The Christian voting constituency in Australia is a large percentage of the Australian population. Matters of public policy that are of concern to Christians span both the Left and Right of the political divide.

For several years, ACL has put policy questions to political parties in federal, state, and territory elections. The questions reflect a broad range of topics of interest to Christians, and also include specific issues of concern to ACL supporters.

ACL seeks to inform voters so that they can vote carefully on 15 October 2016.

Click on a + topic below to expand the question and compare the parties' answers or click the party names below to read their answers in full.


Questions  |  ACT Greens  |  ACT Labor  |  Canberra Liberals  |  Liberal Democrats  |  Sustainable Australia (ACT)

Question

Wicked Campers have received considerable attention for objectifying women with offensive and violent slogans and artwork on their rental vans.

Queensland recently introduced legislation to enforce decisions by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) with the result that non-compliant vehicles with Queensland registration will be deregistered.

Will your party commit to deregistering commercial vehicles that are in contravention of advertising standards?

Party

Answer

ACT Greens 

Yes. The Greens are strongly opposed to material that is degrading to women and is offensive/violent. We agree that an equivalent to the QLD law should also be in place in the ACT.

ACT Labor

Labor is strongly against any material that objectifies or incites violence against women. The Labor Government made addressing family violence a key 2016 Budget priority, allocating $21.4 million to programs that help prevent violence, and support women and children experiencing violence. We believe the slogans you are referring to are totally out of step with community standards and we commit to taking action should it arise as an issue in the ACT.

Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals have worked assiduously to combat violence against women, especially domestic violence. We consider the kinds of slogans used by this company are demeaning and offensive to women, and likely to contribute to this problem. 

Fortunately the problem highlighted in relation to Wicked Campers has not really arisen in Canberra, and there are, as far as we can tell, no current registrations of vehicles like the Wicked Campers. We would be prepared to review the legislation in consultation with the community to ensure that there is not a loophole that would allow slogans on vehicles that do not meet public standards.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are opposed to government restrictions on speech. This is a principled position. Free speech is the bedrock of a free, liberal society. This includes the right to engage in speech that others find offensive, or even blasphemous.

David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrat Senator for New South Wales, has championed free speech in the Federal Parliament. His principled stand against s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has aided the free speech movement in Australia considerably.

The Liberal Democrats acknowledge that there is a significant distinction between content that is merely offensive and content that incites violence.

As a result, should a Liberal Democrat MLA vote on a bill to prohibit so-called “offensive” advertisement—such as in the case of Wicked campervans—they would certainly vote against any such restriction. We consider that any slogan that could reasonably be understood to incite violence would likely breach other legislation. Our position would turn on the exact scenario to hand.

Your community should not consider our position to be an endorsement of the content of Wicked campervans. In fact, many reasonable people are likely to find them to be in poor taste. We feel that the best means for people to register their distaste is through petitioning the responsible company, or else choosing to take their business elsewhere. We don’t believe that government should wield its power—such as through deregistering motor vehicles that are otherwise perfectly roadworthy—to protect people from material that is merely “offensive” in the eyes of some. The Liberal Democrats also consider this is a case where freedom of speech can bring social benefits, as members of the community are able to use the information signalled by hirers of such vehicles when they make their own decisions about how they like to associate with others in the community.

Because the Liberal Democrats will champion free speech, you can expect all Liberal Democrat MLAs to fight for the rights of your community where others might consider their speech “offensive”. The Liberal Democrats are strongly opposed to the ban on silent protests outside abortion clinics. We are also strongly opposed to the notion that Australians are incapable of having a public debate—whether through a plebiscite or other discussion—about something as significant as the freedom to marry issue.

We consider the ACT Liberal Democrats’ stance as a principled one that will best represent the interests of the Christian community of issues of speech.

Sustainable Australia

Yes

Question

Given the evidence that poker machines harm our community, causing poverty and contributing to family violence, will your party implement the recommendation of the Productivity Commission and mandate $1 bets in the ACT?

Party Answer
ACT Greens The ACT Greens are committed to reducing gambling harm in our community. The ANU Centre for Gambling Research tells us that more than 4000 Canberrans are currently gambling unsafely; and the Productivity Commission tells us that up to 80% of gambling harm is due to electronic poker machines. It is time to take gambling harm seriously, it is time for machine modifications. The ACT Greens policy is to introduce a range of harm minimisation measures including $1 maximum bets and mandatory pre-commitment. These are the most effective ways to target problem gambling harm without unduly impacting on recreational gamblers. 
ACT Labor

Labor has long recognised and worked with the community to minimise harm from gambling. We are working constructively with clubs to transition their operations away from a reliance on gaming, so that they can be viable long-term and reduce the number of gaming machines they operate. The Labor Government has a clear and successful policy framework in place to reduce the number of poker machines operating in the ACT, and will continue this approach if re-elected. We also have put in place harm minimisation strategies and will continue to examine if current approaches are effective.

Canberra Liberals

Canberra has long fostered the community gaming model, where gaming machines are owned by community organisations rather than individuals or companies, and the proceeds of gaming are returned to the community. Community clubs give back to the community through employment and support for community sporting and service organisations.

The Canberra Liberals are committed to the community gaming model, and providing a climate where community clubs can diversify so that they are less reliant on the now diminishing income from gaming machines. We are strongly opposed to having gaming machines in private-sector establishments such as the Casino.

In October 2015 the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislative Assembly issued a report entitled Inquiry into Elements Impacting on the Future of the ACT Clubs Sector, which included a number of recommendations addressing the issue of problem gambling. The Canberra Liberals have committed to working with the community clubs to implement the recommendations in the report.

The Public Accounts Committee in its deliberations considered the implementation of mandated $1 bets in the ACT but did not make specific recommendations on the subject. We are aware of the dangers of problem gambling, and would be interested in looking at strategies to reduce the extent of this problem. $1 bets is one such strategy, but we want to be sure we’re supporting strategies which have the best prospect of success.

Liberal Democrats

The ACT Liberal Democrats acknowledge the considerable harm that problem gambling imposes on individuals, their families, and the broader community.

At its core, however, gambling is a personal choice. We are neither pro- nor anti- gambling. The data across jurisdictions demonstrates that the vast majority of those who choose to gamble do so within their own pre-chosen limits. These people ought not to have their freedoms restricted on account of a small percentage of the community that develops gambling problems.

We believe that those proposing $1 limits on bets should also consider the interchangeability of gaming services that exists due to the increasing prominence of online gaming. While the $1 limit may cause a reduction in aggregate gaming rates in the short term, we consider it highly likely that many problem gamblers will move away from the usual environment of problem gambling—that is, licensed venues—to online forms with little social connection with other people who might be in a position to intervene or help the gambler make themselves aware of their problem.

For this reason, we do not support $1 mandatory bets.

The ACT Liberal Democrats do support measures to assist people at risk from problem gambling. We support voluntary exclusion and will seek to increase penalties on licensees that fail to remove persons that have elected to exclude themselves. We also support the funding of treatment programs for problem gamblers and those affected by the gambling of others. We also would like to strengthen requirements that ensure that minors are not exposed to gambling, specifically poker machines.

Your community should also be aware of the significant appreciation we have for the civil society sector, particularly churches and religious orders, in helping the less fortunate. We strongly believe in the role of civil society. We especially value religious or lay people—Christian or from other faiths—dedicate themselves to a vocation of helping others in need. Unlike other political parties, we are not suspicious of the religious community. People ought to be able to follow their calling—whether a secular one or one from God—freely and their contribution to society ought to be valued on the basis of their works, rather than their associations.

Members of your community will find a strong ally in the Liberal Democrats.

Sustainable Australia

Yes, this is a longstanding policy of Sustainable Australia outlined in both our ACT and federal policy platforms:

Federal: http://www.votesustainable.org.au/gambling/

ACT: http://www.votesustainable.org.au/act

 

Question

A) The Safe Schools Coalition, which is present in many ACT schools, teaches controversial queer gender theory, which includes teaching children that gender exists outside the male and female binary, and that gender is fluid and changes over time. It was initially promoted as an anti-bullying program until one of its founders declared it was not about anti-bullying, but instead was about promoting gender and sexual diversity. Will your party commit to removing this highly controversial and sexualised program from ACT schools?

B) If your party is not prepared to remove the Safe Schools Coalition from the ACT, will your Party commit to implementing the full recommendations directed by the Federal Education Minister which includes amongst other things: requiring parental consent, limiting the use of materials to those on the Safe Schools Hub and restricting availability to high schools?

Party Answer

ACT Greens

The ACT Greens believe that the Safe Schools program delivers a very valuable service to help make our schools happier, healthier places for all students. We are committed to ACT public schools providing positive and engaging environments where young people feel safe and respected, and where they can achieve success and fully engage in their education.

The Safe Schools Program has the full support of the ACT Greens. Safe Schools Coalition Australia does critical work with school communities to raise awareness and empathy, respond to bullying and discrimination, and create learning environments that foster the positive values of respect and inclusion. Currently 23 of the 87 ACT public schools are members of the Safe Schools Coalition. There has been positive feedback about the Safe Schools Coalition from ACT public schools, and the advice provided by the Safe Schools Coalition to schools and staff is highly valued.

The ACT Government has previously written to the Federal Minister for Education reinforcing the ACT’s positive experience with the program, and seeking to ensure that the review was designed to strengthen the Safe Schools Coalition rather than unpick this important program. Subsequent to this review, the changes proposed by the Federal Government made it clear that new contractual conditions would reduce the effectiveness of the program. The ACT Government and I, as Greens Minister for Education, have committed to funding the existing program ourselves.

ACT Labor

ACT Labor has already committed to fund the Safe Schools Coalition independent of the Commonwealth, and ensure students experiencing challenges around sexuality and gender can learn in safe, supportive and understanding environments. Every child in Canberra has the right to feel safe at their school, regardless of their gender or sexuality. The Safe Schools program supports young people, saves lives and makes a positive difference. The conditions now imposed on the program by the Commonwealth are so onerous and restrictive as to render the safe schools program completely unworkable and that is why we have committed to funding the program as it stands.

Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals have actively sought to eliminate bullying in schools and other places of learning, as well as in the workplace. Bullying in all forms is abhorrent and damaging to children of all groups.  

The Canberra Liberals support a high level of self determination in schools, and generally support the decisions made by school boards in consultation with their communities. In addition, parents, governments and the community share responsibility to help eliminate bullying, harassment and exclusion of our young people.

As part of this the Canberra Liberals think that anti-bullying programs have an important place in addressing bullying of children and fostering understanding. However where such programs refer students to information resources with sexualised content, we think it's very important materials are age appropriate.

To help young people going through challenging and emotional times, we think standardised programs need to be supplemented by personalised support from school counsellors, psychologists and other professionals.

We have said we will implement the Commonwealth’s review of the Safe Schools program.

Liberal Democrats

The ACT Liberal Democrats consider that the ACL’s characterisation of the Safe Schools Program is essentially on the mark. The designers of the program do appear to have intentionally set out to position it as an anti-bullying mechanism, seeking to unfairly conflate criticism of the program as somehow pro- bullying.

The ACT Liberal Democrats believe that parents are the key stakeholders in the design of school curricula. The Safe Schools Program fails on this measure alone. There is considerable concern within the community about the agenda of this program, and the lack of consultation has led many to feel let down by government.

We believe that the education system can be reformed by enhancing choice and flexibility and promoting school autonomy. For more information on our Education policy, please refer to: http://act-ldp.org.au/Policy_Education.html

Sustainable Australia

No policy. We would fully examine all the relevant issues and consult with all community stakeholders prior to policy formation, if elected.

Question

A Christian was recently fined for praying silently in Canberra’s CBD. The legislation preventing free speech in the vicinity of abortion clinics raises questions about the freedom of political communication and religious freedom, including prayer itself. Does your party believe the current legislation regulating free speech adequately ensures our fundamental freedom of political communication and our ability to respectfully communicate these ideas publicly?

Party Answer
ACT Greens

An ACT Greens Bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly in 2015 that saw the creation of privacy zones around medical facilities that provide abortion and reproductive services.

The Greens were pleased that, with the passing of this legislation, women will be able to access what is a safe and legal medical procedure without being confronted, harassed or intimidated.

While the small but dedicated group who gather outside the ACT’s abortion clinic may not be as confronting as the more violent and distressing protests that were occurring in Victoria and New South Wales, these gatherings are clearly designed to deter or dissuade women from undertaking the legal procedure.

While the ACT Greens do respect individuals’ rights to hold strong views on any matter, we cannot support any behaviour that intimidates or causes fear or distress towards a woman who may already be in a difficult time. In the development of this bill we sought to provide a balance between providing safe, unimpeded access for women, whilst not unduly impeding on the rights to freedom of speech. This legislation does just that, defining specific prohibited material, a defined proximity where activity is prohibited, and specified time restrictions on activity. The limitations do not prevent a person from protesting in other places or outside the times specified. This is fundamentally about a woman’s right to medical privacy, and the right to make choices about her own health.

ACT Labor

Labor is committed to ensuring women can access the medical services they require without the risk of harassment, intimidation or judgement by others. The regulatory framework is designed to prevent protest or behaviours that increase emotional distress or may prevent women from accessing legal and medically recognised health procedures. This was developed in consultation with key stakeholders, such as the ACT Human Rights Commission and ACT Policing, to ensure the right balance between protecting a woman's right to access safe and legal healthcare, and the right to protest.

Access to approved health facilities that provide services in relation to sexual health, and the planning and termination of pregnancy is legal in the ACT. Legal medical services must be available to access in privacy and safety. It is reasonable to expect that political activism should be addressed at law makers, rather than individual citizens exercising their personal right to access to health care.

Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals share your concern about the freedom of political communication and religious freedom. We opposed the introduction of the Health (Patient Privacy) Amendment Bill 2015, and subsequently moved amendments that sought to maintain freedom of speech and the right to respectful and peaceful protest. Unfortunately Labor and the Green opposed these amendments, and thus they were unsuccessful.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are a party of free speech and consider the restrictions on the rights to protest to be unacceptable. Our response to the first question above provides more detail for your members.

Sustainable Australia No policy. We would fully examine all the relevant issues and consult with all community stakeholders prior to policy formation, if elected

Question

Recent changes to birth certificate registration in the ACT have made the terms “mother” and “father” interchangeable. The default is now “birth parent/other parent/mother/father” and “other parent/father/mother.” Will your party commit to reverting to “mother” and “father” as the default? 

Party Answer
ACT Greens

No, we support this change. All political parties supported this change when it was presented to the Legislative Assembly in 2016. The emergence of gender diverse parents means that gendered terms such as "mother" and "father" are no longer true of all parents. The change recognises the gender diversity of parents and removes any mislabelling of parents during the registration process. This continues the commitment the ACT has made to create a socially inclusive community by expanding the legal recognition of gender diversity in our community.

Importantly, the changes do not diminish the importance of the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’. For most families the changes make no difference and they will still use the traditional ‘mother’ and ‘father’ on their certificates. For a number of families however, these changes present the opportunity for their family to be represented in an accurate way, which is very important to them.

ACT Labor The changes in birth certificates, introduced earlier this year, mean that parents now have greater choice as to how they are referenced on their child's birth certificate. The changes are important, and while they won't alter the process for most parents, they ensure that all parents can have equal recognition on their child's birth certificate. The changes provide more options for diverse families. The changes increase fairness and equality for all parents, who love their children.
Canberra Liberals The changes made to the registering of births and parentage in the Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2016 are somewhat problematic. We understand it was the intention of the Government to maintain the primacy of the terms “mother” and “father”, while making available the terms “birth parent” and “other parent”.  The Canberra Liberals made it clear that we would monitor the legislation and make any necessary amendment if it was not working as expected. The Canberra Liberals did not and will not support the expansion of the definition of the terms “mother” and “father” that would have allowed a male to be called "mother" and a female to be called "father". 
Liberal Democrats

The ACT Liberal Democrats do not have a view on the registration of names in the ACT. We would certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Australian Christian Lobby should a Liberal Democrat MLA be elected.

Sustainable Australia No policy. We would fully examine all the relevant issues and consult with all community stakeholders prior to policy formation, if elected.

Question

What does your party see as the top three priorities for the ACT?

Party Answer
ACT Greens

Our policy platform was developed by our members. The Greens are a party of the people, the environment and the future of our city - not a party for big business, developers or pokies. Our top priorities are:

1. Integrity in politics
We want to restore confidence in our government and planning decisions. Money and power should not be able to buy political influence, and the community deserves to have confidence that decisions are being made in their best interests.
The ACT Greens have committed to: 
• creating an ACT Integrity Commission with powers similar to the NSW ICAC 
• ban developer donations and stop corporate money from influencing politics;
• expand the ACT Register of Lobbyists and its Code 
• build on ACT Greens' nation-leading Freedom Of Information laws

2. Housing
Putting the community first means ensuring every Canberran has access to safe, affordable housing. The ACT Greens are committed to tackling Canberra’s hidden poverty with innovative affordable housing projects to ensure no one is left behind.
Housing affordability is a huge issue in Canberra, and around the country. This generation of home-leavers is the first that will be worse off than their parents, and are forecast to never be able to enter the housing market. We know there are vulnerable Canberrans struggling to find somewhere to live at all. The ACT Greens not only want to increase the amount of affordable housing, but we want to ensure homes are affordable to heat and cool and close to public transport. We have committed to: 
• Ensuring planning decisions that result in quality housing, connected neighbourhoods and a more liveable city, not just profits
• Establishing a universal housing plan which ensures every new home is built to a Livable Housing Design Silver Level
• Re-establishing the Planning Authority’s independence from government of the day;
• Mandating better design standards for new apartments;
• Improving renters' rights and set minimum standards for all rental properties
• And better funding our local homelessness services

3. Public Transport
The Greens have a plan for more buses, better walking and cycling infrastructure, and a light rail network that connects north and south Canberra. We will keep improving our transport system – and we won’t stop until every Canberran has the best quality public transport. That’s why the Greens have a plan for public transport for everyone. We have already committed to:
• Investing $57 million into the ACTION bus network to improve bus frequency and network coverage integrate bus routes with Stage 1 light rail 
• Powering our buses with clean, green energy so that we can benefit from public transport without trashing our air and our environment 
• Committing to to take light rail right through to Woden and power that with clean energy too, and 
• Pledging to freeze bus fares to keep transport costs fair for everyone.

ACT Labor

With our population growing by 5000 people a year, ACT Labor's top priorities for the ACT are: a strong health system; schools that help our children reach their true potential; creating and supporting secure and well-paid jobs; and delivering the infrastructure a growing city needs.

Healthcare has always been a priority for ACT Labor. Our 10 year plan for health will deliver essentia facilities where people need them. The plan includes a major expansion of women's and children's services, a new surgical hospital in Woden and a teaching hospital at the University of Canberra, new walk-in health centres in Weston Creek and Gungahlin, and more bulk-billing GP clinics on the southside.

Labor has a plan to deliver even better schools to help every Canberra child reach their potential. A re-elected Labor Government will provide tablet devices to all ACT High School and College students. Labor has listened to the calls from the community and from experts — if re-elected we will also fund 20 new school psychologists across Canberra. These new school psychologists will add to our existing services, providing students with access to professional assistance when they need it.

Labor will continue to invest in upgrading our school infrastructure. Labor will deliver a further $100 million to revitalise our schools and ensure high quality learning environments, including $15 million for our non-government school sector. This builds on the $70 million we invested in upgrades since 2012.

We will ensure CIT remains the primary provider of high-quality vocational education in Canberra. And every single Labor MLA will continue the fight for the full implementation of the Gonski needs-based funding model, because we recognise that all schools in the ACT, government, Catholic and independent— will all benefit from the full implementation of the original funding model.

ACT Labor has defended Canberra workers and the local economy from the Liberals' harsh cuts. We've worked hard to create and defend local jobs because Labor understands that every sacked worker is a person with a family and friends, not just a number on a balance sheet.

Canberra can't just rely on the federal public sector. That's why ACT Labor has been working hard to strengthen and diversify our economy. And our economic strategy is working: international flights have recently started. We have the fastest growing economy, the fastest growth in service exports, and the strongest jobs growth, in the country. Canberra's tourism market is booming like never before.

To continue building our economy, we must build the infrastructure our city needs. Labor has a plan to make these investments now, before our city descends into gridlock like Sydney or Melbourne. We must continue to build an integrated transport network and provide Canberrans with better transport.

That means boosting our bus services, road network and bike paths, and building light rail from Gungahlin through the City and Parliamentary Triangle to Woden, to have a true north-south spine joining our city together.

ACT Labor is the party that builds inclusion, equality and fairness in our community. Our investments, commitments, members and candidates all unite around these values. We want to keep Canberra the most progressive, inclusive and strongest jurisdiction in the country. 

Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals’ main priorities at this election are to put a stop to the Labor/Green Government’s plan to build a tram at a cost of $1.78 billion for the first stage and $14 billion for the whole project. We believe that it will ruin our economy and divert resources from important priorities like health, education and better local services. Instead of a tram our priorities are:

(i) Keeping rates down, with increases more in line with CPI rather than we have seen under the current Labor/Green Government. We will stop the Labor-Greens plan to treble rates and to load the $14 billion tram on top. If there is not a change of Government, Canberra will become unaffordable for many.

(ii) Fixing hospital waiting lists which are the worst in the country, by building a $395 million expansion to Canberra Hospital and building satellite facilities in Gungahlin and Tuggeranong. Labor promised the hospital expansion before the last election, but reneged to put funds aside for the deposit on the tram.

(iii) Around $100 million additional investment over four years to support schools and schoolchildren. We can afford this because we won’t be paying for a tram. The additional investment includes:

i. $60 million to fund new infrastructure, capital upgrades and maintenance.
ii. $17.5 million to support children with special needs in our non-government schools. This will help meet the individual learning needs of those children and will go some way to assist in the implementation of the recommendations of the Shaddock Review. This is on top of the investment already allocated to the public system.
iii. $15 million in capital for non-government schools.
iv. $7.5 million for our specialised schools, including a $1 million grant for each of the four schools for specialised infrastructure.

Liberal Democrats

Our core promise to the ACT is that we will never vote for an increase in taxes, and we will never vote for a reduction in your liberties. Accordingly, the ACT Liberal Democrats consider the three top priorities for this
ACT election to be rates, free speech, and local business policy.

The failure of successive ACT governments to manage the budget has had significant negative impacts on both residents and small business operators. Ballooning debt is the hallmark of a government that has fundamentally lost its way. Debts will only be repaid through higher taxes and reductions in services, and have an unfair intergenerational impact, as younger residents are forced to pick up the tab for previous mismanagement. As highlighted by events in the federal sphere, Australia’s proud tradition as a robust liberal democracy is under threat through censorship. Governments are all too willing to impose restrictions on speech, and our polities—at both the federal and the state levels—need strong representation that will fight against this creeping censorship.

Sustainable Australia

We are a party from the political centre, and aim to secure an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable Australia and ACT.

You will find our ACT-specific policies and priorities here:
http://www.votesustainable.org.au/act

This outlines that our top 3 ACT priorities are to:
- Save Canberra from over-development
- Lower rates
- Protect our trees