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www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
has published a statement suggesting issues
to consider when choosing how to vote at
the approaching federal election. While not
everyone will agree on the attitude taken to
these issues, the Bishops' words provide
food for thought. An edited version appears
below, and the statement in full can be found
In coming weeks the news will be full of
politicians in shopping centres, high-vis vests
and hard hats. It can be easy to be caught
up in the distractions of an election campaign,
but we want to focus your attention on some
key issues of vital concern to the Australian
In writing this letter to you, we draw upon
our rich tradition of social teaching and upon
the Church's long experience of serving all
people without distinction through our work
in a broad range of areas including health
care, education and social services.
Catholic tradition holds that the common
good is underpinned by the promotion
and protection of human dignity. Implicit in
seeking the common good is the desire to
serve the poor, the marginalised, the sick and
the forgotten in our community.
We invite you to read and reflect on the
following issue statements. This election
will be an important opportunity for us to
have our say as thoughtful, well-informed
members of the community, who are
concerned with promoting the common
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Vote for the common good
Poor and vulnerable
Any society is judged by how the weakest
and poorest of its members are treated. The
most vulnerable people are our greatest
responsibility. We welcome and support
the bipartisan commitment to the National
Disability Insurance Scheme. Government
priorities should focus first on the needs of
the poorest and most vulnerable.
Marriage and family
Families are the basic unit of society. There
must be legal recognition of the unique
nature of marriage between a man and a
woman, and proper protection for the rights
of children to relate to their natural mother
and father. The Church acknowledges the
many sad situations that mean one or both
parents may not be present in a child's life.
Tax arrangements, government payments
and workplace relations laws should have
as their primary aim the strengthening of
families and the reduction of pressures on
finances and family time.
As Catholic bishops and as individuals, we
share the feelings of outrage that all decent
people feel when they read the reports of
sexual abuse. These are profound abuses of
human dignity, contrary to the Gospel and
are crimes. Over the past 20 years, there
have been major developments in the way
the Church responds to victims, deals with
perpetrators and puts in place preventive
measures. We will continue to co-operate
with the Royal Commission into Institutional
Responses to Child Sexual Abuse both
through the Church's new Truth, Justice and
Healing Council and as individual bishops
and dioceses, as the Commission requests.
We will continue to work to eradicate the
circumstances that enable abuse to occur
and to seek to provide pastoral care and
support for victims.
All human life is to be respected, particularly
the most vulnerable including the unborn,
the sick and elderly, people living with
disability, and communities affected by
poverty, abuse, famine or war.
Respect for human life requires constant
vigilance to ensure euthanasia and assisted
suicide are never legalised in Australia.
These acts, presented as acts of mercy,
would in fact abandon those who need our
care and protection most.
We are saddened by the incidence of
suicide in the Australian community and
encourage every initiative to alleviate the
pressures that can lead people to take their
A sustained effort from all Australians and all
political parties is needed to achieve lasting
dignity and justice for our Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters.
Much work has been done on 'Closing
the Gap' between Indigenous and other
Australians on measures such as education,
health and housing, but there is a long way
Refugees and migration
We are called to treat strangers well and
to welcome them. All asylum seekers,
regardless of how they arrive in Australia,
should have their claims processed
in Australia according to international
convention and as speedily as possible.
We should end mandatory detention,
especially for families with children and
unaccompanied minors, so we can care for
asylum seekers in the community.
The Church has been a provider of
accessible primary and secondary
education since the earliest days of
European settlement. The diversity of the
Australian system of co-extensive schooling
-- public, Catholic and private -- is a great
strength and should be supported. Funding
policies should assist parents in choosing
the education that they want for their
children, reflecting their own circumstances,
values and beliefs.
The Catholic Church operates one in ten
of the nation's hospital and aged care
beds. Many in Australia miss out on prompt
access to health and aged care because
of cost barriers. During the next Parliament,
a formal inquiry should be established to
recommend how cost barriers to accessing
health and aged care can be overcome.
Peace and development
We support efforts to build a culture
of peace by promoting overseas aid
policies which provide access to proper
nourishment, health, housing and education.
As the world prepares to mark the progress
against the Millennium Development Goals,
we ask our leaders to recommit to our
international commitments on international
aid and development.
Ecology and sustainability
Care for the environment is intimately linked
to the well-being of Australians. Policies
which deal equitably and effectively with
how we develop our natural resources for
economic and social development are part
of caring for God's created world.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Price.
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