by: Adam Ch'ng, The Australian, September 05, 2013
IF there is actually such a thing as the "Christian vote", on Monday night Kevin Rudd lost it.
For many, the Prime Minister's spirited defence of same-sex marriage on ABC1's Q&A program was a watershed moment.
Kerryn Phelps hailed it as a "historical moment in Australian politics" and penned a 475-word article of thanks to Rudd.
For Phelps and so many other LGBTIQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersexed/questioning) voters, this was the "sweetest victory of all".
Yet for so many Christian voters, this was the moment that the sheep's clothing came off the wolf's back.
At 7.30pm that Monday, more than 35,000 Christians gathered across 339 churches in every state and territory of Australia to watch Rudd and Tony Abbott address the Christian constituency.
Not yet knowing what was to come, many of us sympathised with Rudd's apparently genuine admission that: "Many in the Christian churches may be disappointed with some of the decisions that I have taken as Prime Minister or as a person. I have also undertaken those decisions in good and prayerful conscience, even though people in equal prayerful conscience may disagree with some of those conclusions."
If the night had ended there, many of us would have been disappointed but at least sympathetic towards Rudd's clumsy attempt to navigate through a complex moral minefield. What came next, no one could have foreseen.
Not more than three hours later, Rudd publicly crucified a mainstream Christian pastor for questioning the PM's backflip on marriage policy.
Instead of the "gentle Kevin meek and mild" we'd seen earlier that night, Rudd now not only failed to directly answer the question but mercilessly lambasted the pastor, whose personal views were irrelevant to his response.
According to Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, Rudd was "profoundly wrong in his understanding of the Bible. He misquoted the Bible and attributed to the Bible something that Aristotle said (that slavery is a natural condition)."
While Rudd's gross distortion of biblical truth was deeply concerning, it was his modus operandi and treatment of the Christian church that was offensive.
In retrospect, the Prime Minister's apparently gracious words of 7.30pm were akin to Judas's kiss before his 10.30pm betrayal. Voters can forgive a prime minister for changing his or her mind on even an important policy issue. On Monday night, however, Rudd treated every Christian voter in Australia with absolute contempt.
Far from being some moment of great integrity and strong leadership, the Prime Minister's visceral attack on the Christian church was nothing more than cheap political opportunism.
It was this Prime Minister's attempt at creating his own "misogyny speech", with the same confected moral outrage against a fictitious straw man. It was political desperation on steroids.
With the Labor Party heading for electoral wipe-out on Saturday, Rudd's attempt at leveraging the same-sex marriage debate as a Hail Mary pass was always doomed to fail. It has irreparably damaged his once close relationship with the Christian constituency across Australia.
In fact, across the course of the election campaign, Rudd has gradually severed ties with the people with whom he identified so closely in 2009.
According to former ALP senator John Black, Rudd has neglected the "young working-class families in the outer suburbs, many of whom go to church and believe in God".
"Frankly, I haven't seen Kevin Rudd talking to those people a lot during the course of this campaign," Black said.
In June 2010, Rudd was torn down by his own party over his mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme and resource super-profits tax. His gross lack of political judgment cost him the confidence of his "gang of four" and caucus.
Unfortunately, that same lack of judgment appears to have motivated his neglect of vast swaths of the electorate who were supporters of Kevin07.
Joe de Bruyn, national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, cautioned that "Labor runs the risk that people who traditionally vote Labor will not vote Labor because they don't like the (same-sex marriage) issue. So Labor is actually running the risk, the more they prioritise this, people will vote against it."
On Monday, the Prime Minister ran that risk and crashed through. So this Saturday, he should crucify any expectation of political salvation.
Adam Ch'ng is a workplace relations lawyer and policy adviser in Melbourne.Share