Bill Shorten is un-Australian.
This may seem like a big statement to make. I mean after-all unlike some of our previous Prime Ministers like Tony Abbot and Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten was born and bred in Australia. He has strong roots in the workers union movements, which have a long history in Australian tradition, and he speaks with that nasally Aussie accent that us younger Australians brought up on too much American TV can’t help but notice and sometimes even grate at.
So, in many ways, Bill Shorten is a product of and representative of Australian people and our history. But the way in which he is un-Australian is so important because he wants to be the Prime Minister of Australia, the highest representative of our laws and constitution. So how is he un-Australian? Well, he has gone against the spirit of our most important historical and legal document: the constitution. First, let’s read his comments and then we’ll see how.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
“I cannot believe in this election that there is a discussion even under way that gay people will go to hell,” Mr Shorten said.
“I cannot believe that the Prime Minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell.”
When Mr Shorten was asked if he believed gay people would go to hell, he said: “No, I don’t believe gay people, because they’re gay, will go to hell. I don’t need a law to tell me that. I don’t believe it.”
The Opposition Leader then criticised Mr Morrison for not being able to give a direct answer to the same question the previous day.
“I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia you are going to be prime minister for all people. And I just don’t believe it. The nation’s got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity.” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Now if you want to read my discussion of who goes to hell you can read here and here. What the Bible says about this topic is far more than what Bill Shorten has narrowed it down to, but his truly concerning comment is in the last line: “I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia you are going to be prime minister for all people. And I just don’t believe it. The nation’s got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity.” Whether intentionally or not Bill Shorten has used the media to create a religious test of office for the Prime Minister.
The Australian constitution clearly says this in article 116:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth (Government website).
The constitution specifically forbids the Australian government from making any law that requires a religious test for any public office. That means any position in the government or government bureaucracy from working in Australian Federal Police, the Army, all the way on up to the Prime Minister’s office.
Now Mr Shorten has not sought to pass such a law, and if he was to become Prime Minister to pass such a law would require changing the Constitution which is no easy task. But he has used the media during an election campaign to effectively create a religious test for the job of Prime Minister. He has effectively said in his comments that any Christian who holds to a traditional view of Christian morality is not fit to be the leader of this nation. Not only is this ridiculous Australia has had many Christian and non-Christian leaders over its history who have done their jobs well, but it is also thoroughly un-Australian.
Those who know our history well will know that Australia was founded as a British Colony at a time when Britain had learnt many lessons about established religions and living peacefully with Christians and people of different faiths. Those who were building our society did not want a repeat of the clashes between Catholics and Anglicans, nor did they want the persecutions of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and others in England coming here, and though Anglicanism was the favoured majority religion in Australia, from our earliest days of European settlement Catholicism was a strong part of Australian identity.
Therefore, learning from the mistakes of the old country, our founders here in Australia decided to make this new country a place where people of all religions and none, could be treated equally and live peaceably together, without fear of persecution or exclusion. It was an essential part of the founding ethos of Australia that people’s religious beliefs would not be used against them when they seek to serve their commonwealth in an official capacity.
This philosophy was so important to the founders of Australia that they enshrined this ethos in the constitution making it law and making it a foundational part of Australian identity. By using the tactic of creating a religious test for the Prime Ministership in the media during an election campaign, Bill Shorten has shown himself to be in total contradiction to our Aussie values and therefore incredibly un-Australian.
I don’t think such a man is fit for the highest office of the land, he seems to have no respect for the most important founding principles of our nation: a place where we don’t judge people politically by their religion or creed.
This issue is too important for us as a society to overlook. If we want to continue to live in a free society, with strong values of tolerance and respect for all people, we need people in top positions who uphold those values as unassailable parts of our national identity.