Because we’re living overseas, we don’t have to vote this year and, the Tanzanian system postal system being what it is, we may not even be able to. That hasn’t stopped us from following the Australian federal election. You may remember that we blogged a fair bit on the last one. Last time, we felt torn between gospel proclamation and justice. This year, if my Facebook feed is anything to go by, there are plenty of Christians feeling conflicted again, but this time about what it looks like in practice to vote for justice.
It’s all very well to encourage Christians to consider the vulnerable when casting their vote, but, as John put it, who do you vote for when the party that stands up for one poor and weak doesn’t stand up for the others?
Let’s put some meat on these bones: what do you do when the party that stands up for asylum seekers is pro-abortion? What do you do when the more socially conservative parties ignore the human rights charter? Here’s how I’m weighing it up at the moment.
Governing is about more than making decisions on hot topics.
The first thing to say is that it’s worth looking at the other policies of the parties, particularly the comparison between Labor and Liberal since one of them is likely to be in government. There are plenty of things to consider, like the economy, climate change, education, technology, and welfare. How do the parties express their care for the ‘other’ in those policies? Where are they silent?
Federal government has more to say about some ‘poor and vulnerable’ than others.
Asylum seekers are a federal issue. Abortion is largely a state issue, although to be fair, there is some overlap at the federal level. While in a state election I might give more weight to abortion than asylum seekers, in a federal election, for me it’s the other way around, especially when the more conservative parties are not planning to change to Australia’s abortion laws. In other words, if you are unhappy with the current availability of abortion in Australia, the more conservative parties don’t look likely to limit it. (Read more about my views on abortion.)
The third issue is considering what your vote will be doing.
For example, it’s extremely unlikely that voting for the Greens in the House of Representatives will vote them into government. It’s possible that they may hold the balance of power in the parliament, but that’s entirely different to forming government. While any member of parliament can introduce a bill, a Greens candidate would need support from either Labor or Liberal to see it passed. As I see it, then, when we talk about having Greens representatives, we’re not talking about Greens policies being given a free rein (though of course, deals are made) but about having a Greens voice to moderate the policies of the government. In other words, they probably can’t pass an abortion law but probably could modify asylum seeker policy.
None of this is to say you ought to vote for one party over another, but it’s one way of giving shape to the question of how to vote for the ‘other’ when no party seems to adequately advocate for the vulnerable.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.