Choose this day whom you will serve.
Last week, a Labor politician, genuine about overseas aid, phoned me.
“I feel betrayed by World Vision,” he said.
“How nice to hear from you,” I said, a little non-plussed. “Er, sorry ... you said betrayed?”
“Some of us in the party have been really putting ourselves on the line for overseas aid,” he said. “And now when there is a real difference between the parties, you guys are silent.”
The real difference he was talking about is on the quantity of aid.
Labor say they are committed to 0.4% of our national wealth by 1995.
The Coalition say they will cut $209 million out by 1995.
This means a difference between the parties of over $500 million. Almost half the present total aid budget!
I agreed with this politician that this was a significant issue. And when I have had the chance to address the quantity question I do point out that Labor is better than the Liberals.
However, I suggested, using a cricketing metaphor, it was a bit like being offered two spin bowlers to play in Perth (for the cricket-ignorant, the Perth wicket isn't much good for spin bowlers).
They are both offering little more than thimble-fulls of water to thirsty people.
Neither major party has a good record on the quantity question. Both have been promising to move aid towards 0.7% of GDP for twenty years now!
I think it would lack integrity for World Vision to be suggesting a vote for one party over another when one is bad and the other is worse.
An aid program you could vote for.
This is what we need.
We need an overseas aid program that takes our international responsibility seriously.
Here we are, the 18th richest nation on earth, but our government will only share three-and-a-half thousandths of our national wealth as foreign aid.
It is an international shame. The only reason few recognise how shameful, is that most other countries are even worse!
The only thing that can be said about the Coalition on the quantity question is that they would turn something shameful into something more shameful.
I don't feel inclined to put World Vision's name too strongly in favour of Labor just because the other side is worse.
What about the others?
The Democrats and the Greens are both saying they would quickly move our overseas aid vote to more reasonable levels.
Why not vote for them?
Some people will. Others will weigh up the practical questions about whether such parties can, in the present two-party dominated system, actually get to do anything they promise.
Politics is, after all, the art of the possible.
Simple, or Simplistic?
The other reason I am reluctant to put World Vision's name behind Labor on the quantity question, is that the issues are not simply about quantity.
Most political questions are complex.
The game of politics often cynically simplifies issues and misrepresents them.
Like attacking Hewson on the GST without also noting the Coalition's intention to abolish many other taxes.
Like attacking Keating's decision not to oppose the GST if defeated, without noting that it would be unconstitutional anyway for a Labor dominated Senate to reject a tax bill.
I'm afraid the occasionally noble profession of journalism is guilty of aiding in the deception.
Too many journalists have not learned how to be reporters. They mistake accuracy for truth.
Last week, Kennett offered to meet Halfpenny. Halfpenny, in an interview broadcast on P.M. said he would take it at face value as an honest attempt to negotiate.
Asked whether he thought it might not be honest, Halfpenny said it was possible it was a publicity stunt.
ABC radio news, moments later, reported “Mr Halfpenny has labelled the offer as a publicity stunt.”
This is what he said. So it was accurate. But was it the truth?
I do not want World Vision drawn too deeply into this cynical political game.
We have many concerns about overseas aid.
When you make up your mind how you will vote, I hope you will think holistically about our nation and make a judgement about who is offering a combination of policies and values that will offer the most benefit to the most people.
If you can find such a political agenda, let me know.