The increasing lurch to the left of Australia’s major and minor political parties—where progressive policies on abortion, euthanasia, and the LGBTQI+ take centre stage—has presented a unique challenge to protecting and safeguarding Christian values in the country.
I have had personal experience of the problem. As the former senior vice-president of the Liberal Party’s Fremantle Division, I was delighted to see a motion proposed by our member, Sherry Sufi, receive approval from the party’s Western Australia (WA) Division. It read as follows:
“That the Liberal Party of Australia (WA Division) calls on the Federal Government to introduce right of passage to persecuted European minorities of South Africa and Zimbabwe enabling them to resettle in Australia.”
As a consequence, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton instructed his department to consider bringing severely persecuted white minority South Africans to Australia on refugee visa grounds.
Dutton called for them to be given special consideration, saying the group deserved “special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances” they face at home.
At the time, there were claims that over 19,000 White South Africans had been murdered in their homeland due to farmland reclamation efforts by the government.
To my utter dismay, no special visa was granted. As reported, the then-Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop refused to back Dutton and abide by the motion I put forward.
While Bishop acknowledged this was a worthy response to an obvious humanitarian crisis, she said persecuted South Africans were not immediately eligible for humanitarian visas.
When Scott Morrison became prime minister, many expected a new kind of leadership in line with Christian values and principles–particularly after he explained to Australians the grief he felt over the plight of genuine refugees.
In November 2018, when Pakistani Asia Bibi needed to escape from imminent death in November 2018, there was an opportunity for him to demonstrate his own integrity and truthfulness in his admissions.
Bibi was a Christian farm labourer from Pakistan whose story began in June 2009 when she was picking berries with other farmworkers in a field in Punjab. She got into an argument with two Muslim women who refused to drink water she fetched because a Christian had touched it.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law carries the death sentence.
Despite the harsh penalty, a remarkably light burden of proof needs to be produced, and the accusers can refuse to repeat the allegation in court for fear of blaspheming themselves. As a result, Bibi was convicted in 2010 on charges of blaspheming the prophet Muhammed.
Fortunately, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned her conviction because there was no evidence to support the claims against her. She was then acquitted after spending almost eight years on death row and solitary confinement.
Bibi was then forced to hide herself and apply for a refugee status, after riots erupted and radicals vowed to assassinate her.
On that occasion, I also urged the Australian government to offer political asylum to Bibi, an innocent woman who narrowly avoided the death penalty.
However, instead of offering asylum to a Christian woman in desperate need of help, the government informed me that it would consider offering asylum to Bibi only if Canada or another country did not do so.
Why should Australia have to wait for a response from Canada first? Why should we follow the lead of other nations?
“Either it’s the right thing to do, or it isn’t. And with extremists hunting her from house to house, it is important for us to act now,” Martyn Iles, director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said.
These two incidents are examples of the weakening support and protection towards Christian values and beliefs by Australian public officials.
Another example is the issue of abortion.
During the 2019 federal election campaign, the Labor Party’s Spokesperson for Women, Tanya Plibersek, announced a plan that would make public hospitals provide abortion services to qualify for federal funding.
The prime minister, himself a Christian, could not condemn the announcement. When responding to Labor’s abortion plan, he said:
“This is a very controversial and sensitive issue and on these matters I have never sought to divide Australians on this … I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion, because frankly I don’t think it is good for our country.”
While attempting to sidestep a divisive issue, the prime minister did not overtly defend the rights of an unborn child.
Further, when rugby player Israel Folau faced banishment by the Australian Rugby Union for posting statements from the Bible on his Facebook page, the prime minister’s first reaction was to condemn him, “I thought they were terribly insensitive and obviously that is a matter for the ARU, and they’ve taken that decision.”
It raises the question of how our country can walk this tightrope where, on the one hand, we continue to benefit from the values that Christianity has bestowed on our nation, and on the other, shy away from defending these same values.
Augusto Zimmermann is a professor and head of law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth, Australia. He is also president of the Western Australian (WA) Legal Theory Association and a former WA law reform commissioner (2012–2017). Zimmermann is the author of “Recent Attacks on Religious Freedom in Australia,” an academic review available on the website of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Poland (pdf).
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.