Citizenship Reformed

Everyday seems to bring a new revelation of just how compromised our political system has become. It is not just the electors who are confused. Those elected, who should know better, are also found to have been skating on thin ice and in some cases have crashed.

We have mentioned the ongoing demise of the political party in this polity. Liberal, National and Labor parties continue to form political life as if these vital associations are but public relations firms for entrenching the political privilege of this “movers and shakers” of public governance. They have traded political education for a mess of propagandistic pottage.

We have revealed corruption at Local Government Authority level.

We have discussed the attack of three Government ministers on the judgement of the Victorian courts … which only showed they needed to resign forthwith for bringing the parliament and the legislation it enacts into disrepute.

We have, of late, analysed the antics of Government members over same-sex marriage and note how they are simply avoiding the difficult task of constructively forming national political debate.

And now, following the resignation of two Greens senators because of dual citizenship which our constitution forbids. we hear of more cases – at least two – of such violations which should require resignations from our country’s parliaments. Subsequent by-elections for House of Representatives seats may well tip the balance and we could find the Turnbull Liberal-National Coalition lose its parliamentary majority.

No doubt the newspapers and mass media will embark upon the discussion about the qualifications that a Parliamentarian has to fulfil – but in that sense the discussion of citizenship will too easily be narrowed down to whether a person qualifies to stand for Parliament. Of course, this issue of eligibility has to be discussed and justly coded but the political discussion should be a broad one about citizenship and what citizenship should entail for all of us in our system of public governance and not just for our elected representatives. That broader discussion is what this country needs because we have a constitution which pays lip service to a Parliamentary system of law-making in which those taking their seats are supposed to be the representatives of electors, namely the citizens. But we know that far too many citizens in this polity are left unrepresented in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth. And we suspect that the kind of discussion herein proposed is somewhat out-of-synch with political parties jockeying with the mass media in order to win the election next time round.

But it is most appropriate to relativize that political game to focus upon how, in this political environment, to renew genuine political discussion among citizens concerning the manner in which Parliament is and should be answerable to the citizenry. How should Parliamentary seats be filled? How can Parliamentary representation be reformed to ensure that a greater percentage of the electors are truly represented in its deliberations and the subsequent legislation? How can the political parties themselves retain their identity as genuine associations of a well-elaborated political vision of the future governance of this country? How can voters be more equitably represented in Parliament by applying an appropriate “Australian” embodiment of the principles of proportional representation?

There are many questions like this. Australia will needs new and genuine political parties – fired by genuine political conviction – so long as these parties can convince their own members, let alone those who might vote for their candidates, that their political vision and their legislative programme is worth losing elections for because they have it in view ti support the long-term reformation of public governance and political life in view.

Yes the discussions among indigenous Australians in response to the call of leaders from the Uluru convention – i.e. to have a representative body enshrined in the Commonwealth’s constitution -pushes us and challenges us in this same reforming direction – reforms to our citizenship cannot afford to ignore the ongoing political contributions of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Island citizens of this Commonwealth.

And so, as we as a polity think through the demands and responsibilities of active citizenship, of political engagement in public governance and giving due respect to various political movements we find ourselves discussing Australia’s future in the South West Pacific.

And here, another dimension of the political vision of Nurturing Justice comes into view. It is implicit in the various posts made over the last decade. A Christian political option cannot really be disclosed in Australia, as it needs to be unfolded as a positive contribution to public governance at all levels, without Christian citizens across the region of the South West Pacific coming to identify themselves as regional members one of another, and thus learning to support and be supported by each other. That means that Australian Christian political efforts need to be in an ongoing mutually supportive relationship across Polynesia and Melanesia, getting to appreciate ourselves as neighbours within this massive region of the globe (From Easter Island in the South Pacific to Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean we are a 17% part of the globe’s surface. With about 40 million (including the Papua New Guinea and certainly not forgetting justice for West Papua) we are tiny (half of 1% of the world’s population). But this is where we live. This is still our front and backyard and as citizens of this region we remain responsible for it. This is where our responsibility to love our neighbour politically with public justice is by God’s design to be lived out

And so the raising of the question of citizenship to prominence in public debate should, for Christian citizens, raise afresh the question of how we form our way of life politically to promote public justice as those who follow Jesus Christ:

For that person who would follow me it comes down to that person denying self and taking up his/her cross and following me. For whoever wants to save his/her life will lose it, but whoever loses his/her life for my sake will save it.…  (Luke 9:23).

BCW 28.7.17


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