God neither Liberal nor Labor, PM acknowledges

In a webcast courting the Christian vote last night, Prime Minister John Howard told viewers that there are people of good faith in all political parties while Opposition leader Kevin Rudd said that Christian faith shapes the values that he tries to uphold in the public sphere but "not always successfully".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the prime minister and opposition leader each took turns to tell the audience how Christianity shaped their lives and their politics.

Mr Howard took the opportunity to announce a $189 million initiative to provide free internet filtering software for parents and bolster the federal police's efforts to combat sexual exploitation of children online.

Mr Rudd countered by saying that under a Labor government, a family impact statement would be prepared for every submission to cabinet.

Both tried to persuade the faithful that their respective policies met Christian virtues.

"I acknowledge of course that God is neither Liberal nor Labor," Mr Howard said in the webcast from the National Press Club in Canberra.

"But there are people of good faith in all political parties and I don't come to speak of the Liberal Party in any way to propound a superiority or a claim on the Christian religion by my party.

The prime minister said there was an unusual ambivalence in Australia about the influence of Christianity on politics.

"The broad interaction of public life and Christianity has almost drawn a strange awkwardness in the response of many people," he said.

Mr Howard also spoke out against giving up Christian traditions in order to show tolerance to other religions, giving the example of calls to ban Nativity scenes in department stores.

"I always find if odd that you have to demonstrate your tolerance by denying your own heritage," Mr Howard said to loud applause.

The prime minister also rejected criticisms that his government did not care about marginalised people in the community.

"I am especially proud of the fact that contrary to many things that were said about me and my party 11 and a half years ago, we haven't destroyed the social security safety net, we haven't destroyed Medicare.

"I don't deny that the rich have got richer that is inevitable in a prosperous country.

"But they have not got richer at the expense of the poor getting poorer."

Mr Rudd described himself as having been a "garden variety" Christian for the past 30 years.

"For me the question of personal faith also provides a compass point for my life, it also therefore helps shape the values which I hold to be true.

"It also therefore helps shape the view I try to bring to the public space as well, not always successfully.

The opposition leader said during moments of quiet prayer when in Canberra he reflected "on what I can do constructively to make this a better and more humane country, recognising that all those that sit opposite are not sons of the anti-Christ."

Asked about his vision for Australia, Mr Rudd said: "How can we be a country which has hard heads and soft hearts?

"I think that sums up so much of what the nation actually wants to be like."

He criticised the government's workplace reforms, suggesting that changes of shifts with short notice could prevent workers from taking their families to church on Sundays.

Howard, Rudd court Christian vote (Sydney Morning Herald, 10/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australia votes
Australian Christian Lobby National

Bishops head to witness Howard-Rudd clash (CathNews, 3/8/07)
Christian lobby pits Howard versus Rudd (CathNews, 26/7/07)
Govt ministers to brief Christian counterparts (CathNews, 6/9/06)

10 Aug 2007