Your Vote, Your Values

Coming out this weekend in all parishes in Victoria is a joint statement from the Catholic diocesan bishops of Victoria, Archbishop Denis Hart (Archbishop of Melbourne), and Bishops Peter Connors (Ballarat), Joseph Grech (Sandhurst), and Christopher Prowse (Sale) called “Your Vote, Your Values: Issues and Questions for Parliamentary Candidates for the Victorian Election”.

I have been eagerly awaiting this document, as I have been wanting to write to my local member and to the other candidates to ascertain where they stand on a number of crucial issues. This is because things are not simple in the State of Victoria at the moment. The political values of the parties and leaders are not clearly demarcated, and the policies of all parties seem more designed to get themselves elected than to do what is right for the state. There are good and honest and virtuous candidates in all the parties, but their own values do not always translate into the value of the party as a whole or that of their leaders.

But we don’t get to elect a party or a leader, we only get to elect a candidate. So it is vital to know what your candidate stands for. “Your Vote, Your Values” provides a series of issues and related questions on a number of values, including Life, Families, Education, Health and Aged Care, Community, and Religious Freedom. Taking this statement, I have written it up as a questionnaire in table form for my local member and the other candidates (I have turned all the questions into “Yes/No” questions for quick answering, and also added a question about funding palliative care – I don’t know why that was left off the list). I am going to send it to each of them, and request a response. I will inform them also that I am a blogger, and will report on their responses (or lack of response) to my readers on my blog (the questionnaire is rather extensive, and it is not likely that they would go to the bother of answering it unless they knew that it was going to be reported).

I wonder what the response will be?

In the mean time, if you want to do the same, you can download the questionnaire from here from Media Fire (sorry, free WordPress doesn’t support document hosting). You can find out information about the Election and Candidates from this website. Note that official nominations for the 2010 Victorian State election only open next Wednesday, 3 November, so start writing your letters now ready to post next week.

Please share any responses you get with us in the combox to this post, or email them to me and I will post them.

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Your Vote, Your Values

  1. Paul G

    Hello David,
    good luck with getting some answers. Its strange how much resentment there is in the Church expressing its opinion and asking the politicians theirs. I heard a minor academic ranting about the “your vote, your values” document on radio this morning. I gave up and switched off when he started talking about Irish Catholics and the DLP split. If I had been in the same room, I would have thrown my shoes at him, that seems to be the popular method of political debate now.

    If we don’t ask these questions, changes can come about without anyone noticing. For example, we have legal brothels in our local suburban shopping centre. When was the debate about that? Many pubs in NSW can open until 4am, which according to the police, gives them a very busy Sunday morning. I don’t remember any proposal for that by a politician. Virtually all shops are open on Sunday now, and that just happened, little by little. (I always think of Israel, which seems to have a thriving economy, but they respect the Sabbath)

    Perhaps a question you could add to your list is support for palliative care. A hospital in Sydney recently had trouble getting funding for palliative care, which prompted a letter to the editor from someone who thinks that this proves how efficient the solution of euthanasia will be.

    • Good point about the palliative care question, Paul. I don’t exactly know why that wasn’t included in the list. It seems to go logically with our concerns about euthanasia and about sufficient health care for the elderly and disabled. I have added it to the questionnaire I have prepared.

  2. Mark Lachal

    Hello David
    If your readers are interested in supporting a party which is pro life from birth to natural death the Democratic Labor Party has Peter Kavanagh standing in the Upper House of Victoria for the Western Region and the DLP has candidates standing in the Lower House of Victoria.

    Your readers can also check out how their local members voted on the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 at http://www.lifevote.org.au
    People can help pro life candidates from any party by volunteering to hand out how to vote cards

  3. Gareth

    The Church should have been serving it up to the Greens years ago.

    It is about time Catholics truly learnt the type of human beings these people really are.

    • “I thank you God that I am not like those Greens people”…

      Be careful here, Gareth. Many people belong to and support the Greens out of good intentions. It is simply that their intentions are misguided.

      • Gareth

        Even worse, those very misguided Greens people are often the people that sit in the same pew with you and I each Sunday.

        What I meant is that it is about time someone chose to higlight this misguidance.

  4. Henrietta

    I thought the document was a huge step in the right direction, however my only criticism is that although the life issues are listed first, I think there needed to be more made of the fact that you really can’t vote for a pro-abortion politician, no matter how good they are on the other issues.

    For example a persons right to life is worth more than economic considerations.

    All in all though it will be good for the faithful to start thinking about where they cast their vote rather than just voting for the party that they always vote for.

    • Clara

      Sometimes we can be a little myopic in what constitutes pro-life. I once worked for a company with very ‘Catholic’ directors – they had six children apiece and gave big donations to catholic welfare agencies – but their occupational health and safety practices were virtually non-existent and they employed contractors who risked life and limb and all for the might dollar. One are they worked in was asbestos removal – they complied with the OH&S requirements on paper, but not in practice. I found this highly immoral and as disrespectful of human life as abortion or euthanasia and resigned.

    • I think there needed to be more made of the fact that you really can’t vote for a pro-abortion politician, no matter how good they are on the other issues.

      I find a more challenging question in our political system here in Australia is whether you can/should vote for an clearly anti-abortion candidate who is nevertheless a part of a government that has actually supported the liberalisation of abortion laws. My gut feeling is “yes”, but it still bothers me.

      • Peregrinus

        It’s a toughie. But I don’t think you have much choice in Australia; none of the major parties are really what you could call “pro-life”. The most you can do, I think, is to support pro-life voices [I]within[/I] the major parties, hoping that they will influence their parties in the direction you want. (Even that requires at least one of the major parties to nominate a candidate in your electorate who is at least to some extent pro-life.)

        Of course, you can vote for a minor party whose pro-life stance appeals to you (assuming such a party is running a candidate in your electorate). But, even then, you have to indicate further preferences, and the reality is that it is those preferences which will actually be effective in electing a member and, through the member, a government.

        There’s a danger, I think, that someone might think that they had “done their pro-life duty”, so to speak, in voting for a pro-life minor party, and then decide their lower (but effective) preferences without regard, or with less regard, to life issues. That needs to be avoided. It’s your preferences as between the majors which are the most important dimension of your vote; this is true whether you vote the majors 1, 2 or 9, 10. Whatever issues are important to you should be the issues that determine your vote as between the majors.

        • Gareth

          I personally endeavour as much as possible to vote in accordance with candidates that stand for views in accordance with the protection of human life. This task is a bit made a bit more easier for me because generally speaking political candidates)that would be outwardly pro-life would also generally share my other social and economic view political views.

          I have found in Australia though that unless there is an exceptional candidate along the lines of Brian Harradine, I always feel that voting pro-life is not going to achieve that much for the pro-life cause, besides bringing security that there may be a candidate in Parliament that would argue the cause if ever the issue does come before Parliament.

          I always felt that to truly change people’s hearts (as the old clique goes) the pro-life movement in Australia would be better off putting its resources into education at schools or at parish level.

          The pro-life movement in Australia puts so much effort into political elections, but neglects the fact that the hundreds of thousands of young Australians that pass through the Australian Catholic system have probably never ever been remotely educated on the topic and hence grown into adulthood totally naive about the situation.

          Not to mention that efforts at parish level, from my experience seem pretty crappy. I can’t remember the last time my parish ever did anything productive about the issue.

          I am not saying that voting pro-life is a bad thing, simply that effort should be equally matched by putting up some sort of productive educational campaign. Surely this would be more influential.

          • mark lachal

            The DLP allocates their preferences on the basis of other parties individual candidates stance on “”life issues””. Anyone who votes for the DLP can be assured that their vote will go to a pro life candidate.

            The DLP has had Peter Kavanagh in the upper House of Victoria and he has been one of the most outspoken pollies in support of “life issues””

      • mark lachal

        Hi David, shall we say hypothetically that there could be a Labor politician in Victoria who is pro life and one would like to vote for them because they are pro life. However, if the opposing candidate was LIberal (and pro life) or DLP(all of hwom are pro life) or Family FIrst ( all of whom are pro life) I would suggest you vote for them as overall most Labor pollies are pro abortion and getting another LAbor POlly ( even if they are pro life elected) could be the difference between a LIberal or a Labor state government and certainly the Labor Party is not going to make any pro life initiatives when they are full of Emilys LIst members!!
        There are far more Pro life people in the Liberal Party.

  5. mark lachal

    Just writing to alert you to the euthanasia bill that is being debated in the senate at the moment.
    Assuming you are anti euthanasia, I have taken the liberty of sending you these links in case you have not had a chance to see them.
    http://family.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=224&Itemid=95&eid=25 allows you easily bulk email all your state senators.

    http://www.makeastand.org.au/campaign/index.php?campaign_id=37#petition is an online petition against euthanasia

    Please forward this information onto anyone you think might be interested

  6. Peregrinus

    Gareth: “The Church should have been serving it up to the Greens years ago . . . It is about time Catholics truly learnt the type of human beings these people really are . . . Even worse, those very misguided Greens people are often the people that sit in the same pew with you and I each Sunday.”

    It would be a serious mistake to try to spin this statement as a move against, or for, any particular political party. While this might suit the political ideology of some, the church doesn’t have a partisan ideology and the statement itself is quite explicit in saying that it addresses not parties but issues. In fact, the bishops say in as many words that partisan advocacy “is not our role”. They’re right.

    Henrietta: “I think there needed to be more made of the fact that you really can’t vote for a pro-abortion politician, no matter how good they are on the other issues.”

    Pope Benedict disagrees. You can’t vote for a pro-abortion politician if your vote is motivated by his pro-abortion views, but you may vote for him despite his pro abortion views for “proportionate reasons”.

    Henrietta: “For example a persons right to life is worth more than economic considerations.”

    I think you’re making a false distinction there – a dangerously false distinction. Women don’t chose abortion in some kind of hermetically-sealed vacuum. There is abundant evidence that economic considerations are a powerful motivating factor. It’s often been noted in the US that abortion rates tend to rise under “pro-life” administrations, and fall under “pro-choice” administrations. The usual explanation for this is that in the US politicians who get rated as “pro-life” tend also to favour policies which promote economic insecurity and social division and inequality, and that these things more than offsets the effect of their (largely rhetorical) pro-life views.

    The voter who is concerned about life may have to choose between the candidate whose rhetoric ticks the ideological boxes, and the candidate whose policies offer the best prospects of reducing recourse to abortion. This is not a simple or easy choice, when we ask ourselves – as we must – whether we will bear any moral responsibility for the abortions which result if we favour a candidate who says the right things, but whose policies increase the pressures that lead women to choose abortions.

    The bishops are therefore absolutely right to adress life issues in the context of a holistic statement which also points to the need for affordable and accessible housing, support for children at risk, education, health, etc. My main criticism of some earlier statements of this kind was that they failed to do this.

    • Henrietta

      Peregrinus, I think you have mis-understood my comments. When I say that a persons right to life is more than economic issues, I am not saying that abortion is not sometimes motivated by economic reasons. I am however saying that we should as voters should consider life issues ahead of economic issues.

      Regarding voting for pro-abortion politicians, I *think* the only time it would be permissible to vote for one is if all of the candidates are pro-abortion and so you would therefore employ the ‘lesser of two evils’ principle and try and choose the least bad.

      The comments that you make regarding the abortion rate rising in ‘pro-life’ administrations are interesting. I think Tony Abbott needs to be careful here – especially with his policy on bringing back full-fee paying university fees. If this happens, this would make it more difficult for lower income families and may in-turn contribute to higher rates of abortion. Having said all of this, there is still a moral difference in voting for someone who approves of abortion and someone who may un-wittingly create the conditions where women feel pressured to abort their children.

      It would be best if people were pro-life in ALL area – so ensuring that the common good is paramount throughout the life-span

      • Peregrinus

        “I am however saying that we should as voters should consider life issues ahead of economic issues.”

        I understand that. My point is that I think that it’s a mistake to distinguish between “life issues” and “economic issues” in a way that suggests that an issue must be one or the other (or neither). This really amounts to saying that we shouldn’t treat economic issues as life issues, which – ironically – is to exclude life principles from a large area of social and political discourse and action, and leads to a bizarre alternative universe in which social conservates like George W Bush are regarded as “pro-life” despite pursuing policies which lead to a rise in abortions.

        “Regarding voting for pro-abortion politicians, I *think* the only time it would be permissible to vote for one is if all of the candidates are pro-abortion . . .”

        But that’s not a remote possiblity; it is in fact the usual state of affairs. Even Tony Abbott opposes making abortion illegal. There really is no forseeable chance that the major political forces in this country are going to adopt a “pro-life” platform in the sense in which that term is used by the political pro-life movement.

        In a democracy, we all have our fingers on the levers of power (in a small way), and I think we have a moral responsibility to use the little power we have effectively. I think that means that the question we should be spending most of our time on is how to advance respect and protection for life in which all the major political forces are pro-abortion or, at least, are not “pro-life”, and not likely to become so.

        Sure, an activist can commend a vote for a strict pro-life party like, say, the DLP. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it acheives very little, and if it is the biggest and most signficant aspect of political pro-life activism, then political pro-life activism is a waste of time. And – no offence – it seems to me that an attempt to ring-fence “life issues” and “economic issues” really lends itself to this kind of marginalisation of life issues to the irrelevant fringes of politics in Australia.

        Whether we like it or not, reproductive choice for women – including the choice to have an abortion – is not going to go away. It is, in fact, far more likely to expand than to contract, in my judgment. Serious pro-life activism, if it’s to make any difference, has to focus on influencing the choices that women make. And economic issues are central there.

  7. Gareth

    Pere: It would be a serious mistake to try to spin this statement as a move against, or for, any particular political party. While this might suit the political ideology of some, the church doesn’t have a partisan ideology and the statement itself is quite explicit in saying that it addresses not parties but issues. In fact, the bishops say in as many words that partisan advocacy “is not our role”. They’re right.

    Gareth: Whilst the statement is not about targetting any political party, the Greens dont tick any boxes for anything to do for the sacredness of human life or anything the Catholic Church stands for (and dont give me the rubbish that Greens arent that bad because they care for the whales and trees – Frank Brennan has already shoot himself in the foot with this misguided view).

    You can put the spin on it that its about issues, not parties but at the end of the day a Catholic voting for the Green is simply uncompatible.

    • Louise

      Yes, I really don’t see how any practicing Catholic can vote Green. As a Party they are beyond the pale.

      • Peter Golding

        Spot on Louise!
        The watermelons are both morally and intellectually bankrupt.

        • Gareth

          My major issue with something like this is more with Catholics or Christians that claim that there is compatibility there.

          Greens can believe what they want to believe, but to take the next step and argue that there is somesort compatibility really irks me.

          Greens or their like-minded policies and God-fearing people = No Deal, as simple as that.

          • Louise

            In many cases, I’m pretty sure that the Catholics who think they can morally vote for the Greens are simply in the dark about the real agenda/ideology. In other cases, the Catholics are simply dissenters who agree with most of the Greens’ platform.