Media Release: Monday, 29 October, 2007

With four weeks to go until the Federal election, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today launched a website that will inform hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout Australia – including many in marginal seats – about the different political party standpoints on key issues they care about.

The website provides the responses of six political parties, including the Coalition and Labor, to 25 questions of interest to Christians ranging from homelessness and refugees to family life and abortion. Responses include new initiatives in areas such as film classification and strengthening families, and in some cases clearly define party positions on contentious issues for the first time.

The launch dovetails with the release today of the results of specially commissioned research which shows that the top issues of concern to Christians are marriage/family matters and poverty in Australia, followed by abortion, drugs/substance abuse and Third World poverty.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that the aim behind the website is to assist Christians to make a wise and informed vote at the upcoming election after accurately weighing up the different party policies and views on issues of concern to them.

“Research conducted for the ACL as part of the 2006 National Church Life Survey confirms that Christians care about a broad range of moral and social justice issues, which they believe should be actively lobbied on in the political sphere,” Mr Wallace said.

“The questions put to political parties are in keeping with this wide range of interest and mean that the parties have had to clearly state their policies on issues which sometimes fall below the radar of the mainstream election coverage.”

Mr Wallace said the responses to the questionnaire will be widely distributed among Australian churches, with 100,000 16-page summary booklets being sent out next week, along with 400,000 flyers promoting the website.

Churches receiving the booklets will include a broad range of denominations and those in most marginal seats.

Party responses to each question were limited to a maximum of 250 words, plus a dot-point summary which is used in the printed booklet. The 25 questions and responses are presented on the website in 12 main categories. Website users have the option of customising the information by choosing particular parties and questions they wish to compare.

Some key commitments revealed in party responses on the website include:

• Regardless of whether Labor or the Coalition wins government on November 24, the system of classifying films and computer games is set for changes, with the Coalition promising a review of the guidelines and Labor announcing it will cap terms of appointment to the relevant boards.

• Both major parties said they would continue the practice of opening Parliament each day with the Lord’s Prayer.

• Labor has said it would offer bipartisan support for any general review of the length of a bridging visa for trafficked women (currently only 30 days).

• In terms of strengthening marriage and the family unit, the Coalition said it will provide $190 million over the next three years on both new early intervention services across Australia and the established network of early intervention services under the Family Relationship Services Program. Labor says it will examine options to expand the provisions of courses to support marriage, such as parenting courses, courses for couples and education programs.

• While both major parties are committed to increasing overseas aid, only Family First, the Christian Democratic Party and the Australian Democrats support an increase in foreign aid spending to at least 0.7 of gross national income by 2015.

• None of the parties which responded, apart from the Democrats, have current plans to overturn a ban that prevents Australian aid money being used for abortion advice, services or drugs.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan