CANBERRA, Australia — Catholic bishops urged Australians to consider the nation’s most vulnerable people when voting in federal elections May 21.
In a pre-election statement, the bishops did not endorse any political platform, but said voters should consider candidates who might prioritize people who need palliative care, those in low-paying and insecure jobs, First Nations peoples, asylum-seekers and refugees.
In a statement released April 19, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian bishops’ conference, said no one political party fully embodies Catholic social teaching. But he said Australian Catholic leaders “long for what Pope Francis calls ‘a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good.'”
“Since the last federal election we have seen the impact and the challenges of a global pandemic, floods, summers of bushfires, wild weather events and a world on edge because of military conflict,” Coleridge said.
“Foremost in the minds of many will be Australia’s economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19. The societal disruptions from the pandemic have revealed significant levels of poverty and disadvantage within Australia. We need a new social contract that focuses the economy more clearly on the common good.”
In their statement, the bishops said the government should “play a leading role in ensuring consistently high-quality palliative care is available across Australia.”
This includes increasing wages for those who work in the aged care system, where staff shortages are “crippling the sector,” they said.
The bishops urged an increase in minimum wage “to at least meet the poverty line” and advocated for “greater investment in affordable and social housing.”
They also said religious agencies, including schools, need to be able to hire staff who support their mission. “We call only for the same level of protections against discrimination on the basis of religion that Australia already has on the basis of race, sex or age,” the bishops said.
The bishops reaffirmed their endorsement of the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people to be recognized in the constitution and given a permanent voice in the Australian Parliament.
They called for a “just, humane and timely system” for assessing asylum claims and said integral ecology should be used in addressing the environmental crisis.
The bishops accompanied their statement with a page on Catholic social teaching principles and a prayer for the election, which said in part: “May all of us see and hear you in the most vulnerable, that we may respond to the cry of the earth and that cry of the poor, that we may respond to you.”