God "not wholly owned" by any political party: Rudd

Speaking at the launch yesterday of Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan's latest book on religion and politics, Labor frontbencher Kevin Rudd accused Coalition MPs of failing to address the "destructive impact that market fundamentalism has on the family, the community."

Mr Rudd was speaking at a Parliament House book launch of Acting on Conscience: How Can We Responsibly Mix Law, Religion and Politics?.

Responding to Health Minister Tony Abbott's claims that Mr Rudd is "trying to recruit from the pew to the party", Mr Rudd continued his attack on the Coalition government, claiming God was "not a wholly owned subsidiary of any political party", the Australian reports.

"In fact, the whole point ... is that God is neither Liberal, Labor nor even Family First," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Abbott, who had earlier criticised Mr Rudd, "fails to answer my key challenge to the centre-right: namely the destructive impact that market fundamentalism has on the family, the community and common goods such as the environment", the Labor Member for Griffith said.

"Industrial relations and climate change bring these questions to centre stage today."

Mr Abbott yesterday described "the Catholicisation of the Coalition is one of the significant cultural shifts in recent Australian politics".

The Howard Government was more inclusive, less dominated by the big end of town, and much more socially diverse than previous Coalition governments, he said, according to an Age report.

The role of Catholics had been a significant part of this, Mr Abbott added.

The Catholic influence took some of the edge off hardline economics, Mr Abbott said, leading to more concern about more jobs and higher pay.

Earlier, commenting on the row over cleric Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, Mr Abbott draws a parallel between the Muslim community and the early experience of the Catholic Irish in Australia.

"The Irish in Australia eventually became part of the team," he said on radio. "That was partly (because) they moved and it was partly everyone else moved, and I think it's important for Islamic people in Australia to become part of the team."

Also addressing the issue of the linkage between religion and politics, Fr Brennan said he hoped that in his book he had "set out rules for engagement which apply equally to me, Sheikh al-Hilali and Archbishop Aspinall", the Anglican Primate who is to launch Fr Brennan's book in Queensland later this week.

"The utilitarianism of pragmatic Australia has always required an ethical corrective which has often been informed by religious sentiment", Fr Brennan said.

This was necessary "whether the issue of the day be the dispossession of Aborigines, refugee children in detention, our commitment to the Iraq War for unjustified, wrong reasons, or the wanton corruption of AWB and HIH - the corporate culmination of the 'whatever it takes' mindset," Fr Brennan said.

"Religious citizens have a role in calling a halt to the pragmatism and insisting that some things are wrong in themselves regardless of the practical consequences for others in the short term."

Labor takes market politics to God (The Australian, 1/11/06)
Mick factor makes for warmer world (The Age, 1/11/06)
Kevin Rudd's Address to the launch of "Acting on Conscience", Canberra (kevinrudd.com, 31/10/06 - PDF)
Fr Frank Brennan's reply to Kevin Rudd at the Launch of Acting on Conscience (31/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Frank Brennan, Acting on Conscience: How Can We Responsibly Mix Law, Religion and Politics? (University of Queensland Press)
Tony Abbott website
Kevin Rudd website
The Monthly

Abbott trashes Rudd criticism of "un-Christian" coalition (CathNews, 31/10/06)
Canberra Archbishop praises Rudd's Christian essay (CathNews, 3/10/06)
Imagine politics without Christians: Abbott tells critics (CathNews, 29/8/06)
Parliamentarians to debate Christian contribution (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Rudd says Church must influence politics (CathNews, 29/8/05)
Coleridge plans to "stir up some energy" in Canberra (CathNews, 27/6/06)

1 Nov 2006