Voting on 21 May (3): A Welcoming, Compassionate, and Diverse Nation

Australian citizens go to the polls to elect a federal government on 21 May. The 17 million people eligible to vote will be electing both a local member to sit in the House of Representatives for the next three years; and a number of senators, to sit in the Senate for the next six years.

To assist voters in considering how they might vote, the Uniting Church has prepared a resource that identifies a number of issues, in seven key areas, that should inform the way that we vote, if we take seriously how the Gospel. calls us to live.

The seven areas are drawn from Our Vision for a Just Australia, a 40-page document expressing the Uniting Church vision for a just Australia and why our Christian faith calls us to work towards its fulfilment. It can be read in full at https://uniting.church/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Our-Vision-For-a-Just-Australia_July2021.pdf

The Assembly has prepared a shorter 8-page document as a Federal Election Resource, in which key matters in each of the seven areas are identified. That document is found at https://uniting.church/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Federal-Election-Resources-2022_11-April.pdf

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The third area reflects the vision of the Uniting Church for A Welcoming, Compassionate, and Diverse Nation. The election resource acknowledges that we are a nation of diverse cultures, languages, faiths, ethnic groups and experiences, and affirms: “We celebrate and value the strength of this diversity. We see this diversity reflected in our leaders, key decision makers, institutions, industry, sports and media. We are a compassionate nation, where every person who seeks refuge here is treated fairly and made to feel welcome and safe – regardless of their country of origin or mode of arrival.”

Australia’s immigration policies continue to leave some people in indefinite detention. Some refugees and asylum seekers in Melbourne’s Park Hotel have been in offshore and onshore detention for up to nine years. Across the country, it is estimated more than 70 people are being held in hotel detention, and, as of 31 December 2021, 105 people remained in PNG and 114 on Nauru. In response to the Afghanistan crisis, the Australian Government has committed to 10,000 humanitarian and 5,000 family reunion places over four years.

However, the 10,000 places will be taken from Australia’s current refugee and humanitarian program, which was cut by 5,000 places a year from 2020. Australia has received applications from more than 145,000 Afghan nationals and very few of those people have any hope of building a life of safety in Australia1. In addition, the recent and ongoing conflict in Ukraine will see more people fleeing their homes in fear, seeking refuge in other countries.

The key issues to inform our voting in this regard are what each candidate or their party says about:

• An end to mandatory and indefinite off-shore and on-shore detention either in Alternative Places of Detention (hotels) or detention centres.

• Community detention of refugees and asylum seekers must allow access to education, work and housing support.

• A target for Afghan and Ukrainian refugee resettlement much higher and appropriate to the magnitude of the problem.

• Permanent protection for Afghan people already in Australia but on temporary visas.

• Enhance safeguards for people on temporary visas including including overseas students andmigrant workers.

For the full series of seven posts, see:

Author: John T Squires

My name is John Squires. I live in the Australian Capital Territory. I have been an active participant in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) since it was formed in 1977, and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in this church in 1980. I have served in rural, regional, and urban congregations and as a Presbytery Resource Minister and Intentional Interim Minister. For two decades I taught Biblical Studies at a theological college and most recently I was Director of Education and Formation and Principal of the Perth Theological Hall. I've studied the scriptures in depth; I hold a number of degrees, including a PhD in early Christian literature. I am committed to providing the best opportunities for education within the church, so that people can hold to an informed faith, which is how the UCA Basis of Union describes it. This blog is one contribution to that ongoing task.

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