Albo, take faith seriously

07 June 2019

One of the first things new Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, needs to emphasise to his demoralised party is that they will not return to government without showing they take religion seriously.

Albo’s own seat of Grayndler — which Labor holds with a margin of nearly 16 per cent — is one of a number of Labor-held Western Sydney seats where the electorate includes many voters who are about God.

It matters to Australia’s Muslim, Christian, and Hindu voters — and all the others who have a religious affiliation — that they are free to practise their faith; and, if they wish, to talk about it openly.

No wonder Labor frontbenchers have warned Albanese that Labor needs to work constructively with the Morrison government to address concerns about religious freedom by passing new laws.

It sounds like simple and sensible advice. But the problem for the new Labor leader is that a decision to cooperate with the government on matters of religion is likely to further divide his party.

For a deep and possibly irreparable fissure has opened up — and runs right through the heart of the ALP.

On one side stand Labor’s traditional blue-collar and middle-class voters respectful of belief in God. But on the other side stand the battalions of Labor’s inner-city intellectuals who sneer at religion, dismiss faith as primitive superstition, and wield the cudgels of identity politics.

It is not the deity that commands the unswerving devotion of the elites, but diversity. And they impose on the rest of us what political scientist, Kenneth Minogue, once described as “a dictatorship of virtue”.

The ALP is going to have to get to grips with God if it hopes to occupy the government benches in the House of Reps again. But in order to do that, Albanese is going to have to work a miracle of his own.

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