Participation in the democratic process is a moral minefield for the Catholic voter. Today, the burden rests on them to determine the views of the candidates and parties on offer come election time.
Some candidates are rather shy about their position, retreating behind standard party responses when it comes to "controversial" matters of conscience.
Issues such as abortion, same-sex "marriage" and euthanasia: these are some of the benchmarks by which Catholics determine their vote – and yet it is often so hard to gain a clear picture. The problem is exacerbated by complex preference flows which could see a well-aimed vote go to a far less desirable candidate or party.
Some who would seek to help Catholics and other Christians run this gauntlet only serve to add to the confusion by adopting a "seamless garment" approach. This places black-and-white moral issues (such as the sanctity of human life and defence of marriage) alongside matters on which Catholics may hold any number of diverse views (such as immigration and taxation).
It is obviously not the role of AD2000 to advise readers how to vote. What it can offer, however, are some sound, guiding principles. These include:
1. Considering your local candidates. This should include their views, as much as they are known, on the issues mentioned. A sitting MP's voting record should also be examined – as should membership of any group or lobby such as the pro-abortion Emily's List.
2. Deciding whom you will preference in your electorate. If you vote for a minor party or independent, weigh up which of the likely actual winning candidates (usually Labor or the Coalition) is more supportive of life and marriage.
3. In the Senate, being aware of the two voting options available: above or below the line. Voting above the line requires a simple "1" in the box of your chosen party or group, but grants them the right to allocate preferences according to a previously lodged ticket – unseen by most voters. Voting below the line, while time-consuming and open to error when numbering scores of candidates, permits a more considered and deliberate approach.
4. Finally, reflecting on the various party positions. It could be that individual candidates might be constrained one way or another by their party so the "bigger picture" needs to be accounted for.
We should also pray that the new parliament will be conducive to sound Christian principles. Our country's future is shaky without that firm foundation.