22nd June, 2010
Tens of thousands of Christians gathered in churches across Australia this week to watch Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott talk about their Christian faith and to address issues ranging from asylum seekers to climate change, marriage, school chaplains and the sexualisation of children.
The event at Old Parliament House in Canberra, hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby and attended by 200 Christian leaders, was beamed out live via the internet to churches across the country.
ADDRESSING THE 'CHRISTIAN CONSTITUENCY': Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at 2010 Make It Count. PICTURE: Courtesy Australian Christian Lobby
Called ‘2010 Make It Count’, it followed a similar event ahead of the 2007 Federal Election which was addressed by then Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.
Speaking at the event on Monday night, Mr Abbott, in his first appearance at such an event, stressed that he was “a Christian in politics, not a Christian politician”.
“(A)nd I am not asking Christians to vote for me because I am of like mind. Faith has influenced my life but it does not and I believe should not shape my politics.”
Mr Rudd, meanwhile, highlighted the contribution the ‘Judeo-Christian ethic’ had made to the country and said he was proud of the role churches had played in shaping Australia.
“So many people in this country have benefitted from the great tradition of Christian charity and church intervention in society and in people's lives when they have been so singularly distressed,” he said. “This would be quite a different - and I believe poorer - country were it not for that contribution.”
Asked about asylum seekers, Mr Rudd said the Government had “tried very hard” to get the balance right on the issue while Mr Abbott said that refugees should be given “appropriate sanctuary” in Australia.
“That’s not the same, though, as giving that person permanent residency,” he added.
Asked about the Northern Territory intervention, Mr Rudd, meanwhile, said there had been “measurable change” and added that if asked to give the initiative a mark out of 10, he would give it a “pass mark”.
The Prime Minister said he remained committed to fighting climate change and to having the emissions trading scheme passed into law.
“If we take, I believe, carefully the requirement on this generation to be proper stewards of God’s creation, it means we should act responsibly in the care of this planet and this creation as well.”
Both leaders underlined the unique nature of the marriage relationship, gave their support to the school chaplaincy program and said they would not look to abolish the reading of the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each parliamentary day.
Addressing questions about the sexualisation of children, Mr Abbott said that classification standards need to be reviewed.
“Our current classification system is broken. It doesn’t apply to much that it probably ought to apply to and it doesn’t seem to apply community standards even where it does apply.”
Earlier, Jim Wallace, managing director of the ACL, told the audience the “common purpose” of the event was “not to see the Church in a power position over the state but instead to bring Christ's influence into government”.
Speaking afterwards, he said the ACL appreciated the strong support the event had been given by churches.
“This was a landmark event for the Christian constituency and its success is a testament to the commitment of Christians across Australia to work towards a more moral, compassionate and caring society.”
To see Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's full opening speech, click here...
To see Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's full opening speech, click here...