Federal Election Begins
My campaign effectively started a week before the announcement of the date. I was invited as one of the prospective candidates for Chisholm to participate in a panel discussion at the Syndal Baptist Church. I have been a candidate in the past but I had never spoken before a church congregation so I accepted the invitation with some trepidation. This was accentuated by the fact that I am agnostic and lack experience in interacting with the religious elements of our community. My concerns however were put to rest by the very welcoming and accepting nature of our hosts. They were interested in what we had to say and withheld any personal judgements they may have had for the ballot box.
Every candidate was asked the same questions. The pivotal one was what two or three things we would want to change in Australia if we were Prime Minister. I think the spirit of this question is to ask us what our wishes are for our nation but I focused on the letter of the question in that it refers to the Prime Minister whose powers are in truth very limited. I therefore stressed that the PM is merely the most important of our Federal Parliamentarians and that nobody in our democratic society gets things exactly as they want them. I stated that if I were PM I would hope that there would be limits put on my power - in particular I wished for nobody to have a majority in the Senate so that debate and compromise were once more necessary aspects of government decision-making.
This is principally why I am standing - to draw attention to the good work of the Australian Democrats in the Senate and to assist in the re-election of Senator Lyn Allison.
I also described how I wanted to see political relations in Australia conducted with respect and regard for others despite the differences that exist between us. In saying this I stressed that these differences take many forms but are all deserving of understanding. These included...
* Differences of birth such as gender or ethnicity: Too much of politics in Australia has been catering to base prejudice.
* Differences of circumstances such as income level: How well-off we are is only ever something we partly control and we deserve the consideration and support of others.
* Differences of personal life choice: The best decisions are well-informed decisions that are freely made. Everyone thinks differently and will make different decisions as a result and we have to accept these if we are to survive as a society.
The intersect between religion and politics is a tricky one. I am a strong supporter of the separation of church and state but I also recognise that in a democracy the values of religious persons will affect the political actions they take. With this in mind I have observed that Australian politics attracts both 'Compulsion Christians' (those who want to compel us to all live as they do) and 'Compassion Christians' (those who accept that they have a mission to improve the quality-of-life of all living in this world). I deem those I met on that Sunday morning to be very much the latter. For me it was a challenging but invigorating start to the campaign.
I have since been to two more church forums in Chisholm. They are all interesting and challenging events. They have provided me with an oportunity to engage with voters and with different perspectives from my own. They have also allowed me to inform those of a different position on issues like sexuality why I have a different position from them.