Politics: Federal Election – Meet the Christian Democratic Party

Who better to write about on the Sabbath than The Christian Democratic Party? Formerly known as Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, their website informs me that they are Pro-Christian, Pro-Family, Pro-Child and Pro-Life ‘for the benefit of all Australians’. Rather than rant extensively about what ‘all Australians’ means now, I’ll let them show you in their own words just how inclusive they are a little later.

For now, let’s start with their Senate Group Voting Ticket, where we learn that they give their first preferences to the DLP (see? Even the CDP think that the DLP are more scary-conservative than Family First), Family First and the Climate Change Sceptics, followed by the Liberal Party. As a supporter of the Godless Greens, I am amused to note that we are not *quite* at the bottom of the ballot – the Australian Sex Party holds that honour, and what an honour it is. Then we have some independents who I don’t yet know about, and both Socialist Parties. I’m surprised the radical independents didn’t get a lower billing, and this fills me with optimism about the two new independents here. I find it amusing, too, that the Secular Party are only just below the Labor Party, which one could, if desired, interpret as a dig against the Labor Party’s Godless ways (I have a feeling I’ll be using the word ‘Godless’ quite a lot in this post’). I choose to interpret it in this light, and like the Labor Party the better for it.

Their introductory page seems worth quoting in full, to give you a flavour of what these charming people stand for:

This is the official website of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) – the only national Christian political party in Australia.

CDP’s leader, Rev Fred Nile MLC, is acknowledged for his honest and courageous stands on issues that cause great public unrest and concern. His current term in the Legislative Council runs up to March 2015.

For nearly 30 years, the CDP has represented the concerns of people who support Christian values, schools and caring institutions, family life, and who uphold the importance of the Commonwealth Constitution. While we have fought for the values that made our nation, we are committed to the future development of our nation as an inclusive community based on cohesive values that made us a people.

The CDP seeks to support and promote pro-Christian, pro-family, pro-child, pro-life policies for the benefit of all Australians, and to ensure that all legislation is brought into conformity with the revealed will of God in the Holy Bible, with a special emphasis on the ministry of reconciliation.

The CDP exists to encourage Christian representation in every level of government – Federal, State and Local – by seeing Christian candidates endorsed, supported and elected across the country.

Although CDP candidates are in total agreement with CDP aims and principles, in every instance they are free to vote on legislation according to their conscience under God’s guidance.

Can you say ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’, girls and boys? I have to tell you, this post is giving me great joy already. How often do you get to use the word antidisestablishmentarianism in a blog post? But, given their aim to have Christians in charge (I know they say represented, but I strongly suspect this is a mere first step), I feel that characterising this lot as antidisestablishmentarianists is quite appropriate. No separation of church and state for this lot, oh no. Mmm, let me just say ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ again, because it amuses me. Actually, it probably isn’t *quite* accurate, since I very much doubt this lot are Anglicans. They are nowhere near sane enough. Still fun to say, though.

Two more points arise from this little introduction. The first is the rather horrific realisation that apparently we are stuck with Fred Nile until 2015. I don’t know what we did to deserve that. The second is their use of phrasing. ‘Great public unrest and concern’ is a good one. Interestingly, it implies a conviction that Right Thinking Christians are in the majority. I’m also interested in ‘an inclusive community based on cohesive values that made us a people’. In other words, we will include anyone who agrees with us. Touching.

Now on to the policies, and I regret to say that we start with their policy on Child Abuse, which sounds so sane and reasonable (mandatory reporting, recognition of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, training in early detection, co-ordination between health, welfare and related community services) up until the point where ‘CDP acknowledges that much child abuse occurs in family types not structured on traditional marriage’. I’m going to assume that everyone reading this understands the homophobic subtext here, because I really don’t want to dignify it by spelling it out. Though it could also be a dig at divorcees. No reason it can’t be both, with this lot. We then have a brief return to sanity, mentioning that ‘child offenders are overrepresented in Aboriginal communities and it is essential that policies recognizing the cultural sensitivities of these communities be implemented’, and continue on with a not-too-insane ‘tough on child abuse’ approach, with a nice little bit about ‘More research should be carried out into the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs; government grants should also be available to organizations that provide services to child offenders’ victims.’

And then we have the kicker:

CDP does not accept that the use of reasonable physical discipline by parents or others acting on behalf of parents (e.g. school teachers) is a form of child abuse.

CDP opposes any legislative proposal to criminalise reasonable use of discipline.

Don’t get me wrong, I was occasionally smacked as a child, and I don’t think it did me any lasting damage. But reading those lines in the context of a demonstrably right wing Christian party makes me think uneasily of the Train Up Your Child people (don’t click that link if you are squeamish about child abuse – they are big fans of ‘switching’ children, even babies, with ‘appropriately’ sized sticks. There are about six thousand sites on the internet denouncing this lot). I really hope I am being unfair here, and I probably am, but that was my first reaction.

Onto a less sickening topic, the CDP supports immigration and ‘believes that priority for settlement should be given to the many ethnic groups who are able to readily integrate into the Australian community and who accept Australia’s heritage and the values that have made Australia safe and prosperous’. They don’t want ethnic or religious ghettos or divisive multicultural policies. And ‘CDP supports as citizenship test that requires would-be citizens to demonstrate competency in English, knowledge of our Australian heritage and support for traditional Australian values.’

Essentially, they support immigration by people who are like us. Or want to be like us.

They also want mandatory detention for illegal immigrants, though ‘provisions for supervised release into the community for families with children should be considered’. And ‘priority should be given to refugee applicants who are most likely to readily integrate into the Australian way of life, including those who are being persecuted for their Christian faith’.

And just in case that wasn’t clear enough for you, here’s their policy on Islam:

Islam is a religion that has a particular view of how society should be organised, including a unified system of religious and civil law – sharia law.

* Some elements of Islam, both internationally and domestically, support the use of terror and violence to impose Islam and sharia law on non-Islamic societies like Australia.
* Other elements, while not advocating the use of violence, nonetheless are intent on transforming Australia into an Islamic country by gradualist processes, such as mass immigration, demands for (initially) limited introduction of sharia law and support for religious vilification legislation to prevent free speech critical of Islam.
* Others seek to establish and maintain Islamic communities within Australia that do not integrate into the mainstream.

In view of the above, CDP believes that Islam then poses a considerable challenge to the maintenance of Australia as a free society with a Christian heritage.

CDP considers it is appropriate to meet this challenge by calling for a moratorium on Islamic immigration into Australia while monitoring the willingness of the existing Islamic community to abandon support for terrorism, sharia law and separate communities.

CDP proposes a 10 year moratorium on Islamic immigration as starting point for a serious national discussion on this issue.

I especially like the part where they want to transform Australia into an Islamic country through immigration and then, presumably, mass breeding.

And I also like how religious vilification legislation is part of the slippery slope leading to Sharia law. Like One Nation, it would appear that the CDP likes to express their ‘honest opinion’ on these matters.

Look, I’m going to just say right now that I think this is vile. I especially think that the ban on immigration by muslims is appalling, especially given that the CDP apparently supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, the CDP would prefer people who are being persecuted under sharia law and trying to escape to renounce their religion wholescale before trying to settle anywhere. Which is a capital crime under sharia law, and would thus mean that if they did get deported back to a country in which sharia law is enforced, they would be even more dead. And, you know, why should anyone have to give up their religion because they are being persecuted by an extreme branch of it – or because they are being attacked for political reasons – or because they are starving and there is no food in their country? This is persecution of people who have already been hurt and have already lost most of what they have. Most muslims are no more extreme than most Christians – but the CDP assumes that all muslims are just as narrow-minded, bigoted, and intent on enforcing their religion on a political level as they are themselves. Understandable, perhaps – I imagine the CDP doesn’t view moderate Christians as ‘real’ Christians, so why would it occur to them that moderate muslims exist? I can honestly say that I have generally felt more comfortable shopping at the middle eastern grocery store or the islamic bookshop and chatting to people there, who are friendly and happy to talk food or clothing or religion in an interesting way than I have felt at parties or gatherings of fundamentalist Christians, where the assumptions and jokes made in general conversation have frequently made me feel as though I’d be attacked if I shared my real opinions.

The CDP has a policy on Religious Freedom and Christian Heritage. I could write an essay on this, but I think I’ll just quote my absolute favourite line in that whole section:

Adherents of non Christian religions should recognise that in case of conflict between their tradition and Christian traditions, the Christian practice prevails out of respect for Australia’s well established Christian heritage.

Wow. Their policy can be summarised as: Christians were here first (Aborigines apparently don’t count because they don’t have a real religion anyway), therefore while everyone is free to practice their religion – provided this doesn’t impede any Christian practicing his or her religion in his or her chosen way – Christianity is pre-eminent. Freedom of speech has to be protected and Christians also shouldn’t be forced, for example, to rent to people who might be homosexual. Or muslim. Or otherwise unclean.

Properly applied, this rule could be extended to prevent any ‘Christian’ (I use inverted commas, because I really don’t think the CDP definition of Christian is very christian at all) from providing any service to anyone they disapproved of in any circumstance.

Also, let’s have RE in schools. And teach Creationism. Because Australia and Australian schools were founded on Christian principles.

The CDP believes that ‘conflict should be resolved peaceably wherever possible, and where not, the conditions for a just war must be met before war is declared’. Therefore, they support the war in Iraq, and they think we should bring back cadet training in schools. They want us to make more weapons and military equipment. They want to increase our army. Because we are far too close to ‘the most populous muslim country in the world’, not to mention China.

Why are all the parties which self-identify as Christian so into the military? Honestly, why? What happened to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘throw away your swords’? How is it that ‘I come not to bring peace, but a sword’ outweighs ‘blessed be the peacemakers’? I really find this depressing.

The CDP believes that ‘harm minimisation is a defeatist concept which assumes that addictive behaviour cannot be overcome and that consequently the best policy is to maintain the addict in the addicted state whilst taking precautions against some of the harms of addiction’. They want a zero tolerance approach to drugs and a drug free society, with tougher penalties for trafficking and using. But they do want to have ‘drug courts’ in which, if you plead guilty to owning or using drugs and agree to go into rehab, your case goes into abeyance, and if you successfully complete rehabilitation and become drug-free, all charges against you will be dismissed, which is surprisingly compassionate for this bunch.

On economics, they have an interesting and eclectic range of policies. Here are some I found interesting:

Good economic policy should reward entrepreneurs and businesses for the financial risks and the initiative they take. At the same time, governments should use economic policy to protect the vulnerable and disadvantaged without creating a people’s welfare mentality.

CDP supports a broader definition of the Gross National Product to include the value-added contribution of volunteerism and corporate philanthropy as well as unpaid household work.

CDP supports work-for-the-dole programs.

CDP opposes the full deregulation of retail trading hours and believes there should be no trading on Sundays, to allow time for worship and recreation.

This would be the whole ‘compassionate conservatism thing. They are very pro-business and pro-Free Trade and reduction of Red Tape (which tends to make me nervous), but I rather like their broader definition of the Gross National Product. I don’t know exactly how GNP stuff works or what it does, but I think I’d like to see how this policy worked in action. Wow – they’ve finally said something I can agree with!

On Education, I actually like their early childhood policies. They want an allowance for stay at home parents, ‘parenting centres’ in main shopping centres (and virtual parenting centres via the Internet), with appropriate information available to parents and the opportunity for parents to meet with one another and discuss good parenting techniques, healthy lifestyles, early literacy and numeracy, free parenting classes for new parents, and a helpline for parents in distress. I suspect I’d disagree with them on the content of these classes and services, but I applaud the general idea.

When it comes to schools, they want religious schools to have the right to discriminate in selection of staff and students. No surprise there. They want better resources for homeschoolers. And

We are committed to the improvement of indigenous educational outcomes and will press for substantial improvement in the educational achievement of indigenous Australians including the need for academic scholarships for Aboriginal and low socio-economic families. Governments should invest in the research and development of effective educational partnerships between home, school and community as one of the national priorities in education.

Not bad, actually.

They want a national curriculum, which, as someone who shifted schools twice in high school, I heartily endorse. And

The curriculum should reflect a holistic view of education which includes the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of development. It should be flexible enough to accommodate the special needs of local schools and communities.

A curriculum should value every child and encourage all children to do their very best and develop their particular talents and gifts. This can be done without sacrificing the need to raise standards in literacy or numeracy…

The development of social responsibility, caring for our environment and our neighbours, protecting and caring for all human life, are important values to uphold in our schools. Developing educational links with the local community gives opportunities to students to value the people in their communities. Community service programs should be integrated in the curriculum.

Of course, they also want a school chaplain in every school, and add that ‘schools should not be used for social engineering experiments such as the promotion of alternative lifestyles such as homosexuality.’.

Ooh, and they want more male teachers in primary schools! Yay, jobs for Andrews!

They want to increase services for special needs kids, they want to make life easier for teachers (less bureaucracy and reporting, I think), they want to raise teaching salaries in rural areas to attract staff, they want to keep university accessible for all and create more apprenticeships, and they support government funding of independent academic research. In fact, if you take out the chaplains (or replace them with counsellors) and the anti-gay rhetoric, this is a pretty good set of policies.

On to the environment, where

The CDP believes that environmental issues are important because the environment is God-given and sustains life.

Humans have an obligation to responsibly manage the environment and to mitigate, where feasible, environmental change and pollution.

It needs to be remembered that the earth was made for humankind. The environment needs to be kept in perspective as the servant to humankind and not elevated to the point where human lives are sacrificed in favour of preserving the life of some plants or animals. Tragically, this was seen late last century in Africa and Asia with the abrupt cessation in the use of the mosquito control pesticide DDT before adequate alternative controls were in place. As a consequence thousands of human lives were lost to mosquito borne diseases in favour of an attempt to protect some plants and animals from some of the perceived effects of DDT.

They are, however, ‘agnostic’ about climate change, and don’t support Australia signing the Kyoto protocol or carbon trading. They do support the development of economic alternatives to fossil fuels and cleaner coal mining technologies. But they want the media to be more balanced and stop scaring our children with ‘apocalyptic’ predictions of climate change.

The CDP’s health policy is precisely as you would expect. Healthcare to be available for all, but no medicare funding for abortion (and medical and nursing personnel with conscientious objections should not be forced to participate in them) or IVF, RU 486 to be illegal along with euthanasia, and the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ causes AIDS. And the government should support organisations that ‘promote chaste lifestyles’ before marriage. On the other hand, they want dental care to be added to medicare, better mental health care and palliative care, and bans on smoking in public places.

OK, I’ve run out of energy, or perhaps patience, for reviewing the rest of the CDP’s policies. They are, of course, pro-censorship. They also want to make housing more affordable, among other things by removing stamp duty (which would certainly make a big difference, but possibly not enough of one). They also have policies on rural Australians that are not dissimilar to those of the Nationals, though less detailed, of course. Their IR policies are better than Howard’s, but not especially inspiring. Their policies on water are impractical. You can read them yourselves if you really care. I don’t. I’ve already decided what I think of them.

On the up-side, they don’t want to have lots of guns. And their education and early childhood policy is pretty good.

On the down-side, I wouldn’t want to be a non-Christian in their world. Or even a vaguely left-wing Christian. I certainly wouldn’t want to be gay. It’s a difficult choice – while they clearly fall above One Nation and the Shooters and Fishers, I’m not so sure where they fall in relation to the CEC, the DLP and the Climate Change Sceptics. Slightly above, I think; the DLP are scarier because they are better at hiding their nastiness, and they are also more likely to actually get in. The Climate Change Sceptics have no good policies at all, and the only thing going for the CEC is their Space Program. So I think the CDP is going to fall just below the Liberal Party, at the head of all the right-wing lunatics in the final dregs of my ballot paper.

They really are a nasty piece of work – but they are a marginally less dangerous nasty piece of work than some others I could mention. And that in itself is pretty frightening.

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