ACL's Make It Count event featured Premier Denis Napthine and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews addressing Christians in the lead up to the Victorian election in November.

ACL Victoria Director Dan Flynn hosted the event, and he spoke to ACL's Daniel Simon about the evening.

DANIEL SIMON: Welcome to the Political Spot. I’m Daniel Simon. With the Victorian election coming up in November, the Australian Christian Lobby has held it’s Make it Count event, featuring Premier Denis Napthine and Leader of the Opposition Daniel Andrews. Dan Flynn is the Victorian Director of ACL and he’s here to talk about the evening. Hello, Dan.

DAN FLYNN: How are you Daniel?

DANIEL SIMON: Yeah well thanks. Now well done getting the leaders together for this event. Was it a successful evening?

DAN FLYNN: Look it was a successful evening. Both Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews were very keen to participate. As were, say over ten denominations, certainly all the main denominations, probably nine out of ten of them were present and represented either by their leaders of a high level delegate. It was a very exciting function in that respect. There was a great level of engagement by these political leaders.

DANIEL SIMON: Right and what are the main points of agreement between the two parties that might have come out on the night? And for that matter, what are the areas of disagreement as well?

DAN FLYNN: Daniel I think areas of agreement were the need to do something about gambling, concerns about domestic violence and the ICE epidemic in Victoria. The ways of addressing those were slightly different but a great deal of about the need to address these social evils. And youth unemployment was also in that category.

It was a very harmonious engagement by both leaders who you could tell, there was much that was agreed about but the policy approaches were slightly different.

I suppose turning to differences, and this is probably just a way of addressing those things that were agreed upon. Domestic violence - the ALP are proposing a Royal Commission. Something with the authority of the Crown to report back in twelve months. On the ICE epidemic, the ALP said there would be a taskforce to report within a hundred days. So there was some clear outcomes there by the ALP in terms of their policies in addressing those matters. And Premier Napthine, he articulate a very clear position in terms of the stats and indicated, for example, that under the Coalition government the actual losses to gambling have actually dropped in Premier Napthine’s Coalition term of government. So there were matters of some other more extensive disagreement but considerable unity shown on the night.

DANIEL SIMON: Now the leaders were asked a series of questions by church and community leader about issues of particular concern to Christians, including some of the ones you’ve mentioned. Were there any significant takeaways in terms of commitments or promises made by leaders, to the Christian constituency.

DAN FLYNN: Yes Daniel. Both leaders indicated that if a private member’s bill was proposed to restore freedom to doctors who declined to participate in abortion by referrals to other doctors who would perform abortions, both the Premier and the Opposition Leader said that they would allow a private member’s bill, and that they would allow a conscience vote. No doubt somebody will bring forward a private member’s bill and there is assurance that that will be given air time and a conscience vote will be allowed.

DANIEL SIMON: Ok, was there anything that disappointing or maybe concerning from the leaders?

DAN FLYNN: To me the most disappointing element of this came from Daniel Andrews. Firstly he spoke about the referral for abortions and said that look the law, as it stands in his view is appropriate, in that somebody seeking an abortion, if they meet with a doctor who has a conscientious objection, that doctor refers that person to somebody who doesn’t have a conscientious objection.

One other point of concern was a point of difference about the capacity of Christian organisations to employ staff. And this would relate particularly to Christian schools. And the Coalition’s position is that faith-based schools can recruit according to faith and values and ethos. The view articulated by the ALP was that it isn’t necessary that such law exists and they propose to change the law so that a school that’s wishing to discriminate on that basis must be able to establish that it’s an inherent requirement of that role that the person be a Christian or have a certain ethos.

DANIEL SIMON: So this goes to the religious freedom of Christian schools?

DAN FLYNN: Yes, it certainly does and it’s something that really strikes hard at the way in which Christian schools are organised and I think this will be a major election issue.

DANIEL SIMON: Dan Flynn, thank you very much for joining me.

DAN FLYNN: Thank you for your time, Daniel.