Matthew Guy, leader of the Victorian Opposition, may have signed his political death warrant by ‘promising’ that religious instruction classes will be reintroduced into the Victorian state school curriculum should it win November’s state election. The announcement was made at an Australian Christian Lobby forum last weekend. He also promised to abolish the safe schools program which is designed to prevent bullying of non-heterosexual children and would ditch courses in sustainability, indigenous history and engagement with Asia. In January, Guy also suggested that students should get a “thorough grounding in Australian values and what makes Australia such a peaceful and prosperous nation”. This presumably would include religion, which he said was “an important part of our history and culture, and plays a central role in the lives of countless Australian families”1. This religious emphasis is because the Victorian Liberal Party has been effectively taken over by religious right-wing nut jobs, under the tutelage of Marcus Bastiaan. It has even gotten to the extent that Bastiaan overrode the Victorian president of the party, Michael Kroger, who now seems to be largely a titular leader2.
This religious takeover of the Victorian Liberal Party is also demonstrated by the preselection of Gladys Liu to replace Julia Banks, who has stated she will leave parliament after going public with bullying allegations3. Liu campaigned against same-sex marriage, the safe schools program, and used much disinformation in her Chinese language campaign on social media in the seat of Chisholm in 20164.
It seems the religious nutters are gaining influence in Queensland’s Liberal National Party too. During the recent vote to decriminalise abortion in Queensland, the LNP allowed its members a conscience vote, and as the Leader of the Opposition, Deb Frecklington, said: “matters about the creation or ending of life are treated as matters of conscience.” The legislation passed despite some Federal Members lying about the legislation to try to defeat it6. Subsequent to the legislation’s passage, the three LNP MPs who used their conscience vote to support the legislation, Tim Nicholls, Steve Minnikin and Jann Stuckey, were subjected to chastisement by parliamentary colleagues, and one (Minnikin) was told that his political career was effectively over. Next month the LNP state council is expected to consider a motion by party members to ban the three from seeking re-election7. So much for a conscience vote. This sort of attitude of ‘yes, by all means, have a conscience, but just vote the way we tell you’ is what one would expect from religious nutters. By way of a counterattack, Warren Entsch has suggested that this may light the fuse to demerge the parties. Indeed, Entsch was himself pilloried by the party for his support of same-sex marriage, despite the federal government allowing a conscience on that too7.
This insurgency in mainstream political parties is the last gasp of the religious to try to shore up their influence in society. It will not work in the long run because they are regressives, whereas Australian society is becoming more progressive. It is a losing hand for the religious, because religion is becoming less important to Australians. It cannot happen soon enough.