In less than six weeks’ time, Australians will take to the ballot box and vote in the 2016 federal election.
As the election campaign ramps up, many Uniting Church members will be carefully considering which political party to vote for. The Church has launched its election resource A Flourishing Society: Your Faith, Your Voice, Your Vote to guide congregation members during this period.
The toolkit focuses on national issues the Church has actively engaged with, such as refugees, taxation reform, foreign aid, climate justice and Constitutional recognition. It breaks them down into key facts and statistics, along with suggested questions to ask political candidates.
Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan encouraged congregation members to consider their vote through the lens of their faith and stand against injustice, greed and prejudice.
“We are called to participate in God’s mission for the world – a mission of reconciliation that is God’s love acting in the world through us – for justice and peace,” he said.
“In public policy terms, in an affluent nation like ours, people flourish when they are safe from violence, harm and persecution, have decent employment and adequate support in unemployment, are able to access adequate and appropriate healthcare, education and housing, and are able to participate in decision-making in the community.”
The government’s treatment of people seeking asylum is an issue that concerns many Uniting Church members. Australia’s current refugee intake is less than 1 per cent of the global refugee population. The Church believes the federal government should increase its humanitarian intake to 25,000 for 2016-17 and at least 60,000 by 2020. It also calls on the major political parties to close the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.
Foreign aid is another issue featured in the election toolkit. Overseas aid is one of the main ways Australia contributes to peacebuilding and relief efforts throughout the world. Last weekend, the Labor party pledged to reverse the $224 million cut from aid in the most recent budget. The Church sees this as a positive step, but believes a timetable needs to be set for restoring Australia’s aid budget to the globally agreed target of 0.7% of gross national income.
Climate change further exacerbates the vulnerability of people living in poverty. The Church has been a vocal advocate for stronger climate action. It believes the current emissions reduction target is too low to halt the effects of global warming and supports the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in climate change policies. The toolkit contains a list of questions UCA members can ask political candidates regarding their party’s plan to tackle climate change.
An essential part of the election campaign is engaging with local candidates. The toolkit contains tips for congregations who wish to host public forums for candidates to meet and talk with people in their electorate. It also includes a letter-writing guide and information on how to arrange a meeting with a local member of parliament.
You can download A Flourishing Society: Your Faith, Your Voice, Your Vote here.