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Election reflections

Thursday, 30 June 2016  | Mary Elizabeth Fisher

In a matter of days we will have an idea of who will govern Australia.

To be honest I am not happy, because it will be either the Liberal-National Party Coalition or the Labor Party. And I don't want either of them.

It is not a matter of personality. I think both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are impressive - on occasions – though I confess I do prefer Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek.

But let me explain why I don't want either major party.

As a Christian - who just happens to be Australian - I don't like the policies of either party on some key issues. I deliberately emphasise my identity as a Christian.

My passport identifying me as an Australian by birth is a privilege, but it does not identify who I am. Following Christ and serving His Kingdom is what defines me, and almost 30 years of living overseas, on three other continents, has further imprinted in me that my identity is in being a disciple of Christ.

This identity, then, determines my preferences regarding policies. And our two leading political cabals don't begin to scratch the surface in the areas I am interested in.

My top concerns for policy are shaped by Kingdom values. So what are the issues?

Immigration and money

With somewhere between 50 million and 60 million refugees in the world, comprehensive immigration policies are important to me. Neither political party has offered an immigration policy that reflects values I can identify with.

Under both major parties, Australia gave visas to persons who had money - ‘it's a rich man's world’, to quote Abba. I know this because some of my friends who are now Australian citizens got into Australia this way. They are wonderful people, but they had a great life where they came from.

Then there are those ‘rubbish degrees’. Students studying in Australia are paying close to $18 billion for the privilege of studying in this country. Some of the degrees are superb. Some are ‘cash cows’ for universities, to quote a lecturer at a major Sydney university. And many are plain rubbish, established under both major parties’ rules, giving no real training and cheating vunerable international students. We have all heard of the fake educational institutes.

Some people come in as ‘students’ when they are really after permanent residency, not study opportunities.

I have no difficulty with people wanting to come to Australia. However, our immigration policy reflects avarice, deceit on education standards and total disdain for the truly needy refugees in the world. And the policies of our succeeding governments reflect the character of how we are being shaped as a nation as we acquiesce to such policies.

And these areas do not begin to touch on the way that the government allows the visa system to be exploited by companies that pay their workers a pittance and avoid employing Australian workers. And lest you think that it is only needy companies that utilise this system, one of the persons consistently named in the press as wanting such visas is our wealthiest citizen.

While immigration is one of my top issues of concern, my greatest complaint is the minute number of refugees we bring to Australia combined with the simply criminal treatment of asylum seekers under succeeding governments.

It is a fervent prayer of mine that justice will triumph and that successive Australian governments of both political parties are taken to the International Court in La Hague for their treatment of persons - persons made in the image of the living God.

And the tragedy is that, because we have such shocking immigration policies, because we are not known as a country that welcomes enough refugees through formal channels, persons at risk - and I know some of their stories first hand - come by boat at great danger and end up in government-facilitated hellholes at the cost of billions of dollars.

Other issues

Another major reason I will not support either major party is ongoing cuts in foreign aid, while funding hellholes on Manus Island and Nauru. Neither major party has given coherent integrated policies that address this paradox.

Our immigration policies, including treatment of refugees, is equalled by our appalling progress in serving the indigenous communities.

The leasing of coal-mining and fracking licenses is another reason I will not support either major party. While this is a State issue, the Federal Government is doing nothing to protect farmlands and farming families, or about clean water and conservation of water systems such as the Murray-Darling.

In foreign policy, both major parties are too dependent on who is in the US White House in determining our direction. I had 18 wonderful years working in the USA, but I do not agree with their military occupation and pre-occupation. It was eye-opening to hear that US Naval personnel were in on the decision-making as to which company we should contract to build our submarines. We need to grow in our foreign policy and become much more reluctant to ‘go all the way with the USA’.

Climate change is a major concern that neither major party takes seriously.

And abortion, particularly after learning recently of the outcome for babies aborted after 5 months in Queensland, is a horror we don't even begin to confront. The area of surrogacy has not begun to be dealt with in wise ways.

In terms of marriage law changes, both parties have policies that are unwise in terms of contributing to civil discourse. Some Christians also have created an inferno in the way they have discussed the issue.

So, who do I want in on July 2? I hope it is a thorough mix-up. Then the major parties might consider how opportunistic they have become and consider an in-depth rethinking of their policies.

Mary Fisher was a journalist for The Courier Mail before spending eight years in the People's Republic of China. In 1988-1994 she was Associate Director of Missions and Urbana for InterVarsity USA, and in 1994-2005 she served on faculty at Asbury Theological Seminary. She returned to Australia in 2005 and has lectured part-time and been on the pastoral team at Sydney Chinese Alliance Church. She also spends time with Muslim friends.

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