For many of us around the country the Northern Territory election would not register on our radar at all. Not even Newspoll, who monitor the political heartbeat of the nation, bother to run polls to gauge voters’ sentiment for the NT elections. This is perhaps indicative of the general disinterestedness the rest of the nation shows the NT in terms of politics at least.
We are all familiar with the striking landscapes of Uluru and Katherine Gorge, and most are aware of historical events such as the bombing of Darwin in World War II, Cyclone Tracy and the death of baby Azaria. Certainly the Howard government’s NT intervention received plenty of coverage at the time and the passing of the euthanasia bill in the mid-nineties made waves across the nation. But beyond that, most of us think of the Northern Territory as a vast landscape of interminable red dust populated by remote indigenous communities, jackaroos, crocs and escapees from civilized society down south. The outstation of the nation.
The August election result does reveal however that those living in the Territory have a similar political sentiment to most other Australians which has unequivocally been shown in the State elections of QLD, NSW and Victoria. In this regard we have much in common.
One Member of the Legislative Assembly, Mrs Alison Anderson, actually preceded her fellow Territorians on a pendulum swing and has traversed a fascinating political journey. She entered parliament at the 2005 election as a Labor member and served in a range of ministerial appointments until she resigned in 2009 over the mismanagement of the housing and infrastructure program for remote indigenous communities. Subsequently she sat as an Independent for two years before joining the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in late 2011 and has now been re-elected as a member of the CLP. From Labor to Independent to Liberal is quite something.
One wonders where the pendulum goes after that? It’s an interesting question as the entire nation is on this trajectory. Does it in time dolefully swing back weighted with a mixture of disappointment and contempt from the populace, along with the desire for ‘change’ and fickleness of heart, as it dismisses once again another government that made grand promises but didn’t deliver? Another government that proclaimed to have an all-encompassing vision and plan to foster and protect the common good of society and the family only to succumb to narrow partisan interests, skewed priorities and be held captive to clamouring lobby groups hell bent on redefining laws based on a completely relativistic world view and distorted understanding of the human person and of society?
Having invested those elected to govern our communities with the authority and duty to conduct our common-good affairs in accordance with genuine human principles, we entrust them with this very noble task and hope they rise to the occasion and govern accordingly with wisdom and grace. From where do they seek this wisdom and grace?
The lack of understanding by an increasing number of our parliamentarians of the common good and societal needs drawn from a Christian anthropology is in many ways a mirror of our own state of affairs. We as individuals, families and communities are not rooted in the truths of our humanity and God’s vision for us. We are detached and adrift from our spiritual roots and therefore the source of wisdom and grace. In this vulnerable state we are netted in a convoluted web of baseless ideas and desires which in reality can only produce parliamentarians, and hence laws, that reflect this.
On the political level at the polling booth this restlessness is expressed by jettisoning the ‘out of touch’ parliamentarians, as the inescapable and demented pendulum careens through the point of gravity dragging us with it only to deliver more of the same on the upswing. All this perhaps in some way displays on a societal level the movement of the human heart that St. Augustine so famously enunciated with his oft-quoted line “My heart is restless O Lord until it rests in thee.” We can’t expect anything better than an indulgent dissipated restlessness until we are firmly rooted in God and the authentic truths of the human person and society that flow from that place of rest.
Could it be that if the political order is in turmoil it is because the social order is as well and the spiritual order is in a corresponding state? Any serious pro-lifer (and Catholic for that matter) well knows we need to be wearing out our beads and our knees if things are going to change for the better. That the spiritual life and authentic formation for ourselves, our family life and communities is the key priority if we are to rediscover truth, beauty, wisdom and grace and the courage to be the leaven to bring about renewal.
While this may be a reflection of our society at large, at the same time however the political order – Government and its corresponding organs of service delivery – is undoubtedly being used by ideologues masquerading as politicians from within and rabid lobby groups from without, as a vehicle to attempt to ram through laws and policy that are nothing short of social engineering with a clear anti-life and anti-family agenda. The good of the family and society is cast on the funeral pyre of policy papers created by progressive think tankers and Machiavellian politicians.
Despite the growing predominance of a relativistic secular world-view by many Australians, there are still those who find this state of affairs at odds with their own beliefs and world-view and many quite rightly feel used. People don’t like being taken for a ride (especially when it is heading towards hell!) and as a result, a deep frustration has been fermenting away so that now there is a detectable distaste towards anything political from many people. They are exasperated, angry and tired of being deceived. It is important that we shed light on these dark political manoeuvrings and call it out but also aim to bring truth and life where we can in our sphere of influence. Is this not one of the vital tasks for all Christians at this hour and indeed has been throughout all of history?
First Legalised Euthanasia in the World
With a population of a mere 233,000 people, the smallest of any State or Territory in Australia, and a one house parliament of 25 members, it would be reasonable to assume that the NT would have little or no impact on the rest of Australia. And yet in 1995, some 17 years ago, the NT had the infamy of making euthanasia explicitly legal for the first time anywhere in the world by the passage of the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
The impact eddied and swirled across the red dust all the way to the marbled floors of Canberra and indeed across this vast nation with a sinister, cyclonic destructive force far more intense than Tracy or any other storm front could muster. Spiritually it was a dark moment, not just for the Territory, but for the whole nation. For every single Australian.
The law came into effect in 1996 and lasted 9 months in which time four people euthanised themselves, all using the ‘Deliverance Machine’ invented by renowned death merchant and euthanasia advocate, Dr. Philip Nitschke. The Howard Federal Government exercised its constitutional power over the Territory by way of a private members bill, sponsored by Kevin Andrews MP (which became the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997), amending the NT Self Government Act, thus removing their constitutional power to pass a law permitting euthanasia.
One wonders where we would be 17 years later if legal euthanasia had remained law in the NT. Would it have in time been rolled out across nearly every other legislature around the nation and have become a common medical practice? Would it be part of the curriculum in medical courses? Would there be a ward in most major hospitals where banks of the ‘Deliverance Machine version 2.0’ would be rigged up ready to administer their deadly cocktail? Who would qualify to book themselves in for the final exit? Would it be funded by Medicare? How would the Catholic hospitals and medical faculties respond in this environment? Would they endure constant pressure to provide this option to patients or be forced to refer them to a hospital that does?
Seventeen years later it would be a well-entrenched anti-life law and medical practice, widely accepted by society, much like abortion is, having all started in the smallest legislature of the nation. But it isn’t. Not yet anyway. Remarkably, more than 19 Euthanasia Bills have been introduced into parliaments across Australia since 2002, with seven of those attempts being in South Australia. The most recent bill in June 2012 was narrowly defeated by only 2 votes. In 2009 it was defeated by 1 vote.
The Culture of Death has been rebuffed and fought back many times since 1997. Despite Nitschke and his ilk’s best efforts stalking the legislatures of this country ever since, he has not had that legal breakthrough and the Deliverance Machine now resides on display in the British Science Museum in London. We hope and pray that is where it will remain but it will only do so with prayer and constant pro-life action and education by the likes of Family Life International Australia – and from you and me.
The point is that we must never let our guard down with the Culture of Death, as we never quite know where the next breach in the wall may be attempted and some insidious anti-life bill will be debated and voted on. We all know of the constant corrosive campaign to destroy marriage occurring on a daily basis in the media and in politics. These days it feels like all hell is battering us and we barely manage to plug one breach in the dyke before another point on the line of defence is taking a hit and about to break.
Perhaps we can take heart from the lack of traction for euthanasia’s acceptance over the years despite its advocates’ best efforts. And even when for a brief moment it was legal, it was possible to take measures to basically have the same effect as having it repealed. The same cannot be said however for other legislation affecting the unborn and family. (See FLI’s Voters’ Guides for the most recent Federal and State elections which show the voting record of each sitting member on the key life issues. You can find them at www.fli.org.au)
The struggle on various fronts in the culture wars is particularly intense at this hour and the societal and political trend feels uncomfortable to say the least. In many ways it feels like we are on a razors’ edge, at a particular tipping point where things could really slide and an openly aggressive secularism will emerge. Pope Benedict XVI is deeply concerned about these trends and in his address to the Bishops of the United States on their ad limina visit in Rome January 2012, he said, “…it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” This observation for the USA could very easily be applied to Australia. We may even eventually be called to wear the scarlet robes of the martyrs for being faithful witnesses of life, truth and faith in Jesus Christ.
If you have made it this far, you might actually be interested to know the NT election results! The CLP gained 4 seats, holding 16 in total and a clear majority to govern with Labor holding down 8 seats on the opposition benches and one sitting Independent for a full house.
Out of the 12 members of the former Labor Government, five of those MPs, or over 40%, were card-carrying members of the pro-abortion Emily’s List organization. (see our NT voters guide at www.fli.org.au) Two retired at the election and of the three seeking re-election, one – Malarndirri McCarthy – lost her seat in a huge upset, while new kid on the block, Natasha Fyles, made a smooth baton change from retiring Emily’s Lister, Jane Aagaard, in the seat of Nightcliff.
Their ranks have fallen from five sitting members in Government to three on the Opposition benches. The pro-abortion Emily’s Listers in the Labor ranks have been de-listed… for now. They now must play the waiting game, for the pendulum is surely to swing their way. Just give it time.
Interestingly, there are four Aboriginal MPs with the CLP making up 25% of their government, Alison Anderson being one of them. We will have to wait and see where the pendulum swings for Alison and indeed for you and me.