The Green Agenda – A Message From Catholic Bishops in New South Wales

March 17, 2011 9:05 am
A Message From Catholic Bishops in New South Wales
 
On March 26 the people of NSW will go to the polls
in the state election. The majority of the candidates
belong to a political party and those parties have
policies which they will strive to enact by law, if
elected.
What are the Greens promising to deliver into law
if their candidates are supported? Many Catholics
have asked our opinion of the different parties and
candidates, especially the Greens who are a relatively
new phenomenon on the Australian scene. Of course
Catholics and other people of good will can be found
in most parties.
Not everything the Greens are promoting is bad
public policy. Protecting the environment, for
example, is an important responsibility, and we share
the widespread concern that more needs to be done
to achieve this. But concern for the environment does
not mean that all Greens policies are acceptable.
The full offering of the party has to be taken into
account. Greens who are elected will work within the
legislature to change the law to reflect their policies.
If elected they will claim a mandate to pursue the
legal reforms outlined in their policies. The Greens
will not win government in NSW, but experience
Federally and in other States shows that they can
exercise significant power over governments, even
with only a few seats.
It is important then for religious people, particularly
those from the major monotheistic traditions, to
recognise there are some specific Greens policies that
give rise to grave concern.
 
Religious Freedom
 
The Greens are committed to removing what
are called “exemption provisions” from the Anti-
Discrimination Act. This would force non-government
schools to employ teachers whose views, values
and lifestyle are contrary to the religious traditions
of these schools, and the hundreds of thousands of
parents who send their children to them. This is not
about “exemptions” from the law. Church agencies
and schools are bound by the Anti-Discrimination Act.
The real issue is religious freedom, which in addition
to private prayer and worship also means the right to
live out our faith in the community. The language of
“exemptions” is misleading. Parliaments are obliged
by international human rights conventions to protect
religious freedom. A failure to protect freedom
of religion also threatens freedom of thought and
conscience.
 
School Funding
 
The NSW Greens want to reduce State grants to
most non-government schools, including all Catholic
systemic and some Catholic independent schools, to
the same total level they were at in 2003 from both
State and Commonwealth grants combined, with an
allowance for inflation. That means that NSW Catholic
system schools alone would immediately lose more
than $318 million a year, which would be a reduction
from the current 2011 amount of 85% for primary
schools and 65% for secondary schools. To cover this
loss in funding and maintain current standards, fees
in Catholic systemic primary and secondary schools
would have to rise substantially, possibly by as much
as $1,550 a year. The Greens will also work to end
all government funding for the so-called “wealthiest
private schools” but do not define what they mean by
“wealthy”. Non-government schools which support
parents with the religious education of their children
would very likely be denied all State funding under
the Greens policy if they enrol students and employ
staff on faith-based grounds.
 
Drug Use
 
The Greens will work to treat personal drug use as
a health and social issue, and therefore acceptable,
while keeping “commercial-scale” drug-dealing,
importation and “unsanctioned” manufacture as
crimes. They do not define these terms. They also
support the removal of “criminal sanctions for
personal drug use and the possession of associated
implements” along with the removal of “criminal
sanctions for the possession and growing of a small
number of cannabis plants for personal use.” Again,
they do not define “small number”. But the use of
non-therapeutic drugs damages health, life and
communities and is an offence against human dignity.
 
Marriage
 
The Greens are applying pressure on the Federal
Government to amend the Marriage Act and enable
two men or two women to marry. If the Federal
Government does not move to address this “unfair
discrimination” they will introduce a bill into the NSW
Parliament to try to legislate for homosexual marriage
at the State level. But it is not “unfair discrimination”
to recognise that marriage is the union of a man and
a woman who bind themselves to each other for the
well-being of their children.
 
Changing the law on marriage would expose churches
and schools to coercive pressures from the state
to cease teaching their beliefs about marriage and
family. Same-sex relationships and the relationship
between a man and a woman are different realities,
and it helps no one to call different relationships by
the same name.
 
Abortion
 
The Greens will pursue the removal of abortion as an
offence under the Crimes Act in the next parliament.
Abortion involves the deliberate killing of an innocent
unborn child, and current NSW law offers some
limited protection to mothers and their unborn
children. The Greens support the law in Victoria
that specifically denies doctors and other health
practitioners the right of conscientious objection to
participating in or being associated with the practice
of abortion. It is remarkable that such offensive laws
could be passed in an Australian parliament, denying
individuals the fundamental freedom of belief,
conscience and religion.
 
Euthanasia
 
The Greens sought to introduce euthanasia legislation
into the NSW Parliament last year and almost
succeeded. However, there is cause for on-going
concern. For all the talk about choice, freedom and
dignity, the reality is that euthanasia is the killing of
another human being. Evidence from countries like
The Netherlands and Belgium shows that many of
those euthanised are involuntary victims. They did
not choose to be killed. You cannot write into law
absolute safeguards and protections to prevent this
here. Abuses and exploitation of the vulnerable will
occur.
 
Conclusion
 
The Greens’ position on a number of fundamental
points of human and social policy areas conflicts
directly with the beliefs and values of virtually all
religious people, and the beliefs of many other
people as well. The conflicts are not superficial or
inconsequential. They go to fundamental issues
such as respect for all human life from conception
to natural death. They attack religious freedom and
freedom of conscience. Greens who are elected
will bring a whole set of policies. You cannot pick
and choose. They are not only concerned for the
environment.
Every vote in this election counts. We should
remember that in the last parliament there were
some members in all major parties who supported
bad legislation on same-sex adoption, cloning and
the destruction of human embryos, and surrogacy,
and there will be some in the new parliament who
will take a similar view to the Greens on the issues
discussed in this statement.
We need to ask candidates where they stand on these
issues and talk to our families, friends and workmates
to ensure that those elected on 26 March are truly
concerned for the rights of every person in this State,
rich or poor, young or old, the dying or the unborn.
 
The Greens website:
http://nsw.greens.org.au/
 
The websites for other NSW parties are as follows:
 
Australian Labor Party
http://www.nswalp.com/
 
Liberal Party
http://www.nsw.liberal.org.au/
 
National Party
http://nsw.nationals.org.au/
———————————————————————————————–
Cardinal George Pell
Archbishop of Sydney
Bishop Terry Brady
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney
Bishop Anthony Fisher OP
Bishop of Parramatta
Bishop Gerard Hanna
Bishop of Wagga Wagga
Bishop Peter Ingham
Bishop of Wollongong
Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett
Bishop of Lismore
Bishop Michael Malone
Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle
Bishop Kevin Manning
Administrator of Wilcannia-Forbes
Bishop Luc Matthys
Bishop of Armidale
Bishop Julian Porteous
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney