Thinking political in a long campaign year

Some thoughts that I am sharing at the Pre-Election forum at Galong on 14 July.

IN 1992, When Bill Clinton was campaigning against Pres George Bush (version 1) his campaign strategist put 3 simple notes on the board in his office in an effort to keep him and the campaign team focussed on a cut-through message.

One was about change & freshness,    one was about healthcare
The other famously said “The economy, stupid”

It’s become a bit of a catch phrase, and used at times to supposedly remind politicians that the most important thing for them to pay attention to is the economy.

With only a slight twist for our times now, it seems as if you could quite easily
have the phrase “It’s the deficit, stupid” as the cut through phrase these days.

I think it is a reminder of a fundamental mis-match  between what I think has become a common political think and what I would suggest is a healthy perspective.

Most importantly, we live in a society – a community – not an ecomony..
In fact we have lost something about the meaning of the term “economy”

I note that on the flyer for this form it is termed to be “an ecumenical perspective” Ecumenical and economy both come from the same Greek word – oikos.

It means household.
And when our thinking in the area of politics becomes focused on interest rates and deficits and balances of trade then we’ve lost something at the heart of who we are.

Sir William Deane used to remind us when he was Governor General that the health of a society can be measured by the way it treats its weakest.

My reading of the ways of God, which the prophets called us to which Jesus both speak of and lives out is that we are called to values such as justice, peace, grace, mercy, forgiveness, hospitality, inclusion, connectedness and compassion

They are not the dominant values that lie at the heart of our socio-economic system, which thrives on individualism, competition and strength.

It’s a basic tension for us

But I am drawn back to the fact that the fullness of our humanity is not found in wealth or power, but in the way that we live in relationship with each other.

It sounds all very theoretical and theological.
But it is also extremely practical.

Here are three simple examples

  • Did you know that people who are on NewStart are asked to live below the poverty line – $35 per day
    It hasn’t been properly indexed for inflation since 1980.
    And the low support actively works against their chances of getting employment
  • Did you know that Australians lost $16.9 billion on gambling in 2012
    About $10billion on poker machines
    That problems gamblers – people who have an addition or are at risk –
    lost approximately 40% of all poker machine losses.
    The Gambling industry made about $4billion last year from addicted people
    For every problem gambler, approx. 5-10 people have their lives affected
  • Did you know that energy prices have doubled in the last 5 years.
    Of this 100% increase, about 5-9% is due to the carbon tax
    Around 25% is caused by the developments of the infrastructure (poles)
    This is to cope with the peak demand of Australian summer.
    BUT Low income households (who get hit with the whole increase too)
    hardly contribute to the peak demand times.
    UnitingCare experience is that low income households cut back on food
    and medicals so that they can pay energy bills

So, my observation is that if we are values driven  in our consideration of political issues, then we are going to think in a way that is different from the feel of the debate over the past 3-5 years.

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