Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-4-1349 7828

August 2007 # 3

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Back to Editorials 2007

Which god?

In the latest bit of “me tooism” to come from Kevin – call me ’07 – Rudd we find that not only is he prepared to support one god, he seems to be taking out a divine insurance policy with the whole lot of them. Last week Kev and John went toe to toe for the Christians. They both claimed god was a neutral observer when it came to politics and that although they each felt they were doing god’s work here on earth, the other bloke most certainly wasn’t. 

Looking at the detail of their speeches we find that the Christian god, if the take home points are any guide, likes you to earn lots of money, wants you to only have opposite sex partners, will reward those who do his bidding and caring for the environment means getting rid all the trees so they don’t accidentally fall on top of small, fury animals. The Christians who sat, watched and listened seemed divided. All agreed that god was on their side but they were not sure which side god would be on come polling day. Perhaps, like many of us, god doesn’t really care because she knows it’s all a farce anyway. But that was last week. 

Of course we should not forgot that in the last few weeks Howard sent in the military to occupy selected Indigenous communities, took over a local hospital, decided to run local governments in Queensland, defended a racist, homophobic senior catholic priest, took over our biggest water system and ticked off Nuri al-Maliki telling him to stop worrying about the occupation in Iraq and to just get on with it. 

Not to be outdone, Kevin ’07 fired up the policy cannons and said … yes to everything Howard had done. Well, maybe not yes to everything, but he certainly didn’t say no. Talk about a small target. Any smaller and they’d need to put a post-it note on his back to be able to distinguish the two. But it doesn’t stop there. This week it was the turn of certain sections of the Jewish community to find succour at the teat of the public purse. 

In a little reported promise last week both Howard and Rudd are offering tax deductibility or tax exemptions of up to $20 million for “donations” made to improve the “security” at Orthodox Jewish schools. Overall, the orthodox Jew tends to be very conservative in dress and ideas – a natural mate for the conservative and narrow minded politicians they vote for. The Orthodox Jew is also a very religious one. One, who like Rudd and Howard, believes that god is on their side and that everything they do is for the glory of god. If they happen to prosper out of this arrangement it only means they are ‘in tune’ with the work of the Lord. 

So the question has to be asked, “why are the Jews so in need of “special treatment?” It’s rather simple actually. Because that newest political failure, Malcolm Turnbull, currently holds a marginal seat being which is being contested by Waverley mayor, George Newhouse who, so it happens, is a Jew and the Labor party candidate. 

George is a popular politician and a tech savvy one to boot! He must be. He has ten friends on his “Myspace” site, four of whom are fellow Labor travellers and others who have their privacy set to “don’t show anyone who I am”. Could it be that Kevin ’07 is just trying to do his own bit of pork barrelling by getting in with George’s constituency? Nah, that would be too cynical, don’t you think? 

I assume that Kev and John have done their homework on their offer to subsidise one very small set of religious schools (there are about 20 of them). From what I’ve seen of other religious school systems there are the very well off ones (read - in an affluent area with wealthy families to support them) and then the majority which are either not any better off than the local public school or are worse off than them. 

So, if each school was to receive an equal share, it would be about $1 million a pop. For what? That is the central question and it would seem for nothing more than to try and buy the votes of some of the Jewish community. Last week the Christians, this week the Jews, next week I suppose it will the Calathumpians and I can’t wait for a similar announcement for the few Islamic schools who serve their communities. After all, if it’s good for the goose it must be good for the gander. 

However, it would seem that in order to get some kind of recognition at the political level these days and the cash that flows from it, it helps to live in a marginal seat without a hospital or one with a large water way through it. It must have a high proportion of Jewish and Christian practitioners, a small and ‘dysfunctional’ Indigenous community, have an “ethnic problem” and a whopping big forest ready to be turned into pulp. That’s how you get their attention these days. Either that or move to Iraq! 

I have been fortunate to have and to have had Jewish friends. These people all seem to hold similar ideals and share similar aspirations to me. None of them are or were ‘orthodox’ in the sense of being institutionally religious but many of them share a spirituality that looks deeper than material gain or short term profit. The Jewish community is, therefore, not unlike any other. There are those who struggle and those who accumulate immense wealth. It is the latter group to whom the politicians are pitching their policies. 

The political opportunism being displayed should be an affront to any right minded person who holds deeply religious views. However, it is not these people being targeted by the politicians. Rather, it is the few very rich and influential players who stand to benefit most out of Kevin ’07 and John (oh be gone)’s proposals and they do not, in my experience, reflect the views of the wider Jewish community. 

If god is to play a more important and central role in the Australian political system then we will all be worse off for it. After all it was god who got us into trouble in Vietnam (god vs. communism) and it was god who got us into trouble in Iraq (god vs. the ‘evil’ Saddam). It is god who gets us into trouble if we’re gay, black, love the environment or don’t worship the god who is being invoked to support one cause or another. 

Our broader community has had a healthy scepticism towards those who invoke one god or another. Now it seems Rudd and Howard are more than willing to attempt to invoke a divine insurance claim in their attempts to buy the votes of a few religious extremists whose central aim is try and turn us into worshipers of their particular god. I guess the question for Kevin ’07 and John (oh be gone) is, “can you now tell us which god it is that you actually think is on your side?”

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