I try and avoid writing partisan posts about politics, where I take a particular side or align with a specific party. There are a few reasons for this, including my deeply held belief that the Church—and Christians—should not tie itself to any worldly political party because it must be free to follow its conscience and speak for God’s interests even when they go against that of the party.
However, some things transcend party lines, and one of the joys of our political system is that we can simultaneously have different parties in power at federal, state and territory levels, likewise in Opposition—so, I can speak to them as a whole without it being about a particular party. In fact, it is something I think every opposition could well benefit from.
For the sake of argument
Across Australia, and across the world, there seems to be a growing consensus that that the role of an Opposition is to oppose, to reflexively take the opposite position to that of the Government, and tear it to pieces by finding reasons why it couldn’t possibly work. And, in the process, you can find a way to smear the motivations behind it and paint it as not wrong but actively malicious all the better.
While some of this does come down to ideological convictions, there are times where you think they would have been equally vehement in the defence of the opposite argument had the Government chosen differently. This is particularly evident when governments from different countries and different ends of the political spectrum ally themselves.
That’s why we see Republicans criticising Biden over Afghanistan while their polar opposites, Labor, do the same to Morrison. The common thread is not shared ideology—they couldn’t be further apart on every issue—but the fact their governments have taken the same position so they are compelled to oppose it.
For the people
However, I believe that an Opposition’s role should be about more than just opposing, and that when they forget this they are failing in their responsibility to their country. Their role is in some ways just as important as the government's, they are more than just mere supernumeraries. When the Opposition is doing its job the country is better for it, but when they are weak we all suffer.
Yes, sometimes they should oppose the government, but not for the sake of opposition. If a policy is good for the country they should support and make it the best it can be, rather than just tearing it down. When it is a bad one they should be willing to stand against it even if it loses them votes. And, they should always keep the government accountable, and protect the interests of society, not just think about what is good for the Party.
Sometimes that means putting aside ego, or going against their best interests. But, that is what leaders are meant to do, serve the people, and Oppositions should be just as much leaders as Governments—or they deserve to stay in Opposition.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html