Anna Bligh and deputy premier, Andrew Fraser were clever enough to decline the Australian Christian Lobby’s invitation to attend a pre-election political forum this week. But rookie would-be premier, Campbell Newman, waded in where angels fear to tread.
By all accounts it was a huge night with a sell-out crowd of 60 – yes, six-oh – people knocking down the doors to hear how many pork-barrels Newman would roll out to purchase the Christian vote.
And Can-Do Campbell did his best to please the tens of Christian Lobby supporters who flocked to the forum . Yes, it seems, he is a believer. He has ‘faith’. Not enough, mind you, to bother going to church. But, says he, struggling to find a point of common-ground with the happy-clappers, he says grace before every meal. It’s a tenous connection with an evangelical crowd of Christian zealots, but desperate times, apparently, call for desperate measures.
Despite being on record as a supporter of same-sex marriage, Campbell Newman happily put aside what he knows to be right in the cause of political pragmatism. If it’s possible, he said, his party will rescind the civil unions legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament late last year. That’s tantamount to someone who publicly supported Civil Rights saying he’ll reinstate segregation if it’ll buy him a few redneck votes.
What are we to think of a man whose ethics are so shallow he’s willing to cast them aside to win the leadership of a conservative party and the backing of a fringe group of unrepresentative Christian extremists?
What are we to think of a man who’ll cast a blind eye to the homophobia, Islamaphobia, and despicable divisiveness of this coven of Christian kooks to indulge their aspirations to political influence?
And what does it say about Newman’s judgement that he’ll indulge the wowserish pretensions of 60 evangelicals while alienating thousands of Australians who support a secular government untainted by the tea-party politics that is rapidly destroying America?
Add into this mix, the man most likely to be appointed Education Minister in a Newman-led government – Scripture Union Queensland boss, Tim Mander. Mander, who has gleefully led the invasion of evangelical chaplains into Queensland’s secular state schools, must be salivating at the chance of co-opting the resources of Queensland Education into converting all those unchurched Queensland kids.
Will Newman stop to consider that Mander’s agenda is completely at odds with a secular education system? Or will he further pander to the Christian right by appointing Mander to the Education Ministry? I’d be willing to lay bets he will – and to hell with those parents who want a secular education for their kids.
Newman increasingly reminds me of Woody Allan’s Zelig - a nothing man who’ll morph into anything to gain approval. He seems to have no convictions of his own – no ethical stances that aren’t on sale for votes.
Those who are planning to vote for Newman would do well to consider what he stands for. He stands for same-sex marriage – but will cast that commitment to equality aside for votes and the approval of his party. He stands for Christianity – but can’t be bothered going to church. He’s not a wowser, but will lend credibility to a group of whingeing wowsers if he thinks it might score him some brownie points with the religious right. A jellyfish has more principles than this man.
I’m no great fan of Anna Bligh. She’s also thrown secular education to the wolves and lied point-blank to Queenslanders by swearing that our education system is secular while knowing full-well the word was expunged from the Queensland Education Act in 1910. In all her years in power, Bligh has done nothing to rectify this. What’s more, former Education Minister, Geoff Wilson, stated in writing that the Queensland Labor government had no intention of reinstating the word ‘secular’ to the act – effectively denying our kids the secular education system intended by our founding fathers.
So, my animosity towards Newman is not driven by any love of the Labor party. I like to think of myself as an unaligned equal opportunity ranter. Bligh has been no friend to secular education, but Zelig Newman and his happy-clapping tea party of ministerial missionaries threaten to turn the clock back in Queensland so far you’ll think you’re living in the dark ages.
Can you really respect someone who so readily casts aside his personal principles for political point-scoring? Can you really cast a ballot for someone who’ll cozy up to the group that exploited ANZAC day and our war veterans to hammer home their divisive homophobic, Islamaphobic propaganda?
Like me, you may not be particularly enamoured of Bligh, but think very carefully before putting Queensland’s fate in Newman’s hands. As Lord Mayor, he may have been ‘Can Do Campbell’ but as premier, I predict he’ll be “Nowhere Man Newman”.