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Bishops identify key election issues


Australia’s Catholic bishops have reiterated their call for an increase in the intake of refugees as they urge voters to demand “a better kind of politics”.

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“We need a holistic, long-term vision for the future – not just a vision for the economy but a vision for Australian society, the human community and the whole earth community,” Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said in the election statement released on April 19.

“We all long for what Pope Francis calls ‘a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good.

“This ‘better’ politics pursues the common good of all Australians by recognising the dignity of every individual and the solidarity we all share as a national community.

“Since the last Federal election we have seen the impact and the challenges of a global pandemic, floods, summers of bushfires, wild weather events and a world on edge because of military conflict.

“Foremost in the minds of many will be Australia’s economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19. The societal disruptions from the pandemic have revealed significant levels of poverty and disadvantage within Australia.”

The statement highlights several key issues that the bishops encourage readers to consider when preparing to vote.

Among them is the provision of high-quality palliative care across Australia, “to ensure that no one is pressured into choosing assisted suicide because palliative care is unavailable”.

The statement advocates for vulnerable people in the community, including those in need of aged care, First Nations peoples, asylum-seekers and refugees. It calls for a government committed to delivering a medium to long-term plan for eradicating poverty in Australia.

The bishops also say people who have a religious faith should be protected from discrimination, “including the ability to undertake activities and form religious bodies that can pursue their religious mission”.

“This includes commonsense provisions to allow religious schools to preference the hiring of staff who support the school’s ethos,” the statement says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more conscious than ever that we are one human family. Refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing persecution, violence or life-threatening poverty, and people who have been displaced by climate change, are our sisters and brothers.

“Our Church teaches that anyone who is forced to flee to protect their lives or human dignity has a moral claim on our assistance, whether they fit legal definitions of a refugee or not. We need a just, humane and timely system for assessing claims for asylum.

“The situation in Afghanistan demands a special intake of at least 20,000 additional places. We have a moral duty towards those who supported Australian military forces as interpreters or in other capacities. Ukrainian refugees require similar mercy.”

The statement calls for the social, economic, health and ecological dimensions of the current environmental crisis to be addressed by a new integral ecology.

“Greater ambition is needed for the 2030 carbon emissions target. We hope for targets that are more in line with the Paris Agreement and the emerging scientific consensus.

“There is no doubt Australian aid and the work of agencies like Caritas Australia is vital for assisting people in emergencies, promoting education and transforming lives.

“Poverty makes people vulnerable to modern slavery and is enabled by globalisation. Australia’s Modern Slavery Act should be strengthened by firstly appointing an independent Anti-slavery Commissioner with a broad mandate to drive better practice in mitigating risk in our supply chains and, secondly, widening the coverage of this legislation to include the states and more companies.”

Read the election statement here.


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