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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Is Australia (no longer) a Christian nation?

The 2016 Australian Census is almost upon us. The answers we provide on August 9th will be used by the nation’s decision makers to shape and direct Australia’s future.

Changes to the 2016 Census Religion question…

One of the changes to the previous census is in Question 19: “What is the person’s religion?”.

In the 2016 year census No Religion has been moved to the top of the list of choices.

Census 2016 - Q19

In previous years No Religion was at the very end of the list. The reader had to wade through a list of nine religions/denominations, followed by a large text box for Other (unlisted) religions. No Religion followed in an obscure location beneath the text box.

Census 2011 Q19

The value of a census lays in obtaining accurate data. The layout of Q19 has been changed for the following reasons:

  • In the previous layout No Religion could be easily missed, leading people with no personal religious beliefs to inaccurately select a nominal affiliation (e.g. their parents church, the church they were christened into, or where they attended Sunday School).
  • Completion of census form questions is made easier by having the most commonly selected options listed first. No Religion may well be the highest result (above any specific religion or denomination) in 2016 so it makes sense to move it up the list.
  • Having No Religion at the top simplifies completion of the question by effectively breaking it into two parts. Those who identify with No Religion can select this option and move straight to next question. Only those who identify with a religion need to go through the list to make a selection.

The implications…

When this change was introduced in the New Zealand census in 2013 the No Religion result increased from 35% to 42% (compared with 2006) while the total Christian tally decreased from 56% to 49%. For the first time less than half of the NZ population identified themselves as Christian. (Ref 1)

The 2016 Australian census may see a similar result. In the 2011 census the total Christian tally was 61.1%. The impact of No Religion trending steadily upward (22.3% in 2011, 18.7% in 2006, 15% in 2001) (Refs 2, 3), combined with the change to Q19 may result in less than half the Australian population identifying as Christian for the first time. (Ref 4)

The top three options selected in the 2011 census were Catholic 25.3%, No Religion 22.3%, then Anglican 17.1%. (The total of all other Christian denominations combined was 18.7%.) Given Catholic outranked No Religion by only 3% it is highly likely that for the first time No Religion will outnumber each of the Christian denominations individually in 2016, displacing Catholic from the top of the list. (Ref 5)

Percent people reporting No Religion - ABS

Some challenging questions…

Will government funding to Christian organizations be affected?

Secular groups lobbying for the Q19 change argued that a more accurate answer to this question would help ensure that government funds are distributed more fairly

“Many government services and resources depend on census accuracy, and the figures are used by religious organisations to maintain their status and influence in terms of grants, tax-free services, access to schools for religious instruction, and for their generally privileged position within the community,” president of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Meredith Doig, said. (Ref 4)

In the lead up to the 2016 census some secular groups have been actively campaigning for people to select the No Religion option if they don’t have an active religious faith. The Atheist Foundation of Australia website argues… “Accurate census data helps policy makers and political leaders make all sorts of planning and funding decisions. So if you’re not religious any more, mark the ‘No religion’ box on the 2016 Census.” (Refs 6, 7)

Will the claim that “Australia is a Christian nation” still be valid?

The claim that “Australia is a Christian nation” has been used by some far right wing political and religious groups promoting fear-based arguments that Australia should reverse becoming a multicultural, multi-faith nation. (e.g. Fred Nile, Catch The Fire Ministries/Rise Up Australia, One Nation) (Refs 8, 9, 10, 11)

If less than 50% of Australians identify themselves as Christian their claim will no longer be valid. If they dare acknowledge this will they revert to arguing “Australia has a Christian heritage”?
Personally this argument rankles me… Yes, we have a Constitution and legal system based on Judeo-Christian values. However Australia had an indigenous heritage in place for thousands of years before white men arrived. This heritage was replaced by a ‘heritage’ of British occupiers whose actions towards our indigenous people were anything but Christian.

A challenge to Christians and church leaders…

How should the Christian church react? How will the church react? Will the church react at all??

Regular church attendance has been falling significantly for decades. Fewer Australians have an active Christian faith or identify with a particular Christian denomination than ever before. (Ref 12)

The church has taken little effective action to date to stop decades of decline. If less than 50% of Australians identify themselves as Christian in the 2016 census will the church wake from its slumber and take action to stop it becoming progressively more irrelevant to Australian society?

Each increase in the No Religion result strengthens the case being made by secular groups to remove tax exemptions for religious organizations. If one day this case succeeds the financial impact on Christian denominations will be huge and further reinforce the demise of the Christian church in Australia.

Looking to the future…

While it is highly unlikely that the number of people identifying as No Religion in 2016 will exceed 50% (it would need to more than double from 22.3% in 2011) is Australia heading in this direction along with other Western world countries?

A recent National Geographic New article reported, There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities.” (Ref 13)

What do you think?

  • What is your reaction to the Q19 layout change?
  • Are you concerned about the No Religion result rising significantly while the Christian tally falls?
  • Do you think Australia is a Christian nation? A multi-faith nation? A secular nation?
    Why?

I’m very interested to hear from both Christians and secular readers on this. Please feel free to comment either here on the blog or on the associated facebook post.

References:

  1. http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-culture-identity/religion.aspx
  2. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features30Nov+2013
  3. http://profile.id.com.au/australia/religion
  4. http://www.smh.com.au/national/is-australia-losing-its-religion-20150827-gj94ts.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Australia
  6. http://censusnoreligion.org.au/
  7. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-22/census-2016-allows-people-to-select-no-religion/7653208
  8. http://www.christiantoday.com.au/article/fred.nile.in.nsw.upper.house.australia.is.not.a.secular.but.a.christian.nation/13382.htm
  9. http://riseupaustraliaparty.com/our-policies/policy-principles/ Policy principle (20).
  10. onenation.com.au/policies/islam Policy on Islam.
  11. Pauline Hanson on ABC TV Q&A 15/07/2016.
  12. http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/a-demographic-snapshot-of-christianity-and-church-attenders-in-australia
  13. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/

 

Ian JamesIan + dingo
07/08/2016

NEGATIVE GEARING…why I can’t support either major Party…

This post outlines my thinking on  NEGATIVE GEARING and why I can’t support the policies of either major Party in the 2016 Federal Election.

Negative Gearing and its Impacts…

  • Negative gearing is a tax deduction for people who already own their own house and are buying another house as an investment.
  • By definition it cannot be accessed by first home buyers.
  • This inherently favours those who have accumulated enough wealth to both own a house and invest in a second house, i.e. it favours the the wealthy in our society and is mostly inaccessible to poor
  • Many people who invest in buying or building a second property do so with the intent of renting it out so that the rental income pays off much of the mortgage for them. The ‘ideal’ situation is to have the tenant pay off your investment property for you. This is a perfect example of using money to make money… at the expense of other people.
  • High house prices along with high rental costs (particularly in Australia’s cities) mean that many of the young in our society, along with those who don’t earn high professional salaries, will never be able to save enough money for a house deposit while paying rent.
  • As a result many of our children and grandchildren will never be able to own their own home and will spend their lives paying off investment properties owned by people at the wealthier end of society, i.e. the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

My conclusion:

  • At a personal level, negative gearing is making it more difficult for my own children to buy their own homes.
  • At a national level negative gearing contributes to the growing divide between the rich and poor in our society.
  • I therefore believe negative gearing should be stopped for the purchase of both existing properties and building of new homes.
  • The substantial tax revenue saved can then be diverted to implementing other policies that will benefit our children and grandchildren instead of harming them, e,g, reducing the accumulated deficit we are leaving them to pay off.

The bottom line (for me):

I cannot support either the Coalition’s or Labor’s policies to retain negative gearing in any form.

Have I got it wrong?

Have I got it wrong? Is my understanding too simplistic?
I’d welcome your feedback on this.
IJ Icon - Blog
Ian James
01/07/2016

Who the hell do I vote for??

Haven’t decided who to vote for in Saturday’s Federal election?
You’re in good company!

Or, maybe you have decided.
Or, maybe you’re planning to vote informally as a protest.

If any of these describe you, read on!

The aims of this post are simple…

  • To challenge you to take your vote seriously.
  • To help you arrive at the voting booth with a clear, well-informed decision in mind.

This post is NOT going to tell you who to vote for… that’s totally up to you!

Why bother to vote?

I know you’ve heard it many times before, but it is absolutely true:
Your vote is important. Make it count.

Our right to vote in Australia is a great privilege. It is also a great responsibility. Don’t treat this privilege and responsibility lightly
and don’t throw it away!!

Casting a meaningful vote means putting in an effort.
Yes, to make an informed choice you DO need to spend time studying the policies of the political parties.

If this sounds like hard work, I’ve got some good news… there are many resources available to assist you.

If politics is something you dislike or find boring, you may be in for a big surprise. Education on any important topic in life is a powerful thing… it may well impact you in ways you never expected.

Becoming familiar with current political issues may open up a whole new realm for you.
It can empower you to discuss issues you never felt confident talking about before.
It can inspire you to take action on some of the vital issues impacting our society and the world around us.

How to throw away your vote… and…
Why not to…

The worst thing you can do in this election is put in an informal vote
(called a donkey vote).

Typical reasons why people do this… and why these reasons are flawed…

  • “I’m totally unhappy with all parties. I’m going to vote informally to protest.”
    The only person you hurt by doing this is YOU! You’ve just thrown away your right (and your responsibility) to make a decision about which party is going to govern Australia, and your own personal future just may be affected by whoever wins.
  • “The parties are basically the same so it doesn’t matter who I vote for.”
    The parties may have some similarities but they are NOT the same.
    Whoever wins the election will have different impacts on the direction Australia is heading.
  • “Both parties are full of wankers… You can never believe anything they say.”
    Yes, many politicians are experts at telling half-truths and distorting reality to make their policies look great, and the other parties’ policies look like disasters. BUT at the end of the day, whoever wins the election will have significant power to affect Australia’s future, and yours and mine along with it.
    Our job, as members of the public, is to hold those who form Government to account. A tough job? Yes, but politicians ARE sensitive to public opinion, and even more so in this age of social media.
  • “I can’t be bothered… It’s all so boring… I’m too busy.”
    I respectfully suggest it’s time you did start being bothered! Many aspects of your own future, that of your family, your local electorate and community, and Australia’s future depend on it.
  • “I know so little about politics… It’s all so confusing… I’ve never had time to understand it.”
    Understanding politics is like understanding anything else in life. If you take time to learn about the parties and stay informed of current issues your understanding will grow.

How to Use Your Vote Wisely…

So you’re not going to throw away your vote… that’s great! The challenge now is to use it wisely.

Common thinking that leads to a wasted vote…

  • “The leader of the Party A is a better leader, so I’m going to vote for their Party.”
    It is essential you look beyond the personalities of the leaders and base your vote on the Parties’ policies. Yes, the leaders do influence the policies adopted by their parties, but they are far from being in total control.
    The major parties are based on very different political philosophies. They are also driven by different (powerful) influences and vested interests outside the parties.
  • “I’ve always voted for Party A so that’s how I’m going to vote this time.”
    If you’ve done your homework and are convinced your values are better represented by one party above the others then maybe this approach is valid. But maybe not too.
    The current policies of your preferred party may NOT represent your current values and opinions on the current issues being faced by Australia. A wiser approach is to evaluate the issues and policies specific to each election rather than relying on your personal status quo.
  • “My local member is doing a great job so I’m going to vote for them rather than a candidate of a specific party.”
    Yes, your local member may be doing a good job of representing issues in your electorate. However, your vote is not only about what is best for your electorate. To my mind, your primary responsibility is to vote for whoever will deliver the best outcome for the whole of Australia, not just your local community.
  • “My parents (or my partner, the leader of my religious community, or some other person who I respect) are voting for Party A, so I’m going to vote for Party A too.”
    If this person is well-informed about current issues and party policies and their values align closely with yours, it’s good to take note of who they’re voting for. But don’t just fall in behind them… Ask them the reasons why and see if you do agree with their assessment. Remember, even highly respected people have biases… and their perspective is just one of many different perspectives.It’s far wiser to talk to a range of informed, caring people who are voting for different parties. Other perspectives may also be supported by sound reasoning. Understanding them will put you in a far better position to make your own informed choice.

How to be informed…

There’s only a few days left until the election, but here’s some ideas…

  • The ABC’s Vote Compass is an informative and helpful place to start… https://votecompass.abc.net.au/.
    The website takes you through a multiple choice questionnaire covering key election issues. The questions will help you understand the key issues and help you determine your own values and position on each of them. The outcome is a ‘graph’ showing where you are on the ‘political landscape’ compared to the three major Parties (Coalition, Labor, Greens).
    You can also ‘drill down’ to see how your position compares to each of these parties on each key issue.
  • Keep an eye on the news for the current issues and the policies/promises being offered by the parties to address them.
  • Watch TV programs that probe politicians and issues in depth and bring the wisdom of commentators and experts to bear. The ABC’s Q&A program each Monday night is brilliant for this… it is both informative and entertaining to watch.
  • Keep your B.S. meter set on ‘High’. Look out for three word slogans that vastly oversimplify complex issues, and for scare campaigns and half-truths designed to use fear and deception to capture your vote.
  • Ignore political advertisements. They are generally unhelpful and often downright misleading (see previous point).
  • Read in-depth articles on key issues and policies. These articles can help to place what politicians are saying in a broader perspective. Too often the full facts reveal that ‘great promises’ are political gimmicks attempting to win votes. But beware also… the media is driven by its own vested interests.
  • Check out each of the major parties websites for details of their policies on key issues.
  • Talk to other people, especially caring, wise people who keep themselves politically informed. You don’t have to agree with or follow other people’s opinions or beliefs, but openly discussing political issues will help ‘sharpen your sword’ when it comes to understanding the issues and discerning the wisdom (or otherwise) of what the political parties are saying.

A Final Thought…

Your vote on Saturday is important… Make it count.
If you don’t feel adequately informed when you get to the voting both, commit yourself to be informed before the next election.

Your vote in EVERY election is important.
Don’t put it off… START INFORMING YOURSELF TODAY.

Ian + dingo

 

Ian James
29/06/2016

Democracy can be dangerous… the Brexit…

Did Britain really vote to leave the EU?

Today the news headlines are plastered with reports announcing the outcome of the Brexit referendum…

“Britain votes to leave EU!”

“See EU goodbye!!”

While Britain as a whole voted to leave the European Union it is important to recognize almost half of the voting population wanted to stay (51.9% Leave, 48.1% Stay).

The Brexit Affair…

I wonder if for many British people, being carried along by the Leave campaign is going to end with similar consequences to having an affair while married.

If you’re unhappy with what you’ve got (and the status quo always has shortcomings) getting involved in something new that offers tantalizing changes can carry you along with great excitement… for a time. However, when the shortcomings of your new relationship inevitably emerge, you are very likely to wake up in bed one morning thinking “What on earth have I done??” You may also find not only do you have a broken marriage, but your new relationship is falling apart as well.

While the possibility (likelihood?) of disastrous economic impacts for Britain, the EU and the rest of the world are of huge concern there is another potentially serious, but less obvious, impact on Britain as well.

The Brexit campaign highlighted and powerfully reinforced deep divisions in public opinion between the Stay and Leave camps. The outcome of the referendum will likely deepen those divisions further as the British public experience negative impacts of a decision only half of them supported. Those who voted to stay are not going to remain silent… the end result may be a nation divided against itself.

In Scotland 62% of voters opted to stay in the EU. Now the Brexit has succeeded a second referendum is likely to be held on the issue of Scottish independence, followed by Scotland subsequently rejoining the EU! What Britain is now facing is the potential breakup of the United Kingdom itself!

Democracy can be dangerous…

The Brexit referendum has highlighted one of the deep flaws in our democratic system of government.

Leaving it up to the public to make decisions on issues which have profound long-term impacts on the future of a country does not guarantee that wise decisions will be made.

Very few members of the public have the necessary understanding and expertise to analyze extremely complex issues (such as leaving the EU), and independently make a truly competent decision. In the case of the Brexit, as with all complex political issues, not even the experts can agree on how beneficial or disastrous the outcomes will be.

In practice, the outcome of a referendum (or election of a new government) depends on which ‘side’ can mount the most persuasive campaign. This in turn can be heavily influenced by how much funding each side attracts from vested interests in their policies, along with the vested interests of media owners.

In addition, public opinion can be powerfully influenced by fear. The current Australian federal election campaign provides an excellent example. Leaders on both sides have shown little hesitation resorting to “three word slogans” and deceitful scare campaigns, both of which vastly oversimplify and distort complex issues, in order to frighten the public into voting for their party.

While I fully support our democratic system, we should all take heed of the wisdom of Winston Churchill…

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Ian + dingoIan James
25/06/2016