Holding on to our Christian and Democratic Values

Address to the Christian Democratic Party Convention, Sydney

On the 19th April, 2012 the ABC's new headquarters in Brisbane was opened.

The ABC moved their Brisbane headquarters because of the concern over a cancer cluster.

At the opening, the Chairman of the ABC, a former distinguished Chief Justice of your State no less, told the assembled and I quote -

A few weeks ago this building was cleansed in a traditional smoking ceremony and bad spirits were expelled.

As the Governor-General and the Managing Director of the ABC have highlighted in their addresses, we are here today because of the cancer cluster that was identified at our former premises. In these circumstances, the smoking ceremony could not have been more apt.

Really – 'could not have been more apt'.

And you heard right 'the building was cleansed ... and bad spirits were expelled'.

On being made aware of this cringing display of political correctness, I pursued the matter at Senate Estimates the following month.

I was provided with all the politically correct gibberish one regrettably expects from the ABC today. We were told this was a 'symbolic ceremony' and 'there is a strong connection with the Indigenous community ...'. The staff allegedly thought 'it would be good'. You can imagine the gush of words fully devoid of any meaningful response. In fact I was told 'it was a lovely event'.

By the way, I am still waiting to find out how much that ceremony cost the Australian taxpayer.

But that is an aside. Because this has the potential to cost our society a lot lot more than just some dollars.

And lest the left should try the old but discredited trick of misrepresenting my comments today, I stress this was not a welcome to country ceremony or an acknowledgment of country or elders. This was a separate cleansing ceremony to ward off evil spirits and one presumes the cancer they cause.

I did have the audacity to query whether a Christian blessing ceremony had been contemplated. I think we all know the answer to that one. Another gush of words devoid of meaning other than that it was symbolic.

So, why did 'our ABC' go down this path?

Because it exalts the faddish, the politically correct and the trendy.

An objective analysis of this ritualistic cleansing ceremony would see it as highly insensitive to the vast majority of Australians who identify as Christians and all those others who whilst not identifying as Christians, personally support the Judeo Christian underpinning of our culture and society...

Such as, the atheist Baroness Warnock of the United Kingdom, to whom I shall return later.

But let me make this point. It was insensitive to indigenous Australians as well.

Whilst we will have the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Census details later this month, the 2006 Census informs us that 64 per cent of our indigenous population identified as Christian. The second biggest cohort of 20 per cent was 'no religion'.

At best, even if you added the not stated category together with Buddhism and all the others, you might rustle up an absolute maximum of 15 per cent.

So excuse me, but why was this done?  To be sensitive?  For our indigenous community? What did this actually symbolise? And for whom?

It was done for the politically correct elite who run the ABC as a symbol of their counter-culture to the mainstream of Australian society, which of course includes, lest the elite forget, our indigenous community.

This regrettable jettisoning of our culture and heritage by the taxpayer funded national broadcaster, self-described – somewhat pretentiously it would seem - as 'our ABC' - and its vacuous attempts at rationalisation - fail to comprehend the development in indigenous thinking.

I recall as a former Chair of the Commonwealth Parliament's Joint-Standing Committee on Native Title, and in my role as Fisheries Minister, consulting with indigenous communities, especially in the Torres Strait Islands, and commencing our consultations in Christian prayer and concluding the consultations in Christian prayer.

Indeed, Torres Strait Islanders still mark the 1st of July every year in memory of the arrival of the London Missionary Society on Erub Island on the 1st July, 1871.

This day is celebrated on the islands as well as on the mainland in Queensland especially.

And the name of this annual celebration? It's called the 'Coming of the Light Festival' – pity our ABC couldn't be sensitive to the actual beliefs of our indigenous brothers and sisters.

And the reason they call the Festival 'The Coming of the Light' is because they believe they were liberated from the world of evil spirits!

Indeed, I am reliably informed by the ABS that the percentage of indigenous folk identifying as Christian in Queensland is in fact higher than the national average of 64 per cent and sits at 68 per cent - which makes 'our ABC's' rationale look even less credible, if that were possible.

More recently, this none too subtle drive to deny our cultural heritage was also witnessed in the attempt to have the national curriculum purge our language and culture of those historical milestones and identifiers known as BC and AD.  We were told that the new language would for the purposes of historic timelines become CE and BCE standing for the 'common era' and 'before the common era'.

My enquiring mind made me ponder as to what would happen if Freddie were to ask his teacher – 'Teacher, when did the common era start?'

And I then wondered whether the teacher would be allowed to say 'at the birth of Christ'.

And what would Freddie then be told if he asked why we didn't simply call it Before Christ or BC for short?

The intellectual vacuity and dishonesty of these attempts are so easily exposed by  simple questions.

We can move on to the people who have control of the great Girl Guides Movement in Australia who are busily dumbing it down by altering the Girl Guide promise.

The Girl Guides - but only in Australia thankfully – has removed reference to God, Queen and country from their promise. The former phrase - to do my 'duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country' - had about it a very wholesome flavour and embodied aspirational ideals to which all young girls could look for inspiration.

How is this for insensitivity? In the year of Her Majesty's Jubilee reign, when support for a republic in Australia is at a quarter of a century low and support for the monarchy is rapidly gaining, we see a process of sacrificing values at the heart of our culture for elitism and valueless verbiage.

The former Girl Guide promise informed us that there are greater authorities and causes than ourselves. There is more to life than 'me'. It informed us that the worship and serving of 'I' is an empty, selfish and unfulfilling life.

And that is why that now junked phrase was followed up with a promise to 'help other people'.

Today, a life of commitment and service as an ideal aspiration is being discarded in favour of the new ideal and aspiration completely centered around oneself. The promise now reads in part 'I promise that I will be true to myself and develop my beliefs'.

Let's stop and think about this change.

Being true to yourself and to your beliefs is selfishness at best. It is really a recipe for social anarchy and discord.

It would be fair to observe that it is not often that this particular Leader of the Opposition in the Senate quotes President Barack Obama with approval. But President Obama did perceptively acknowledge that the biggest problem in the world today was selfishness.

And so when President Obama is recognising selfishness as the biggest evil in the world, we have the Girl Guides in this country junking selfless service for being true to oneself – whatever that actually means.

So what happens if my belief is communism? What happens if my belief is the caste system where some people are deemed to be less worthy than others? Or simply, that my belief system is self centered?

Well – I am told to be true to myself and my beliefs.

As Cardinal Pell so poignantly observed in the Spectator on 3rd April, 2010 ' a person who believes in nothing can only believe in himself. And self belief implies that anything is possible – what do lies, cheating, harm and swindling matter?'

Good luck to the Girl Guides thinking that this approach will somehow enhance and increase their membership, let alone develop better citizens.

Silly and sorry as these three quick examples from 'our ABC' to the National Curriculum to the Girl Guides are, it puts a spotlight on an unthinking and deeply corrosive trend in our society to deny our culture and heritage ... a trend which needs to be challenged and arrested.

And what is so sad and silly and disappointing about this trend is that it is not only the so-called much maligned 'religious right' that are seeing this disturbing trend and lamenting it.

Indeed, Baroness Warnock, an atheist pillar of the small 'l' liberal establishment in the United Kingdom, who has had many battles with religion over a whole number of issues during her long and distinguished career, made the following observation (when she was 86 years old).

And please remember Baroness Warnock was an outspoken atheist and took on the Catholic Church and institutions of the Christian religion on many occasions.  But this is what she said in 2010 as quoted in the Spectator on the 2nd October, 2010, page 16 – ' I don't think we ought to forget that the official religion of this country is Christianity', she says. 'Its going against a cohesive tradition if all religious festivals whether they are Hindu or Muslim or whatever they are, are given equal precedence ...  .This is really a matter of tradition and culture, and there is no doubt that ours is fundamentally Christian.

So I think Christianity ought to have precedence actually. Obviously the other faiths are more than entitled to conduct funerals and so on according to their own tradition. But if there is a public statement like a school holiday or something it ought to be based on Christianity ...'

Using that atheistic pillar of UK society, Baroness Warnock's observation, could we delete the words 'like a school holiday or something' and insert 'like an opening of ABC premises', I wonder?

If an atheist like Baroness Warnock can see the importance of Christianity in our society and culture in public statements why on earth can't 'our ABC'?

And just in case the feisty baroness won't do for our critics, let's try the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Some ten years ago, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences tried to ascertain the reasons for the dominance of what we refer to as our western civilisation. At first they thought more powerful guns, and then they thought it might be the political systems, then economic systems.

Finally they concluded 'in the past 20 years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion; Christianity ... The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this'.

If academics from communist China can come to that conclusion, one wonders why the Girl Guides, those in charge of our National Curriculum and 'our ABC' can't come to a similar conclusion.

As T S Elliot, that great author wrote 'if Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again'.

So what has Christianity brought to the table?

'In the ancient, medieval and modern worlds, the Christian ethic elevated brutish standards of morality, halted infanticide, enhanced human life, emancipated women, abolished slavery, inspired charities and relief organisations, created hospitals, established orphanages and founded schools.

In medieval times, Christianity almost single handedly kept classical culture alive through recopying manuscripts, building libraries, moderating warfare through truce days and providing dispute arbitration. It was Christians who invented colleges and universities, dignified labour as a divine vocation and extended the light of civilisation ....

In the modern era, Christian teaching advanced science, instilled concepts of political and social and economic freedom, fostered justice and provided the greatest single cause of inspiration to the magnificent achievements in art, architecture, music and literature that we treasure to the present day'.

(Reference see pages 7 and 8 of 'How Christianity changed the World' by Alvin Schmidt, Zondervan, Michigan, 2001)

The reality is that today's secular morality could hardly have been possible without the Judeo Christian ethic that has influenced generation after generation.

In short, no other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, movement whatever has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done. (Page 9 – How Christianity Changed the World).

As Tammy Bruce in her hard hitting book entitled 'Exposing the Left's Assault on our Culture and Values, the Death of Right and Wrong' ,says at page 185 'the left elite know that if the truth of history is unleashed, if morals, values and character help make dreams come true, then their morally vacant world of victims, anger and hatred will collapse like the house of cards it really is'.

Can I draw all this together and make this further observation.  It is an observation that in fact should not be necessary.

But it is necessary and the observation is this - everyone is religious - whether they like it or not.

You see, everyone has a world view.

And, it is one's world view that informs one's sense of morality.

And, it is one's sense of morality that informs one's law making.

You see, the laws that we make are usually designed to encourage good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour. I know there are exceptions. I don't see any moral superiority on driving on the left hand side of the road. But that is about the only concession that I'll make to the left.

More seriously, the simple fact is that one's law making is inextricably intertwined with one's sense of morality.  And one's sense of morality must as of necessity be informed as a result of one's religion or one's world view.

That is why it is singularly unhelpful and intellectually bankrupt for certain commentators to claim that those of the Christian faith should leave their religion outside the doors of Parliament House.

However, it seems those that have an atheistic world view or an agnostic world view are quite entitled to carry their belief system through the doors of Parliament House.

Let's be clear there is no such thing as a neutral world view. Everyone has a world view. And the indisputable fact is one's world view will ultimately inform and impact on the way one would legislate.

We all need from time to time to engage in the informative and persuasive exercise of stepping back and having a look at our western civilization, and see it 'warts and all'.

Then we need to cast our eyes on other countries and societies that are underpinned by other world views, or religious views, and observe them 'warts and all'.

Then ask the question which do we prefer? And why?

It has been an exceptional honour for me to have been invited to address the conference of another political party.

Despite our nuanced differences – from time to time – I believe that in general terms we share a similar underpinning and world view when we come to the legislative table.

A quick scanning of the Australian Electoral Commission Registered How to Vote cards discloses a generous allocation of preferences from the Christian Democrats to the Liberal Party, and from the Liberal Party to the Christian Democrats. Long may that continue.

Let me conclude by acknowledging that in the cultural war in which this country is engaged there has been a warrior who has stood firm and articulated for the cause of what is right and proper and for the underpinning foundations of our society for about twice as long as I have, and that of course is the Honourable Fred Nile MLC who has clocked up over 30 years of service.

I wish your conference well and God Bless.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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