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For Australian Catholics, this could be a high-stakes election

Australian Labor Party 2019 Campaign Launch (Getty)

The Church is watching anxiously as Australians head to the polls once again

Religious freedom, religious education and pro-life issues are all at stake in the Australian federal election on May 18.

Led by Bill Shorten and backed by the ultra-progressive Greens, the Australian Labor Party is spearheading radical, liberal, anti-Christian policy in Australia. If elected, Christian and Catholic communities will be marginalised. Polls show that Labor leads the Liberal-National coalition government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison by a 52-48 margin.

According to Patrick Byrne of the National Civic Council, a Christian lobby group founded in the 1940s, the stakes are particularly high for freedom of religion in education. “The Labor Party and the Greens are committed to removal of exemption for religious schools from the Sex Discrimination Act, with far-reaching implications,” he said.

These implications include legal obligations for “principals and teachers to allow a boy, who only has to self-identify as female to be legally recognised as a girl, access to girls’ toilets, showers, change rooms, dormitories, sport and camps”.

In its national platform, the ALP backs nationwide gender-fluid education, and promises that “Labor will ensure sex education includes all sexualities and gender identities. Labor will ensure the sex education curriculum is kept up to date and reviewed regularly by both non-government organisations and experts working in LGBTI health.”

Currently, religious liberty is protected in Australia by way of exemptions in anti-discrimination policies, rather than by any robust protection in law. It remains to be seen whether Morrison’s Liberal government will strengthen these and implement the recommendations of the recent Ruddock Review into Religious Liberty.

However, if the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is elected, it is certain that even these thin protections will be removed. “If Labor wins the election,” said Byrne, “it will not only control the House of Representatives but will likely have enough support from the Greens, minority parties and independents in the Senate to remove the exemptions for faith-based schools from the Act. In which case, it is likely that the same state governments’ policies will be imposed on religious schools.”

The ALP also supports the implementation of nationwide “exclusion zones” around abortion facilities, and making every public hospital perform abortions or lose funding. They have also supported a Bill removing the recital of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of parliamentary sessions.

The re-election of the Liberal-National coalition government would be better news for Australian Catholics. The Liberals still hold a tenuous commitment to religious liberty and, while not champions of conservative values, they are not militant progressives. Even under Liberal leadership, however, Australia has witnessed a slow and steady movement towards socially progressive, anti-Christian policies – especially during and after the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2017.

This march to the left caused former Liberal MP Cory Bernardi to leave that party and start his own, the Australian Conservatives, which seeks to “hold Liberals to account” in respect to their original conservative ethos.