Joyce offside as Howard, Rudd strive to get onside with God

Commenting on a battle between Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition leader Kevin Rudd for the voting allegiance of Christians, Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce says he doesn't know whether God is on his side and that He may indeed be "distinctly offside with me".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mr Joyce says that tf Kevin Rudd gets any closer to John Howard he will have to get permission from Mr Howard's wife Janette.

The barb came after a question about the lack of distinction between the religious beliefs of Mr Rudd and Mr Howard.

Religion is back on the political agenda after both major party leaders addressed a cyber meeting of 100,000 Christians on Thursday night.

Mr Howard and Mr Rudd are both committed Christians.

Senator Joyce said God was not on his side.

"I don't know whether God is on my side or not, I reckon sometimes God can be distinctly offside with me," Senator Joyce told reporters.

"I hope that I'm doing the right thing by him, we'll find out unfortunately later on."

He then went on to attack Mr Rudd's attempts to appear similar to Mr Howard.

"I think if Kevin Rudd, as I've said, gets any closer to John Howard he is going to have to get permission off Janette", Senator Joyce said.

Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison said there were too many Christians in federal parliament.

"I think, in fact, I know this is a Christian country, but people with very strong religious views are heavily over-represented, if I can put it that way, in the parliament," Senator Allison told reporters.

"It's unrepresentative."

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said many Christians were moving to support the Greens because of their focus on environmentalism and human rights.

"There are many Christians in the Greens and many standing as candidates and some of the churches didn't take part in last night's forum because they didn't agree with the general philosophy that's there.

"There will be many tens of thousands of Christians voting for the Greens because they prefer the humanitarian and environmentally focused policies that we have."

Meanwhile, in other comments on the Howard-Rudd webcast organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, Darwin Anglican Bishop, Greg Thompson, said he wants to see actions and not just promises from politicians, the ABC reports.

"Actions that benefit the wider community, not just the church community," he said.

But Reverend Steve Orme of the Darwin Uniting Church said he was impressed.

"What caught my attention was probably Kevin Rudd's talk about vision for the future," he said.

"He finished with a favourite biblical quote, 'Without vision the people perish'."

Reverend Orme says the webcasts will help him make a decision on how to vote.

Political analysist John Warhust from the Australian National University told Reuters that "they both did pretty well.

"Although I think if you took a vote in the room, John Howard would have come out ahead," he added.

Both Howard and Rudd used the church Internet forum to rule out any official recognition of gay marriage.

Howard used his address to announce plans to give families computer filters to stop Internet pornography, while Rudd promised to have family impact statements on all policies brought before his cabinet if he is elected to power.

Forum organiser Jim Wallace, a retired army brigadier who once commanded Australia's special forces, said Christian voters could hold the key to the coming election, although he would not endorse any candidate or party.

"I think Christian concern and interests should be, from a biblical point of view, across the agendas of both left and right," Wallace told Australian television.

He said recent polling found about 17% of Christians were swing voters, who were not committed to either party. With voting compulsory in Australia, their support would be crucial to the election outcome.

In another story, The Age says that US Congressman Pete Stark is the only one of 535 federal politicians prepared to admit he had no religion.

Joyce attacks Rudd over religion (Sydney Morning Herald, 10/8/07)
Political webcast misses many NT church leaders (ABC News, 10/8/07)
Australian leaders turn to God (TV NZ, 10/8/07)
US politicians put faith in religion (The Age, 11/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Prime Minister
Kevin 07 website
Barnaby Joyce
Australia votes
Australian Christian Lobby National

God neither Liberal nor Labor, PM acknowledge (CathNews, 10/8/07)
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)

13 Aug 2007