Why Bishop is ‘perplexed’ about who to vote for

 

CAIRNS Bishop James Foley has spoken out on the moral dilemma that left him with doubts about voting Labor for the first time in his life.

The influential Far North Catholic leader said Labor's social justice policy aligned best with Christian values, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's stance on assisted dying had rocked his faith in the party.

He is also troubled by the party's handling of abortion law reforms.

"The premier made the announcement in her policy speech that they would bring forward euthanasia legislation whereas there had been an understanding there would not be any development on that until after the election," he said.

Bishop James Foley at his Abbott St residence. Picture: Stewart McLean
Bishop James Foley at his Abbott St residence. Picture: Stewart McLean

"At the countless deaths I have been at, most are remarkably gentle and peaceful and I fear the euthanasia discussion is going to make people (think) that death is always traumatic.

"(And) they made no allowances in the abortion legislation for doctors or nursing personnel who would have reservations about abortion.

"You shouldn't compel people to act against their conscience and yet this is exactly what the abortion legislation is doing.

"There is a real concern that church-run hospitals and aged care facilities could be required to perform euthanasia."

Bishop Foley said he had ruled out "extreme" parties such as the Greens and One Nation and had even been "tempted" to cast an informal vote in protest of Labor policy.

"That's a wasted vote but I am not sure who else I would vote for," he said.

"I think it's leaving a lot of people unrepresented. Traditionally a lot of Catholics have been Labor voters and yet the present Labor Party seems to be turning their back on voters."

Covering a Cairns Diocese area of 377,000sq km, Bishop Foley is the spiritual leader for thousands from Thursday Island to Gordonvale.

When approached by parishioners for political guidance, the Bishop was honest about his dilemma.

"I have never been so perplexed as to what to do," he said.

"The backbone of the Labor Party has been the trade union movements and certain religious groups, particularly Catholics and Methodists, but they have walked away from an important part of their heartland and constituency."

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has offered a conscience vote to Cabinet members regarding euthanasia policy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has offered a conscience vote to Cabinet members regarding euthanasia policy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

 

Last week Bishop Foley sent a letter to Premier Palaszczuk outlining his concerns about Labor policy on euthanasia and abortion.

"I emailed that Tuesday evening about 7 o'clock and the robot response came in about 10 minutes later and that is all I've heard," he said.

Acknowledging Ms Palaszczuk has offered a conscience vote to Cabinet members regarding euthanasia policy, Bishop Foley indicated there could be reprisals for not falling into line.

"What does worry me, even though the premier said this would be a conscience vote, (but) the reality is in the Labor Party your voting pattern is certainly seriously considered when it comes to party preselection," he said.

Bishop Foley said he understood his local candidate Michael Healy's ambition to become tourism minister in a re-elected Labor government which could influence a vote on euthanasia.

"And that would be very good for Cairns … (but) the premier distributes the portfolios," he said.

Cairns MP Mr Healy said he sympathised with Bishop Foley.

Queensland Member for Cairns Michael Healy. Picture: Stewart McLean
Queensland Member for Cairns Michael Healy. Picture: Stewart McLean

 

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"I think the conundrum that the Bishop finds himself in is no different to many people," he said.

Mr Healy said he was confident the outcome of a conscience vote would not impact party preselection or ministerial portfolios in a re-elected Labor government.

"I think the sensitivity of the topic of that matter is reflected in the premier allowing us a conscience vote," he said.

"Some will say 'yes' and some will say 'no' but no one will be ridiculed.

"We have been told this is a conscience vote, we are not being held by party guidelines, there will be no ramifications. The party has made that clear.

"There are strong views on both sides. For some people it's progressive and for others it's not."

Ms Palaszczuk, commenting on the euthanasia issue last week, indicated she was aware of the dilemma facing Catholics.

"I think it's a very important issue, it's a very important issue for Queenslanders," she said.

"It has been raised with me countless times and there is no reason that any extra assistance from the law reform commission is needed. We can bring that forward so the parliament can have a vote.

"It'll be a conscience vote for the members of my team if we are re-elected. And I hope it is a conscience vote for all parliamentarians."

Originally published as Why Cairns Bishop is 'perplexed' about who to vote for


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