Downer calls Australia a "secular society"
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said in Indonesia that the idea of Australia as a "bastion of Christianity" is a "misperception", and that "Australia is really a very secular society".
"I'm not knocking Christianity, but just to say, a lot of Australia is really a very secular society and when Australians think about foreign policy they're not much driven by religion," he told a doorstop interview in Jakarta, where he had been meeting with Indonesian religious leaders.
He made the point that Australian foreign policy is driven by secular concerns, and not religion.
But he stressed that Australia does not shun religion, mentioning that the Federal Government funds Muslim schools. He was also reassuring the Indonesian religious leaders that he recognises the role of religion in the foreign policy of many countries in the region other than Australia, and the need to build links based on religion.
He said: "What we want to do, all of us, is find ways of building these links and I have been working with a number of people in the academic community on putting together some sort of a conference of religious leaders around the region, Islamic leaders and also some Christian, Hindu and Buddhist leaders around the region. I think that would be a very good way of helping to build understanding."
Australian foreign minister meets with Indonesian religious leaders (Radio Australia 1/7/04)
Hon Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs Australia | Transcript of Jakarta Doorstop Interview 1/7/04
Tempting faith (The Bulletin 30/6/04)
2 Jul 2004