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Food for Thought 5

Add Values to Refresh Australia

Adding Values through the Senate

Australian SenateWhen the Government won a Senate majority in the 2004 election (which it took up in July 2005) it was handed the opportunity to push through a raft of contentious legislation, despite the Prime Minister promising to use this new power with integrity and circumspection.

In previous Parliaments, at least since the emergence of the Democrats under the late Don Chipp and their refrain of “let’s keep the bastards honest”, there was an important check, with neither major party holding a majority. This meant that others held the balance of power, and that discernment, deliberation and negotiation became par for the course. This other level of scrutiny extended to the all important Senate Committee system of legislative review. While politics is never perfect there was something akin to balance and fairness. The passage of The WorkChoices Bill and the more recent NT Emergency Intervention Bill (both long and complex Bills) demonstrates the need for the Senate to be a house of Review, the place where further deliberation adds balance.

The experience of the last two years in the Senate has clearly demonstrated that it can be a grave disservice to the integrity of our democracy to have a Senate which ultimately acts only as a ‘rubber stamp’. How then to add value to our Senate? This election offers us that opportunity. Rather than voting “above the line” and giving our senate vote to one party only, we can take the time to check out all the Senators and senate candidates for the six Senate positions available this time round for our State and vote “below the line”, numbering each one in order of preference. This way, we can be assured that our preferences are distributed according to our wishes and concerns and that our voice and its value are value adding to the democratic process.

WorkChoicesAdding Values to the Workplace

Recently on AM radio (18 October) the Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, claimed that the role of unions in Australia is essentially over. This suggests that there is no further need for workers to band together to negotiate fair pay and conditions for themselves and others. However, as we have seen in the past year or so, with the introduction of the WorkChoices legislation that has removed many hard won conditions and rights in the workplace, balance has also been removed.

It behoves us (and Mr Hockey) to recall the words of Pope Paul VI, "Although … democratic societies today accept the principle of labour unions, they are not always open to their exercise. The important role of union organisations must be admitted; their object is the representation of the various categories of workers, their lawful collaboration in the economic advance of society and the development of their sense of their responsibility for the realisation of the common good." Octogesima Adventiens (#14, 1971)

The Minister’s view flies in the face of this wisdom. Surely in a democracy a diversity of views and positions is the best, perhaps the only way, to ensure balance, justice and integrity – in people’s work/life, in our economy and in our halls of government.

Refresh Australia logoAdding the Values of Decency and Co-operation

Recently three Senators, from the Greens, Democrats and Labor respectively, all soon up for re-election, attended a large candidates’ forum on climate. (Other parties were invited but failed to send a representative along.) Despite their differences, and the fact that two of the Senators are in direct competition for the Senate seats in Queensland, all three were able to acknowledge hard work and substantial policy work put in by the others over the years. There was a sense that they were representatives open to the co-operation that Catholic Social Teaching sees as the basis of society, rather than the basis of competition so ingrained in the words and world of capital. To add values to our already materially prosperous nation requires developing skills in co-operation. Let’s hope and pray all candidates for public office understand this too and are able to work for the ‘common good’ which includes the interests and needs of others in addition to our own.

StormCandidates’ Forums on Climate Change

If you live in the electorates of Moreton, Bonner or Bowman you will have the opportunity of checking out the House of Representatives candidates and their views on climate. See dates and venues below. At these forums you will hear what your federal candidates for the upcoming election will do to prevent dangerous climate change and protect our future.

>> Bonner electorate
Tuesday 23 October, 6.45pm for 7.00pm start
Uniting Church, 330 Pine Mountain Road, Carina Heights
Guest speaker Chris McGrath will talk about the impacts of climate change on Queensland
Contact Hannah on 0431 700 793 or

>> Bowman electorate
Wednesday 24 October, 6.45pm for 7.00pm start
Redlands Community Cultural Centre, Middle Street, Cleveland
Guest speaker Trevor Berrill, renewable energy expert, will speak on the potential for a renewable energy future
Contact Lincoln on 0404 351 410 or

>> Moreton electorate
Tuesday 30 October, 6.45pm for 7.00pm start
St Luke's Church Hall, 193 Ekibin Road, Tarragindi
Contact Shani on 0432 050 809 or


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