Australia’s faith-based groups have called on the next Parliament to provide greater protection for people of faith and stronger support for traditional values, as conservative voters are expected to play an important role in the outcome of the upcoming federal election.
While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese did not touch on the topic of religious freedom in their opening election pitches on Sunday, both have previously promised to enshrine protections for people of faith and ensure religious bodies can protect their ethos.
However, with the shelving of the religious bill and the recent backlash against Citipointe college for its faith-based contract, candidates need to do “more than talk” and “be clear on where they stand individually on this issue” to secure votes from people of faith, a religious group has argued.
“The community support for strong [religious] protections is clear,” said Director of Public Policy at CSA Mark Spencer on April 10.
“If candidates seek to duck this issue or simply refer questions to campaign headquarters, people will see through that and vote accordingly,” Spencer added.
This sentiment is echoed by Australian conservative political activist Lyle Shelton, who argued: “Freedom of speech and freedom of religion should be front and centre of this campaign.”
“Christian and Muslim schools are under the most pressure with neither side of politics willing to help them; such is the power of the LGBTIQA+ lobby which demands they surrender their religious diversity for rainbow conformity.”
But religious freedom is not the only liberal principle that has been neglected, Shelton added.
While the two major parties are poised to focus on "woke policies" and "a personality contest" in the upcoming six weeks of the election campaign, the "real contest for ideas about freedom, the rights of the unborn, how to strengthen families, lowering the debt and how to build a strong economy that has energy security at the heart of it, will go undebated.”
The campaign seeks to pressure the five moderate Liberal MPs who crossed the floor on the religious bill in defiance of Morrison’s election pledge. They include Bridget Archer in Bass, Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney, Fiona Martin in Reid, Katie Allen in Higgins and Dave Sharma in Wentworth, all of whom hold key marginal seats.
Martyn Iles, managing director of the ACL, argued his campaign would “empower the right people” who can stand up for traditional values on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, queer education, and religious freedom. He also emphasised the need to make "short-term" sacrifices for "long-term gain."
Key election issues addressed so far include post-pandemic recovery, taxes, electricity prices, investment in the defence forces and climate change policies.