Subject: Australia Church Group Mixes with Politics

[see for kit]

Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia)

August 27, 2004 Friday


Paul Osborne

AUSTRALIA'S peak church body has urged Christians to push for the signing of the Kyoto protocol on global warming and a review of East Timor's claim to oil and gas revenues.

In the lead-up to the federal election, the National Council of Churches has released an information kit which echoes many of the policies of non-government parties.

The kit calls on Australian Christians to urge political backing for Australia's full participation in the Kyoto protocol, the International Court of Justice, the UN anti-torture protocol and a better oil and gas revenue deal for East Timor.

It also asks Christians to quiz candidates and parties on Australia's motivation for going to war.

The churches ask Christians to vote for candidates who would repeal laws allowing temporary protection visas for refugees, excising parts of Australia from the migration zone and opposes the coalition's so-called Pacific Solution for detaining boatpeople.

They also call for an apology to indigenous people.

Council president the Rev Professor James Haire said yesterday the kit was not an attack on the Government.

"I would see it purely as raising a number of important moral and ethical issues."


The West Australian (Perth)

August 27, 2004 Friday

Churches support Labor's policies


Churches have given the Labor Party a boost through an election briefing kit which endorses key ALP policies in what could be a crucial influence in a close Federal election.

The National Council of Churches endorses policies supported by Labor, such as the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse emissions and a review of East Timor oil and gas revenue.

It also attacks policies supported by the Federal Government, such as those relating to illegal immigration and migration zones.

Anglican Archbishop and administrator David Murray denied it was a push for the Labor Party, and said it was appropriate for the Church to speak up on political issues.

"I think the Church has a mind of its own and if their issues happen to be along party lines, that is just a coincidence,'' he said. "It is not intended to be partisan."

Archbishop Murray said the Christian church had been speaking out on political matters for 2000 years but denied the national council had aligned itself politically.

He was uncertain whether it would have any impact on the election.

The council represents most major churches, including Catholic, Anglican and Uniting.

Catholic Archbishop of Perth Barry Hickey, who was not familiar with the document, said religion should not take a partisan approach because it compromised voters' freedom of choice.

Churches of Christ executive minister Barry Austin said his Church would not advocate about specific policies. But he said it was important for churches to speak out generally on political matters. "If the church doesn't get involved it is falling short of its God-given role to change society," he said.

The kit advocates a move to have the United Nations take on a more multilateral role and criticises Australia for following unilateral policies modelled by the United States.

It also opposes the Government's policy of detention of boat people on Pacific islands and asks Christians to vote for a party which would repeal legislation excising parts of the country from the migration zone.

Perth Biblical College chief executive David Smith said the document could have an impact on the election.

Prime Minister John Howard's office declined to comment.

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