on this site, is evidence of that. It has taken many attempts at challenging abortion in that country to make some gains.  


Building a Culture of Virtue

And that's only the legal realm. A massive re-education in the virtues is needed - not the kind of radical sexualised, self-indulgent curricula imposed on us by subversive governments. Rather, the kind of education needed is that which should be at the heart of all our relationships: knowing that we were created to know God, to love Him and serve Him and live a virtuous life here on earth, with the view to our eternal destination in heaven. This can only be achieved through honest dialogue which builds trust and confirms what each person needs to know - that they were willed into existence by a loving God and have a purpose in this world.

This is part of the fundmental education undertaken within families, and among friends. Those tiny communities create a spirit of gratitude for life which should flow on throughout society, at least, it should when Christians are doing their job well. And it is gratitude that will end abortion.

Gratitude will ensure that preborn children are never considered a burden to be disposed of.

Politicians, no matter how much integrity they possess, and no matter how strong their prolife credentials, cannot legislate gratitude onto the human heart. The law does not make man virtuous. As Timothy Gordon, in his book, Catholic Republic, says, "True virtue, the goal of our liberty, should therefore be seen as a product of the home, never the state." The law, and the politicians responsible for enacting the law, can never replace the family or its wider community, as an educator in virtue.

Ryan Messmore of the Heritage Foundation puts it this way: 

"Virtuous citizens, however, are motivated by a desire for the good; they are drawn forward by a love of the right objects, not merely pushed from behind by the law to fulfill certain obligations or avoid certain misdeeds. Government can undergird aspirations for political goods such as justice and equality, but it is not as equipped as other institutions to cultivate virtuous desires for many other important ends."

All of this goes to remind us that our elected representatives can't be blamed when they fail to achieve the impossible. We must support the good ones, encourage the weak ones and vote out the bad ones. And when the culture has sufficiently plumbed the depths of its sin and murder and woundedness, then legislating to defend the sanctity of life will return to the realm of the probable, and then finally become an impertative.



Kathy Clubb

Founder and Editor of The Freedoms Project

Kathy has been active in pro-life work for 6 years and was involved in a constitutional challenge to Victoria’s exclusion-zone laws. She is the Melbourne co-ordinator for Family Life International and is a member of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. Kathy began writing about pro-life and Catholic issues at Light up the but broadened her range of topics as she came to learn more about the many threats to freedom which are common to all Christians.

Kathy home-educates her youngest 6 children and considers her family to be her most important pro-life work.