During the non-federal election years, ACL hosts a national conference in Canberra.

This is an opportunity to influence the national political discourse with our vision for building a nation of character.

At each conference we invite either the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader.

Kevin Rudd attended as Prime Minister in 2009 and Labor’s Kim Beazley attended as Opposition Leader in 2005.

Malcolm Turnbull was keynote speaker in 2008 when he was Opposition Leader.

Our election webcast events have been addressed by John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.

During the 2010 election campaign, Julia Gillard sat down with the then ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace for a one-on-one video interview which we widely distributed throughout the Christian constituency.

In this long tradition of bi-partisanship, I’m pleased to announce that the leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, will be our keynote speaker at this year’s conference.

From the moment Jim Wallace (now deputy chairman of our board) took on ACL, it has been non-party partisan.

This means we seek to influence both sides of the political spectrum with the values we think will help Australia become a more just and compassionate society.

In my view many Christians in the United States made a big mistake when they threw in their lot with the Republican Party.

Much of the destructive polarisation of US politics can be traced to this strategic misstep.

Being non-party partisan does not mean ACL endorses every policy a political leader who speaks at our conferences holds.

In the same way, political leaders would not necessarily agree with every view ACL holds.

This is of course not the point.

Any group participating in our democracy seeks to influence politics with its vision of the common good.

ACL is no different.

I hope you will join us as we host Mr Shorten and a stellar line-up of other speakers on October 24-25.

So which party should a Christian vote for?

One of the best answers I’ve heard to this vexed question came from the former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen when he addressed an ACL function last year.

When I was a little boy I asked my Father which party he voted for. ‘I vote Liberal’, he told me, ‘because I own and run my own business.’ So he did. It was a two-man printing business in Bondi Junction. And he was President of his local branch of the Liberal Party at one time.

At the same time, his cousin Harry Jensen, belonged to the Labor Party and was a long term member of the Legislative Assembly, Lord Mayor and a Minister of the Crown. I never asked Harry why he was in the Labor party, but my guess is that it was his early days as a union member and official which was decisive. He was Roman Catholic; my father was Anglican.

Both men lost their fathers when they were very young and both belonged to large families which had to struggle, not least in the Depression. But I know how much they admired each other and I know how proud my father was that Harry was his cousin.

I may be romanticising, but perhaps you could say that Harry represented that central Labor instinct in which people bonded together in order to help each other. And you could say that my father was giving voice to that central Liberal instinct in which the sturdy individual took responsibility for himself and for others. Both were men of the community; both were men who served; both were men of integrity; both were churchmen.