The election of a new Liberal-National Party government in Australia, led by a prominent Catholic layman, Tony Abbott, has attracted attention around the world.
In Australia, there have been several Catholic Prime Ministers from the Labor Party over the past century, but Mr Abbott is the first Catholic Prime Minister from the Liberal Party since that party was formed in the 1940s. Earlier Liberal leaders, including John Howard and Sir Robert Menzies, have come from the Anglican, Methodist or Presbyterian traditions.
Mr Abbott is socially conservative, being a strong supporter of natural marriage and the family, and has deplored the number of abortions in Australia. He is also intensely patriotic. The government he leads contains people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, and the new prime minister has rightly said that he will govern for all Australians.
Public debate in Australia rarely has an explicitly religious dimension: an exception, of course, being the contentious issue of the application of anti-discrimination laws to believers and religious organisations, including the Christian churches.
But many of the great issues of the day – including sound economic policies, the rights and responsibilities of workers, marriage and the family, the life issues, the role of government in society, immigration, the environment, asylum seekers, the importance of farming and small business – have a profound moral dimension, in addition to their social or economic significance.
Christian values – build around the principles of respect for life, fairness and justice – have an important contribution to make in advancing the interests of all Australians.