Opposition Leader Appeals To Christians



Beazley looks to Christians
By Markus Mannheim

Canberra Sunday Times
Sunday, 30 October 2005

FEDERAL Labor was welcomed back to the flock yesterday, as its leader, Kim Beazley, addressed the Australian Christian Lobby's national conference in Canberra. And the cheering delegates seemed ready to forgive the party for its experiment with the agnostic Mark Latham, whom they said had caused Christians to "abandon" Labor at last year's federal election.


Mr Beazley spoke openly about his own Catholic faith during a 30-minute speech on the place of values in political life.


"But I'm careful about what I pray for," he said. "I don't pray for victory." However, he also delivered a stern warning against those who sought to manipulate religion for political gain, saying Australians must reject the partisan, faith- based politics that had crept into American debate. "Christian faith [in the US] has become so closely identified with a particular brand of right-wing politics," he said. "It's a very serious thing when you say that people of a particular faith must support a particular political viewpoint." Mr. Beazley had been reluctant to talk about his faith in the past, preferring instead to observe the traditional separation of church and state. But he said the nature of the post-September 11 world demanded more a candid discussion of values. "When religion is at the centre of public fears of terrorism, we must be able to challenge the ugly, violent distortions of genuine faith," he said.


He also launched a stinging attack on the Howard Government's proposed workplace reforms and their impact on families, and called for asylum seekers to be treated with more compassion. The Labor leader also canvassed plans to subsidise software filters that protect children from Internet pornography, and new curbs on telemarketers who disrupt families during dinnertime. Evangelical Christian groups played a strong role in several marginal seat campaigns during the 2004 election, particularly in western Sydney. The Australian Christian Lobby actively targeted 18 electorates across the country. Since losing that election, the federal Labor caucus has held regular discussions on faith and values, chaired by its foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, in an attempt to better understand and work with religious movements.