Mr Collins conjures up Banquo’s Ghost at the Voting Table

Well, here’s a novel attempt at negative politics: Public-Commentator-For-Ever Mr Paul Collins, writing in Eureka Street (“Abbott and Santamaria’s undemocratic Catholicism”), attempts to conjure up the ancient spectre of B.A. Santamaria to discredit our Opposition Leader (and aspiring PM) Tony Abbott.

As Gerard Henderson’s reply to this article (“Defending Abott and Santamaria”) shows, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in Collins’ argument.

Basically, it goes like this:

1) Mr Abbott is a self-declared disciple of B.A. Santamaria
2) B.A. Santamaria was an “integralist”
3) “Integralism” was an authoritarian political ideology that sought to impose a narrow interpretation of Catholicism upon citizens’ freedom of conscience
4) It was therefore just like Italian Fascism
5) SO: VOTING FOR TONY ABBOTT WOULD BE LIKE VOTING FOR CATHOLIC FASCISM!

Umm… As the Bard wrote: “Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!” (The Scottish Play: Act 3, Scene 4)

[Post Script: Actually, the funniest bit in Collins’ piece is the very last paragraph, where he writes:

I am not claiming that Abbott consciously follows Santamaria’s integralism. But there is always the danger of osmosis, of absorbing attitudes without realising it. If I were a politician — or an archbishop — I’d want to put considerable distance between myself and the most divisive man in the history of Australian Catholicism.

Perhaps Mr Collins thinks that Mr Abbott has been sleeping with a copy of the works of B.A. Santamaria under his pillow!]

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “Mr Collins conjures up Banquo’s Ghost at the Voting Table

  1. Peter

    Paul Collins attacks Catholics for being too Catholic? Knock me over with a feather! They sure get to recycle that headline a lot.

    So what would a un-‘limited’ version of Catholicism be? Oh wait, we have that in the Brennen sophistry explaining how a Catholic can vote Green in good conscience. Only if it is Collins’ kind of Catholic.

  2. Marcel

    “I’d want to put considerable distance between myself and the most divisive man in the history of Australian Catholicism…”

    Tony Abbott, if elected PM, could well end up being a very divisive figure in Australian Catholicism. Probably not, however, for the reasons Mr Collins puts forward.

    Some of us who have followed Abbott’s political career are actually concerned that he will continue to blur the lines on important moral issues. Tony Abbott is enthusiastically supportive of IVF and does not have a problem with contraception. He has often repeated that abortion should be safe and legal (how abortion is ever safe is a mystery to me).

    He makes puzzling statements about ‘same sex relationships’ and Catholic practices (like Lenten penance). Abbott is one of Australia’s most famous Catholics, but staunch integralist he is not.

    NB. Although I am dissatisfied with the Opposition Leader’s doctrinal orthodoxy, we can safely bet his Government would be much better on the important moral issues than Fabian socialist Gillard’s team.

    • Peregrinus

      Collins: I’d want to put considerable distance between myself and the most divisive man in the history of Australian Catholicism…

      Marcel: Tony Abbott, if elected PM, could well end up being a very divisive figure in Australian Catholicism. Probably not, however, for the reasons Mr Collins puts forward.

      By “the most divisive man in the history of Australian Catholicism”, I think he means Santamaria, Marcel, not Abbott.

      I agree with you, though, that it is most unfair to accuse Abbot of trying to implement Catholic teaching through state policy. At most, it can be said that Catholic teaching sometimes coincides with Abbott’s strongly-felt social conservatism and, where that coincidence exists, the one may influence the other, though not to the point that would create the risk of electoral disadvantage. The result is that Abbott is, for example considerably more involved the provision of abortion than Barak Obama because, like it or not, access to abortion is popular in Australia and Abbott knows this.

      The main significance of his public Catholicism seems to be to be not that it influences his position on abortion, but that because of the “Catholic” label he gets a free pass on the issue from people who foam at the mouth whenever Obama’s name is mentioned.

      And if we move away from a very narrow range of issues revolving around gender and sexuality, Abbott’s Catholicism becomes even less relevant. I look in vain, for example, for any evidence that he has allowed Catholic thinking to influence his policy position on asylum seekers in even the smallest degree.

      Although I am dissatisfied with the Opposition Leader’s doctrinal orthodoxy, we can safely bet his Government would be much better on the important moral issues than Fabian socialist Gillard’s team.

      I don’t!

      • Gareth

        Pere: I look in vain, for example, for any evidence that he has allowed Catholic thinking to influence his policy position on asylum seekers in even the smallest degree.

        Gareth: Interesting Pere – in your opinion how would a Catholic politician postively allow their ‘Catholic thinking’ to influence a policy position on asylum seekers.

        I also find the article interesting by Collins in that Santamaria despite all his hostilities towards the Labor Party NEVER supported the Liberal Party in the slightest.

        Santamaria was certainly very vocal against John Howard as well before the 1996 election.

        Collins is drawing a long bow to suggest similarities between Abbott and Santamaria.

        • Peregrinus

          Pere: I look in vain, for example, for any evidence that he has allowed Catholic thinking to influence his policy position on asylum seekers in even the smallest degree.

          Gareth: Interesting Pere – in your opinion how would a Catholic politician postively allow their ‘Catholic thinking’ to influence a policy position on asylum seekers.

          Well, Gareth, as you and I both know the Catholic tradition – the Judeo-Christian tradition, indeed – has a great deal to say about the experience of exile, and the importance for any society of its treatment of the strangers and the exile.

          I think somebody influenced by this tradition would not seek to find electoral advantage by placing the marginal issue of “boat people” at the centre of a general election campaign when there are much bigger policy issues that he is studiously ignoring, because he hopes to secure some advantage by exploiting the tension between the misery and desperation of one group of people and the ignorance and bigotry of another.

          • Gareth

            Hi Pere,

            I have looked up a variety of the Coalitions pledged policy announcements for the 2010 Federal Election on asylum seekers and their main policies are as follows:

            1. Denying permanent residency for all illegal arrivals,
            2. Presuming asylum seekers are not refugees if it is believed they have disposed of their identity documents,
            3. Denying permanent residency for all illegal arrivals,
            4. Restoring the 45 day rule for asylum seekers to apply for a Protection Visa
            5. Turning back illegal vessels to third country destinastions where circumstances allow.

            Taking this into consideration, I am not entirely sure which aspects of the Coalitions policies would not be considered in line with ‘Catholic thinking’??

            I also don’t see how any of these policies could be classified as mistreating those in exile

            In fact, one could take the view that such policies support genuine refugees or those seeking asylum through the support of those that legitimately apply for refugee status under Australia’s generous refugee program.

            And not to mention that the Australian Labor Party’s pledged policies on the issue do not differ too much besides pledging to settle up a regional processing centre on East Timor. I really don’t see how any of the Labor Party’s policies on the issues are any more ‘Christian’.

            In my opinion, I think you have unfairly judged the Coalitions policies. Just because a policy is to the right of the economic or social spectrum, it doesn’t automatically mean they are any less ‘Christian’.

            One could argue that Mr Abbott is seeking to find electoral advantage by placing a marginal issue at the centre of the general election, but it is also good to remember that Labor have also been public on the issue and this issue is seemingly of importance to many Australians. Any party would be unwise to ignore the issue or to not develop critical policies. The Australian people demand it.

            • Peregrinus

              I have looked up a variety of the Coalitions pledged policy announcements for the 2010 Federal Election on asylum seekers and their main policies are as follows:

              1. Denying permanent residency for all illegal arrivals,
              2. Presuming asylum seekers are not refugees if it is believed they have disposed of their identity documents,
              3. Denying permanent residency for all illegal arrivals,
              4. Restoring the 45 day rule for asylum seekers to apply for a Protection Visa
              5. Turning back illegal vessels to third country destinastions where circumstances allow.

              Taking this into consideration, I am not entirely sure which aspects of the Coalitions policies would not be considered in line with ‘Catholic thinking’??

              I also don’t see how any of these policies could be classified as mistreating those in exile.:

              No?

              My first problem with his stance arises before we even consider the specifics of his policies. My problem lies with the decision to put this issue at the centre of his election campaign when, in terms of its effect on Australia and on Australians, in terms of numbers of boat people arriving, in terms of the costs that it imposes on us, it is so very marginal. Why is he doing this? He is seeking to exploit the situation for electoral advantage; he doesn’t care how much he inflames passions and prejudices by doing so, or how asylum seekers will be affected by this.

              In terms of the specific policies, I am concerned at how the phrase “illegal arrivals” is bandied around, though I don’t know whether the terminology is from the Liberal party or from your own summary of their policies. There is nothing “illegal” about coming to Australia without a visa and seeking asylum as a refugee. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for doing this, and for good reason; it is not against the law. On the contrary, Australia has entered into international agreements committing itself to offer asylum to refugees from persecution, and Australia’s own laws recognise the right to seek asylum as a refugee. Neither the treaties nor Australia’s own laws confine the right to seek asylum to people who already hold an Australian visa.

              You wouldn’t know any of this from listening to Tony Abbott, though, would you? Why do you think that would be?

              I also don’t see why we need to “presume” that someone is not a refugee on the basis that someone else “believes” that they had disposed of their identity documents. As an Australian, I expect evidence-based decisions when I deal with the Australian government, and I don’t see why the stranger and the exile should be subjected to a lower standard of treatment based on “presumptions” and “beliefs”.

              I certainly don’t see any basis for denying permanency to so-called “illegal” arrivals when they have been found to be genuine refugees. This penalises those who are too desparate to wait for a very uncertain future.

              In fact, one could take the view that such policies support genuine refugees or those seeking asylum through the support of those that legitimately apply for refugee status under Australia’s generous refugee program.

              You could quibble about how “generous” Australia’s refugee program is. An awful lot of Australians seem to think that it is “generous” of Australia to expect refugees to sit in transit camps for years, waiting for Australians to come and pick the ones we want to include in our migrant stream.

              But, leaving that aside, you make a false distinction between so-called “illegal arrivals” on the one hand and “genuine refugees” and “those that legitimately apply for refugee status” on the other. Boat people also “legitimately apply” for refugee status and, as it happens, a higher proportion of boat people are found to be “genuine refugees” than of other applicants. Far from being distinct categories, experience suggests that nearly all “illegal arrivals” are “genuine refugees”.

              <i?And not to mention that the Australian Labor Party’s pledged policies on the issue do not differ too much besides pledging to settle up a regional processing centre on East Timor. I really don’t see how any of the Labor Party’s policies on the issues are any more ‘Christian’.

              Oh, I agree. They aren’t any more Christian. In fact, I find them pretty hard to distinguish them from Liberal policies in any way that matters. But I have no reason to expect or hope that Julia Gillard’s position would be influenced by Catholic thinking, so Abbott’s failure in this regard disappoints me more.

              In my opinion, I think you have unfairly judged the Coalitions policies. Just because a policy is to the right of the economic or social spectrum, it doesn’t automatically mean they are any less ‘Christian’.

              You misjudge me. I have never suggested that Abbott’s refugee policy is less Christian because it comes from the right. In fact, as I hope you now see, I think the (almost identical) policy that comes from the left is equally unchristian.

              One could argue that Mr Abbott is seeking to find electoral advantage by placing a marginal issue at the centre of the general election, but it is also good to remember that Labor have also been public on the issue and this issue is seemingly of importance to many Australians. Any party would be unwise to ignore the issue or to not develop critical policies. The Australian people demand it.
              I agree. And what I’d like to see from at least one of the parties – and I really don’t mind which one – is a bit of leadership on this issue, putting it in a proper perspective as compared with other public policy issues, and breaking down, rather than building up, the “boat people” = “illegal” = “not genuine refugees” assumptions and beliefs that dominates so much discourse about this. I think Abbott’s Catholicism offers him the moral and intellectual resources to do this, but he’s not doing it. I think it’s a missed opportunity.

            • Clara

              Gareth, the asylum seeker issue has been trumped up by both major parties as a cynical attempt to pander to the barely disguised xenophobia in Australian society. The reality is that only about 7000 people reach Australian waters in boats and of those 90% are found to be genuine refugees.

              A little known fact is that there are over 500,000 international students and their dependents in Australia seeking residency. These students arrived in Australia to study – they were allowed to bring their families – immediate and extended – and then permitted to work in Australia. Some of them have had children here – although these children are not given citizenship – and after five years of living and working in Australia they are permitted to apply for residency visas – a process which can take up to ten years. This is immigration through the back door – a situation created by the Howard government which is unfair to those ‘students’ who continue to live with uncertainty and unfair to the Australian people. Did the Australian people ever have this policy explained to them?

              In the 1970s I grew up in a suburb of Melbourne with a migrant hostel. I had friends who were religious refugees from Poland (Seventh Day Adventists who, in Communist/Catholic Poland were not allowed a day off on Saturday which was their day of worship); another girl was a refugee from Czechoslovakia – after the crushing of the Prague Spring; we had Turkish Cypriots who presence made for unease with the local Greek Community; and then there were the Vietnamese boat people- who like the current refugees had no papers and paid for their passage in unseaworthy vessels often at huge expense to the families left behind. I know of one person who ended up in the Victorian Parliament whose father had been imprisoned in Vietnam as he had been an officer in the South Vietnamese army – the family risked everything to ensure their son had opportunities in Australia.

              I was proud of the compassionate Australia I grew up in because it welcomed those less fortunate and gave them the opportunity to create a future for themselves. Some of these people are great entrepreneurs and have made huge contributions to Australia. My Czech friend studied law, married an Irish Catholic and has four sons . . .

              Since the Tampa case, I cannot in all conscience vote for either major party. I can only agree with the Greens on asylum seekers – their other policies turn my stomach. I am seriously considering just writing “I ain’t afraid of no boats” on my ballot paper . . .
              http://notafraidofboats.tumblr.com/post/925237026/i-aint-afraid-of-no-boats-fact-cards

              Have you ever considered the degree of desperation one must feel to leave everything behind and take such risks? Of course not, because we do live in the lucky country – but this is only by accident of birth – None of us have a RIGHT to it, but rather an obligation to share those resources . . .

              • Gareth

                Clara: The reality is that only about 7000 people reach Australian waters in boats and of those 90% are found to be genuine refugees.

                Gareth: I once read a report that said that it more like 50 per cent of those assessed at Christmas Island end up being claissified as a refugee.

        • Peregrinus

          I also find the article interesting by Collins in that Santamaria despite all his hostilities towards the Labor Party NEVER supported the Liberal Party in the slightest.

          Indeed not. On the other hand, he did pursue a strategy which substantially benefitted the Liberal Party. He may not have advocated its policies it, but he was certainly – and knowingly – involved in keeping it in power. Which is “support” of the kind that poltical parties like most of all.

          • Gareth

            Not neccesarily.

            Santamaria opposed the economic policies of all Liberal Governments when he was alive and never at any stage asked his supporters to back the Liberal Party.

            Apparently he discouraged Tony Abbott from joining the Liberal Party.

            It was mere co-incidence (and perhaps more the fault of the Labor Party) that the party Santamaria supported gave its preferences to the Coalition, which at some times kept Labor out of power.

            I would see this as a co-incidence, rather than any kind of support.

            • Peregrinus

              Would it not be more accurate to call it as support that arose by coincidence (or, better, by default)?

              A preference for Party X which does in fact transfer to Party X and helps to get the Party X candidate elected is, however you look at it, support for Party X – very [i]concrete[/i] support for Party X. It’s a vote, which is exactly the kind of support that they want most of all. It’s in no way a second-class or degraded vote on account of the fact that the first expressed preference was for the (eliminated) DLP candidate. A transferred vote, once it transfers, counts for exactly as much as a first preference vote.

              It may be that Liberal candidates got DLP transfers not so much because they were Liberal candidates as because they weren’t Labor candidates. That’s what I mean by “support by default”. But it’s not a coincidence. If you believe that the Labor party is Communist-influenced and your overriding object is to keep Communists out of power then it is rational to preference every other candidate ahead of Labor (and the Communists, of course, if they are running). Hence preferencing the Liberals over the ALP is a rational strategy, not a coincidence.

          • Gareth

            Pere: He (Mr Abbott) is seeking to exploit the situation for electoral advantage;

            Gareth: Which in reality is his job and I and which any politican is expected to do. It may be politically exploitive, but I wouldn’t say it makes him any less ‘Christian’ in his thinking.

            After the long post Pere, I would honestly like to see what you consider to be the a ‘Christian’ aslyum seeker policy that would also take into account millions of Australians concerns that governments should only uphold the application of those for refugee status those that TRULY deserve it and ensure that those that have gone about the legitimate ways of seeking refugee in this country.

            I think you will find the task is not that easy at all and successive Australian Governments have been more on the ball and in line with true generous and Christian thinking than many would have us to believe.

            • Peregrinus

              Pere: He (Mr Abbott) is seeking to exploit the situation for electoral advantage;

              Gareth: Which in reality is his job and I and which any politican is expected to do. It may be politically exploitive, but I wouldn’t say it makes him any less ‘Christian’ in his thinking.

              Well, call me a crusty old traditionalist if you want, but I prefer the Catholic teaching that the job of the political leader is to serve the common good. Exploiting human misery and ignorance for electoral advantage is something quite different from that.

              After the long post Pere, I would honestly like to see what you consider to be the a ‘Christian’ aslyum seeker policy that would also take into account millions of Australians concerns that governments should only uphold the application of those for refugee status those that TRULY deserve it and ensure that those that have gone about the legitimate ways of seeking refugee in this country.

              Well, if you had the patience to read to the end of the “long post:”, you’d have found a few pointers on that very issue. One is that a Christian politician should not seek to inflame matters by putting this at the centre of his election campaign when it simply does not deserve that position. A second is that a Christian politician who does feel the need to make an issue of this should not foster the kind of discourse which promote the notion in which “boat people” are assumed not to “TRULY deserve” refugee status, when all the evidence is that they are the applicants most likely to deserve it. A Christian politician would also advance the notion that the proper criterion for deciding whether somebody is a refugee is whether they have a well-founded fear of persecution, and not whether they came to Australia by boat or by some other method of conveyance, a factor which is plainly wholly irrelevant . Justice is, after all, the first thing that scripture demands of us in relation to the stranger and the exile, and treating the question of how somebody travels as somehow “trumping” the question of whether they are persecuted is plainly unjust.

              I acknowledge that this is a very difficult issue. That’s why it requires leadership. I just wish Abbott would show some.

              I quite honestly can’t see anything at all to connect Abbott’s stance on this question to his Catholic beliefs. (And I don’t see you rushing to join the dots for me either.) After all, Abbott’s position on this is all but indistinguishable from Gillard’s position, which certainly owes nothing to Catholic belief. So what evidence do you see that his policy has been shaped by Catholic beliefs or values?

              Abbott has always struck me as someone whose political position is influenced not by Catholicism (I think he is telling the truth when he denies that his religious beliefs influence his policies) but by a populist social conservatism which intersects with Catholicism only coincidentally.

              • Gareth

                Pere: Exploiting human misery.

                Gareth: That is merely a biased, unfounded and politically-motivated opinion.

                How do you know that the most humane and Christian thing to do is to implement such a policy that takes a firm stance against illegal entries to this free and generous country (as opposed to many of the world’s countries where one would be deported immediately or even be shot if they dared enter a country illegally) and fully supporting the poor souls around the world waiting to legitimately be assessed as a refugee and seeking asylum in another country.

                I am sure if you were a truamatised refugee sitting in Africa who has gone about all the right channels to seek refugee status in another country you would be more than happy with democratic Governments taking a tough stance against illegal people smugglers who attempt to cheat the system and depriving proper refugees of their place in gaining a free place to live.

                Pere: One is that a Christian politician should not seek to inflame matters by putting this at the centre of his election campaign when it simply does not deserve that position.

                Gareth: That is your biased opinion again. What’s to say that this issue is of great importance to countless Australians and deserving of a deeply-thought out policy?

                I am sure the given politician would see it as responding to public opinion and giving the Australian people a clear-cut alternative policy for the Australian people to vote for.

                Ultimately in a democracy, people at the ballot box will determine whether they think it is important or not by either voting or not voting for the politician who has chosen to put it high on their agenda.

                Or alternatively, the opposing party can choose to put other issues on the political agenda and see if then there is a proper response on behalf of the Opposition.

                Pere: A second is that a Christian politician who does feel the need to make an issue of this should not foster the kind of discourse which promote the notion in which “boat people” are assumed not to “TRULY deserve” refugee status.

                Gareth: I can assure you Pere that people that genuinely seek asylum in this country by boat will adequately have their claims assessed in off-shore processing centers which will fairly assess if they had a genuine reason for seeking refugee by means of boat.

                If everyone that hopped on a boat and cried out that they were a refugee, there would be a whole horde of issues to contend with. Instead, Australia has a generous refugee program open to thousands around the globe annually who will all have their case heard and fairly assessed.

                That is a very Christian thing, in my opinion.

                And of the point of a politician making a point of illegal entries. It costs millions of dollars of any Government to ensure the proper protection of its borders and ensure that people should not enter illegally (which in effect is a criminal act). – it therefore would not be expected anything else for a ruling politician to ensure the Australian people that people do not enter our country illegally and send also the right message to people smugglers that we will not tolerate their criminal activity.

                Pere: A Christian politician would also advance the notion that the proper criterion for deciding whether somebody is a refugee is whether they have a well-founded fear of persecution.

                Gareth: Which Australia already does.

                Pere: That’s why it requires leadership. I just wish Abbott would show some.

                Gareth: I am sure he would argue that he is showing leadership in his own way.

                Pere: So what evidence do you see that his policy has been shaped by Catholic beliefs or values?

                Gareth: I don’t. I just wouldn’t rush to the conclusion that just because I might not see eye to eye on the issue, he is automatically presumed to be not in line with ‘Christian thinking’ or that taking what some would deem a tough stance on the issue is automatically not in line with social justice principles simply because they don’t on the surface reach some fuzzy ideals of being generous to asylum seekers when in reality what is already in place is the most logical thing to do.

                The way I see it is that asylum seeker related policy is a vexed question and don’t think there is some-sort of clear –cut magical alternative that makes one political party more humane than the other.

                I either agree more favourably with one side of the political spectrums handling of the issue or not.

                Pere: Abbott has always struck me as someone whose political position is influenced not by Catholicism (I think he is telling the truth when he denies that his religious beliefs influence his policies) but by a populist social conservatism which intersects with Catholicism only coincidentally.

                Gareth: A good thing then that he can’t falsely be accused of his views being hijacked by ‘Rome’ then and or that Catholicism is unduly influencing democratic decisions in Australia!

                • Peregrinus

                  Pere: Exploiting human misery.

                  Gareth: That is merely a biased, unfounded and politically-motivated opinion.

                  Unfounded? We know from experience that the great majority of these people are refugees fleeing persecution. They are desperate enough to abandon everything they own and take to dangerous seas in often unseaworthy boats, at the end of which – if they survive – they face an indefinite period of detention without charge, trial or access to the courts. You really think they are doing this because they have heard that the surfing is better in Australia?

                  Gareth: How do you know that the most humane and Christian thing to do is to implement such a policy that takes a firm stance against illegal entries to this free and generous country (as opposed to many of the world’s countries where one would be deported immediately or even be shot if they dared enter a country illegally) and fully supporting the poor souls around the world waiting to legitimately be assessed as a refugee and seeking asylum in another country.

                  I am sure if you were a truamatised refugee sitting in Africa who has gone about all the right channels to seek refugee status in another country you would be more than happy with democratic Governments taking a tough stance against illegal people smugglers who attempt to cheat the system and depriving proper refugees of their place in gaining a free place to live.

                  These entries don’t become illegal just because you keep spouting the word, Gareth. You can continue to distinguish between
                  ”boat people” and “proper refugees”, but all you achieve is to demonstrate how detached your opinions are from reality. And you confirm that impression by with your certainty that “traumatised refugees sitting in Africa” are happy with the stance taken by the Australian government.

                  Pere: One is that a Christian politician should not seek to inflame matters by putting this at the centre of his election campaign when it simply does not deserve that position.

                  Gareth: That is your biased opinion again. What’s to say that this issue is of great importance to countless Australians and deserving of a deeply-thought out policy?

                  It is of great importance, and it is deserving of a deeply-thought out policy. That is precisely why I find the Coalition treatment of the matter so disappointing.

                  I am sure the given politician would see it as responding to public opinion and giving the Australian people a clear-cut alternative policy for the Australian people to vote for.

                  How in the name of God can you call it a “clear-cut alternative policy”? It is all but indistinguishable from the ALP policy.

                  Pere: A second is that a Christian politician who does feel the need to make an issue of this should not foster the kind of discourse which promote the notion in which “boat people” are assumed not to “TRULY deserve” refugee status.

                  Gareth: I can assure you Pere that people that genuinely seek asylum in this country by boat will adequately have their claims assessed in off-shore processing centers which will fairly assess if they had a genuine reason for seeking refugee by means of boat.

                  If you’re going to shill for Abbott, Gareth, at least get a grip on his policies. Abbott’s first reponse to boats will be to turn them back, where circumstances allow. You posted this yourself above. It is only those who cannot be turned back he proposes to assess as possible refugees in offshore processing centres. And your claim that the assessment will be “fair” is hard to reconcile with the Coalition’s stated policy that they will be “presumed” not to be refugees if “it is believed” that they have disposed of identity documents. Does it not occur to you that the very factors which have made them refugees may also lead them to dispose of identity documents if, e.g., they are the victims of racial, religious or ethnic persecution?

                  . . . .

                  Pere: So what evidence do you see that his policy has been shaped by Catholic beliefs or values?

                  Gareth: I don’t. I just wouldn’t rush to the conclusion that just because I might not see eye to eye on the issue, he is automatically presumed to be not in line with ‘Christian thinking’ or that taking what some would deem a tough stance on the issue is automatically not in line with social justice principles simply because they don’t on the surface reach some fuzzy ideals of being generous to asylum seekers when in reality what is already in place is the most logical thing to do.

                  I never said that I presumed his policy not to be in line with Christian thinking because I disagreed with it; I am not so self-important as that. All I said was that I didn’t think it was informed by Abbott’s Catholic beliefs. And, since neither you nor I can see any evidence of Catholic values or beliefs in it, and since it is all but indistinguishable from the ALP policy which certainly [i]isn’t[/i] influenced by Catholic beliefs, this conversation has confirmed my opinion.

                  Which supports my wider point that Abbott [i]isn’t[/i] somebody whose political positions are shaped by Catholic teaching. They may sometimes coincide with Catholic teaching, and they may sometimes coincide with what most Catholics want (and note that these are not the same thing!) but when that happens it is more coincidence than anything else. You cannot depend on Abbott to be a “Catholic politician” in that sense. You can depend on him, with a reasonable degree of reliability, to be a socially conservative politician.

                  It is either unfair to Abbot, or gives him too much credit, depending on your point of view, to present him as someone who will implement Catholic teaching or beliefs in public policy.

                  Pere: Abbott has always struck me as someone whose political position is influenced not by Catholicism (I think he is telling the truth when he denies that his religious beliefs influence his policies) but by a populist social conservatism which intersects with Catholicism only coincidentally.

                  Gareth: A good thing then that he can’t falsely be accused of his views being hijacked by ‘Rome’ then and or that Catholicism is unduly influencing democratic decisions in Australia!

                  Actually, he can be accused of that – and regularly is. (Remember “keep your rosaries . . .”?) But the accusation is, as you say, false.

                  • Gareth

                    Pere: We know from experience that the great majority of these people are refugees fleeing persecution.

                    Gareth: Actually that is not true at all. The majority of the world’s refugees that are generally fleeing persecution seek refuge in UNHCR delegated refugee camps around the world an then await to have their application status approved.

                    The media reported illegal arrivals by boats seldom contain genuine refugees– they are rather people that have often paid large sums of money to illegal people smugglers, when they could have made an alternative decision as above.

                    Anyhow, if a person that is caught entering Australia illegally claims to be a fleeing persecution, they can have their claims fairly assed at an off-shore or on-shore processing centre. Is this not fair and good?

                    Australia is actually one of the fairest countries in the world when meeting UN standards for the treatment of prosecuted and meeting international treaties on the matter. It is unfair to claim that we are failing to meet our international obligations when we regularly do.

                    Pere: Abbott’s first reponse to boats will be to turn them back, where circumstances allow.

                    Gareth: Which is the most logical thing to do?? What is the alternative Pere, that we welcome every boat that enters Australian shores with open arms??

                    This policy would be a disaster and rather it is logical for any Government to take a firm stance on border protection. This is why the Labor Party’s policy doesn’t really differ that much – it is the most logical thing to do.

                    Like policies on taxes, there is not that much any government can do on the matter. A Government either takes a firm stance on procteing its borders or not.

                    Pere: Which supports my wider point that Abbott [i]isn’t[/i] somebody whose political positions are shaped by Catholic teaching.

                    Gareth: To fairly make this assessment (as with any politician), one would have to weigh up ALL his policies. The asylum seeker policy is only a small piece of the bigger pie and I am not convinced anyhow that his policy in anyway actually CONTRADICTS Catholic beliefs or fails to meet the basic requirements of social justice.

                    In my opinion, it is a more clearly defined and workable policy than the Labor Party’s (the East Timor part lost me), but not all of which I agree with (e.g. restoring the 45 day rule). But I certainly wouldn’t make the bogus claim that it is not in line with Christian thinking or inhumane, when Australia should be congratulated for having one of the most generous refugee programs in place in the world.

                    Your concerns about Tony Abbott are also not warranted. I have never heard too many people or Catholics claim that Abbott’s voting record would be 100 per cent in line with policies the Catholic Church supports. Marcel’s comments above prove that most Catholics would intelligently weigh up Abbott’s policies one by one and assess which one’s they agree with or which ones they do not and then make a comparison with the opposition policies.

                    Pere: Which supports my wider point that Abbott [i]isn’t[/i] somebody whose political positions are shaped by Catholic teaching.

                    Gareth: Indeed on some issues I am sure he will and on some issues he will not.

                    Pere: Actually, he can be accused of that – and regularly is. (Remember “keep your rosaries . . .”?) But the accusation is, as you say, false.

                    Gareth: Again it depends on the issues. But one cant seriously argue on one hand that he is someone who political positions are not shaped by Catholic teaching and then to claim that he is unfairly influenced by Rome.

                    It is either one or the other or more sensibly, one could weigh up an individual social, economic or moral policy at hand and make this assessment.

                    Like most things, I am sure the truth is often in the middle.

  3. Tony

    Thanks for alerting me to both these articles David.

    But I must say (again) that you are at your journalistic best with gems like ‘Public-Commentator-For-Ever Mr Paul Collins’ (at least you don’t take it one step further like the Cooees and their ‘priest-forever’).

    I know you like to provoke, but to me, such down right nastiness just spoils your critique.

    I use these examples to illustrate my point: Imagine if a critic of yours referred to you as ‘Lutheran-forever’ or a critic of Fr John Fleming referred to him as ‘Anglican-priest-forever’?

    And Collins does make a tenuous link (IMO) between Italian Fascism, Santamaria and Abbott but the headline you SHOUT at us:

    VOTING FOR TONY ABBOTT WOULD BE LIKE VOTING FOR CATHOLIC FASCISM!

    is straight from the Catherine Deveny school of journalism!

    • Gareth

      But Paul Collins is technically a Catholic priest that has broken his sacred vows without due process, Tony.

      As such, the Church should distance itself from one of its clergy who has left the ministry making public political or religious statements.

      • Tony

        But Paul Collins is technically a Catholic priest that has broken his sacred vows without due process, Tony.

        Assuming that’s true, Gareth, how is that relevant to my point? Do you understand what ad hominem is?

        As such, the Church should distance itself from one of its clergy who has left the ministry making public political or religious statements.

        Again, how is that observation relevant to the point I was making?

    • But I must say (again) that you are at your journalistic best with gems like ‘Public-Commentator-For-Ever Mr Paul Collins’ (at least you don’t take it one step further like the Cooees and their ‘priest-forever’).

      Dearest, dearest Tony, I had your previous comments along these lines in mind when I chose to use the title “Commentator-For-Ever” instead of the better known Cooees sobriquet! Blow me down if you don’t object to my new title for Mr Collins too! This is a blog, for goodness sake. We are allowed, I think, to take a little bit of mickey out on those upon whom we deem to commentate!

      And go ahead, call me “Lutheran-Forever” if you like, just don’t forget to add “-in-Communion-with-the-Bishop-of-Rome”! 🙂

      • Tony

        …. instead of the better known Cooees sobriquet! Blow me down if you don’t object to my new title for Mr Collins too! This is a blog, for goodness sake. We are allowed, I think, to take a little bit of mickey out on those upon whom we deem to commentate!

        I guess if you’re using Cooees as your benchmark, David, you’re right. But the benchmark I had in mind was your support of Fr John Fleming’s request to be called what he wanted to be called. My address to him wasn’t ‘taking the Mickey’ nor being disrespectful, it was just a little too informal.

        Am I to assume you’d be OK if I referred to him as ‘Anglican-priest-forever’ on the basis of ‘taking the Mickey’?

        Again, I wouldn’t do it; I think it is particularly nasty because it mocks a really significant, life-changing personal decision.

        I think the Cooees ‘sobriquet’ is not some gentle ‘taking the Mickey’, it is an oft-repeated, unambiguous indicator of disdain.

        Disclaimer: Not that I don’t appreciate ‘taking the Mickey’, you understand! In fact a poster — who’s name I won’t mention — said on my blog ‘Theres your problem … everything is a joke to you’.

        For the broader point of my post, my benchmark is your own Blogger’s Creed and a fairly regular critique of the excesses of journalism.

  4. Matthias

    i think Collins is trying to show his political relevance to “liberal” Catholics by canning Tony Abbott. Like Abbott i support IVF for infertile couples ,and let us not forget that the Mercy Hospital for Women conducts an equivalent called GIFT ,that has been approved by the Hierarchy.
    Yes I will be voting for Tony Abbott’s candidate this saturday based upon prolife issues. am i a Catholic fascist then ? Hell no just a Protestant protester at the prevailing culture.

    • Gareth

      Matthias: Like Abbott i support IVF for infertile couples.

      Gareth: Are you happy to acknowledge Matthias that this position is at odds with what is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

  5. Matthias

    Well i am a Proddy so i really do not have any right to comment about it nor do i really care,with respect. . I see nothing against it in Scripture so i take that as my starting and ending point.

    • Gareth

      Hi Matthias,

      Sorry about the genuine mistake about your background.

      Your post raises a few points though, mainly the basis for how Christains are meant to make moral judgements on modern day issues that may not necessarily be mentioned in the Bible.

      This raises a number of questions:

      Could Christains that base their moral stances on the notion of sola scriptura still use other Biblical examples to reach a conclusion (e.g. God condemns Onan for wasting his seed could mean that therefore sexual conduct should have procreative purposes therefore IVF falls outside this)?

      Could or should Christains that do not have a stance on the issue take note of other Churchs that do?

      Do sole scriptura based Christains need some sort of Church authority to have a stance on such an issue?

  6. Matthias

    Gareth :
    Let’s look at the fact that as Christians we are under Grace and not the Law.IVF is about procreative purposes-did i mention that i worked with IVF specialists in a pass life as an OR nurse-.
    We can take notice of what other Church’s stances are ,as exemplified by the support given to Archdiocese of Melbourne by the presbyterian church and the LCA over the Abortion law “Reform” act.
    The authority that we use is that of God the Holy Spirit and i think the statements from the Mennonite Church USA sums up my position ” We seek to understand and interpret scripture in harmony with Jesus Christ as we are led by the Holy Spirit in the church”. and ” The Anabaptists place the authority for understanding truth from Scriptures in the gathered disciple-community led by the Spirit, rather than in the interpretation of the scholars and magistrates. “

    • Matthias, My greatest moral concern about IVF (apart from the fact that it often drives a wedge between the uniative aspect of marriage by using donor egg/sperm) is that it always results in a number of fertilised eggs (=human beings) being washed down the drain or stored in vats indefinitely. I would think that even anabaptist Christians recognise that the Scriptures have an injunction upon killing other human beings.