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Answering a complaint about CDP preferences

 

by Dwight A. Randall

The day before the state election, on Friday, 25 February 2005, the following letter by Don Jackson appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of The West Australian:

As a former candidate for the Christian Democrats, I am appalled that they are giving their preferences to the Labor Party in six Lower House seats at tomorrow’s State election. For a party that is strongly opposed to the lowering of the age of consent for homosexual sex, same-sex marriage and the Government’s soft approach on drugs, to then support Labor candidates because they are against abortion is not only shortsighted but a gross error of judgment. Just like One Nation at the last State election, they could well deliver government to a party that is diametrically opposed to just about everything they stand for.

Had Mr Jackson approached the Christian Democratic Party personally, the party would have responded personally to his concerns. However, seeing that he wrote a damaging letter to The West Australian that was read widely, I am taking the liberty to write a public response in Life News.

After reading Mr Jackson’s letter, I telephoned him to express my disappointment. I told him that as we were speaking the President of the Christian Democratic Party in WA was writing a letter to The West Australian to correct what he had written. That letter, not surprisingly, was never printed.

So how did the Christian Democratic Party determine where to allocate its preferences?1Why did it sometimes prefer a Labor candidate to a Liberal candidate? Did it really run the risk of helping to return the Gallop government to a second term? What has been the end result? These questions are answered in this article.

CDP preferences are passed on to the party or candidate that most closely reflects Christian values. CDP seeks to ensure that if its candidate is not elected, then his/her preferences flow to the candidate or party with the most pro-Christian views.

And so in the recent state election, CDP gave its preferences first to the Family First Party2candidates in all the Lower House seats it contested, and then placed Liberal Party candidates ahead of Labor Party candidates in 51 out of 57 Lower House seats.While the Liberal Party is less than ideal in terms of its policies and legislation when viewed from a Christian perspective (a point which some Christians are slow to grasp), it generally does not legislate against Christian standards at the pace or with the zeal of the Labor Party.

In six of the 57 Lower House seats CDP gave its preferences to Labor candidates ahead of Liberal candidates. In Darling Range, CDP refused to give it preferences to Liberal MP John Day because of his appalling pro-abortion record. In the other five electorates the Labor candidates had either voted against abortion or had given a pro-life undertaking to CDP.

Mr Jackson, as his letter made clear, was unhappy about this. He wrote, “I am appalled that they [CDP] are giving their preferences to the Labor Party in six Lower House seats at tomorrow’s State election.” In essence he argued that CDP should have given preferences to pro-abortion Liberal MPs like John Day ahead of pro-life Labor MPs like Michelle Roberts. (John Day was the Liberal Health Minister who played an instrumental role in the passage of the abortion legislation in 1998. In addition, he opposed an amendment that would have prohibited the use of human embryos in the manufacture of cosmetics and beauty products in 2004. Michelle Roberts, a pro-life Labor member of the Lower House, voted against abortion in 1998 and against embryo experimentation in 2004.)

CDP told the Liberals repeatedly that they would be delighted to support them in all seats if they could field pro-life candidates in each of them. The Liberals refused to do so. In fact, they refused the pre-selection in Darling Range of Frank Lindsay, a strong pro-life candidate recommended by the party’s local branch, and instead nominated the pro-abortion John Day.

Mr Jackson claimed that to “support Labor candidates because they are against abortion is not only shortsighted but a gross error of judgement.”Is Mr Jackson right? Is CDP really “shortsighted?” Did CDP make a “gross error of judgment” in determining its preferences? I don’t believe so.

CDP has always maintained the Christian view that human life begins at the point of conception. The historical narrative of the life of Jesus and many other people in scripture begins at the point of conception, not birth. In many biblical accounts babies are regarded as fully human as they develop in the womb. For example, John the Baptist, three months prior to his birth, was filled with the Holy Spirit and leapt for joy at the presence of his Lord, who at that time was newly conceived in his mother Mary’s womb.

CDP maintains that the sanctity of human life is the most fundamental right of all. It maintains that the duty of the state is to protect the lives of its citizenry, and not to sanction the killing of the most innocent and defenceless. It maintains that the WA abortion laws constitute the most heinous laws that have ever been passed in this state.

As for myself, I agree wholeheartedly with CDP’s position. If I had to choose between either having the abortion laws that were passed when Richard Court was Premier in 1998, and the homosexual laws that were passed under Premier Geoff Gallop in 2002, I would settle for the homosexual laws in an instant. Both laws are truly evil. Neither should have ever become law. But while we can counter the homosexual laws with sound teaching in our homes and in our churches, once the children have been killed, what can we do?

How can the state-sanctioned killing of thousands of unborn children ever be stopped? One way is to continue on the course that has been set by CDP to make sure that pro-life MPs, regardless of political party, are supported by Christians and re-elected until their numbers are built to the point that the abortion laws can be restricted and eventually reversed. Is it a “gross error of judgment” to support a fundamentally important position over a particular political party? CDP doesn’t believe it is. In fact it would rather face loss of support than abandon pro-life politicians from various political parties who are the true friends of the unborn.

Nor is this a “shortsighted” plan. Both major parties understand clearly the approach that CDP has taken. The Liberals know from experience that if they place a pro-abortion candidate in a marginal seat where the Labor candidate is pro-life, they will lose CDP’s support. Labor knows that if they place a pro-life candidate in a marginal electorate where the Liberal candidate is pro-abortion, CDP will depart from its normal pattern, in spite of criticism from some Christians, and support the Labor candidate, such is the depth of its commitment to unborn children. Both parties know that CDP places the killing of unborn children above its aspirations to get its own candidates elected. Therefore, there is a strong incentive for both major parties to seriously consider the life issues if they wish to gain support from Christians that could be crucial to their election to government.

What would be incredibly “short-sighted” would be to do as Mr Jackson recommends, and that is to abandon Labor pro-life candidates and support Liberal candidates regardless of their position on abortion. If CDP were to do this, the Liberals would soon conclude that no matter what they do CDP would still blindly follow them. They would say, “There is no risk of losing CDP support, so let’s do as we please.”

The question then would be, “Why even have a Christian party at all?” If CDP’s primary aim is to ensure that the Liberals get elected, then why not just shut down CDP and urge Christians everywhere to support the Liberal Party?”

And more than that, what about Labor? The Labor Party would conclude that there is absolutely nothing they could do in order to break away Christians from the Liberals. They would say, “They claim to be pro-life, but they refuse to abandon the Liberal Party even when the Liberals field pro-abortion candidates and we field pro-life candidates. They piously talk about the intrinsic value of every human life from
conception in order to garner votes, but it’s just empty talk. Their commitment to the Liberals exceeds their commitment to the unborn. They are hypocrites.”

The tendency of some Christians to so quickly abandon unborn children is an inexcusable weakness. In 1998 this weakness and unquestioning loyalty to the Liberal Party may have encouraged Richard Court to believe that his Liberal government could legalise abortion and continue to maintain the support of Christians and conservatives.

One of the reasons for the moral collapse in Western Australia is that many Christians have failed to act with consistency. They have failed to hold political parties to account when those parties have repeatedly betrayed them. They have refused to break their allegiances to political parties when they have had legitimate grounds for doing so. They have failed to support the only Christian party3that is endeavouring to confront this decline head on. They have argued, like Mr Jackson, that support for the Liberal Party is crucial. These are some of the shortsighted errors of judgment that ensure that our society descends more and more into brutality.

Mr Jackson makes another false claim. He writes, “Just like One Nation at the last State election, they [CDP] could well deliver government to a party that is diametrically opposed to just about everything they stand for.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the 2001 State election One Nation functioned as a spoiler. It cast its preferences away from every sitting Liberal member, thus becoming a major contributor to the Liberals’ loss of government.

CDP, on the other hand, supported the Liberals in a massive 51 of 57 seats in this election. Of the six seats where CDP supported pro-life Labor candidates, four were safe Labor seats. CDP’s support in these four seats was purely symbolic. Only two of the six seats were marginal, and in the end, in spite of CDP’s preferences being directed to Labor in these two seats, sadly the Liberals retained both.

The truth is that CDP was one of the strongest allies of the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party knows that. And yet, Mr Jackson made it appear as if CDP could have cost the Liberals the election. This was both misleading and unfair.

What did Mr Jackson’s letter accomplish? CDP received many phone calls from people concerned about the allocation of CDP preferences after Mr Jackson’s letter was printed. Most were satisfied after speaking to CDP people, but some were not. Of the hundreds-of-thousands of people who read Mr Jackson’s letter, how many were swayed to change their vote by it?

Dr Lachlan Dunjey, CDP’s Upper House candidate for the Agricultural Region, came within 182 votes of being elected to the Legislative Council. He lost to the third Liberal candidate. Lachlan wrote in an email to supporters, “just 91 Christians in an electorate of over 95,000 putting me first instead of Liberal first would have made the difference … where were those missing Christians?” Would the outcome have been different if not for Mr Jackson’s letter on the day before the election?

Did the Liberals lose the election because of the Christian Democratic Party giving its preferences to Labor in four safe seats and two marginal seats? Clearly, no. Collin Barnett and the Liberals lost the election all on their own. Far from contributing to the demise of the Liberals, CDP preferences were crucial to the election of three Liberal candidates — Katie Hodson-Thomas in Carine, John Castrilli in Bunbury and Tony Simpson in Serpentine-Jarrahdale. In addition, CDP preferences helped to elect Liberal candidate Margaret Rowe to the Agricultural Region in the Upper House.

It is disturbing to me that some Christians abandoned voting for CDP because of objections over the allocation of preferences4, and then voted for major parties who frequently have a history of betraying Christian values and doing preference deals simply to advantage themselves.

The Christian Democratic Party is a good Christian Party that deserves the support of Christian people. In its courageous and costly defence of Christian values, it should not receive criticism from Christians, but commendation and support.

Christians should understand that CDP is extremely careful with the allocation of its preferences. They should understand that when CDP removes its support from a Liberal candidate and gives it to a Labor candidate, it does so with good reason. They should have confidence that the people at CDP are far more acquainted with the details of various candidates than the average person. After being personally involved in decisions relating to the allocation of the Christian Democratic Party’s preferences over the past three state and federal elections, I can testify that CDP allocates it preferences with painstaking care.

FOOTNOTES

1. Sometimes a candidate will be elected without preferences from other parties because his/her primary vote is greater than 50 per cent.For example, at the recent state election, Tom Stephens, a Labor pro-life MLA for the district of Central Kimberley-Pilbara received a primary vote 50.12 per cent, enough to elect him without preferences from other parties.
At other times preferences are crucial to elect a candidate who receives a primary vote of less than 50 per cent. For example, at the recent state election, Katie Hodson Thomas, a Liberal pro-life MLA for the district of Carine, received a primary vote of 48.33 per cent, which was insufficient to re-elect her. CDP candidate for Carine, Bruce Richards, received a vote of 4.38 per cent which meant that CDP had no possibility of winning the seat and so was eliminated from the race. CDP’s vote was then passed on as preferences to Katie (as per CDP’s preference arrangements), which gave her more than the required 50 per cent, and so she was elected.
2. I am happy to report that the Family First Party reciprocated, giving its preferences first to the Christian Democratic Party. Like CDP, FFP also favoured pro-life candidates in the allocation of preferences.
3. There is some confusion about the Family First Party on this score. However, it should be noted that the newly formed Family First Party is not a Christian party. Although it has its roots in the Christian community, its leaders have repeatedly and emphatically insisted in the media that they are not a Christian party. (To stress the FFP’s non-Christian credentials, the party’s Federal Leader, Andrea Mason, has even said that the party would accept a Muslim imam or a Hindu Brahmin as a candidate, provided “he or she fulfils the criteria associated with the party pre-selection process and is willing to uphold the Judeo-Christian principles embedded in the Australian Constitution.” – Alive, October/November 2004, p.10.) So, while CDP happily acknowledges that FFP is the party with the closest worldview to its own (hence the allocation of CDP preferences first to FFP), CDP also frankly acknowledges that FFP is not a Christian party. CDP is the only Christian party in the state and in the nation—it is the only party that is openly committed to apply the Christian worldview to every aspect of life and legislation for the benefit of all Australians.
4. Of course, people who object to the way CDP allocates preferences can still vote CDP 1 and then allocate preferences according to their liking. Then, if the CDP candidate is not elected, their vote will flow on at full value to the party of their choice.

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