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Faith groups hopeful new NSW Labor government will invest in religious communities

A spokesperson for Premier-Elect Chris Minns said members of the Coalition's new religious advisory council would continue in their roles

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Labor leader and Premier elect Chris Minns with his wife Annaand sons Joe, Nick and George during the NSW Labor reception in Sydney, Saturday, March 25, 2023. Labor won the election and will form a majority government after Premier Domionic Perrottet, right, conceded defeat. Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Labor leader and Premier elect Chris Minns with his wife Anna and sons Joe, Nick and George during the NSW Labor reception in Sydney, Saturday, March 25, 2023. Labor won the election and will form a majority government after Premier Domionic Perrottet, right, conceded defeat. Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Updated 29/03/2023

Faith groups have cautiously welcomed the election of the new Labor government in NSW, saying they are hopeful the concerns of people of faith will be listened to and respected by Premier Chris Minns, a committed Catholic.

But they have urged the new government not to become fixed on ideological interests and instead focus on family values.

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Labor has ended 12 years in opposition, but looks unlikely to form majority government.

Labor will not have a majority in the NSW Legislative Council or upper house, where the Greens have won at least two seats and One Nation one seat.

The Coalition won six seats of the 21 seats up for election in the upper house, with Labor taking eight.

The national president of the National Civic Council, Luke McCormack, said Labor’s victory has come after significant swings to the party in the mortgage-belt suburbs of western Sydney.

“Labor victories in traditional, conservative, and working-class areas indicate voters are willing to go back to their roots,” Mr McCormack told The Catholic Weekly.

“These electorates clearly care about faith, family, parental rights, and how to get by in an expensive and imbalanced system.

“Premier-elect Chris Minns himself seems to take this seriously, as does Labor’s deputy leader Prue Car.

“However, the question will be whether this NSW Labor government can stand up for these voters.

“As we know, the Labor party harbours entrenched ideological interests that at times are more concerned with rewriting reality to suit their agenda, than serving the electorate.”

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s Justice and Peace Office’s social justice facilitator, Dr Michael Walker, said Labor has committed itself to strong policies to help low and middle-income earners across NSW.

He said the proposed removal of the cap on public sector wages should flow on to reasonable wage increases for many workers across the economy, who are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Dr Walker also praised Labor’s commitment to end forced evictions for renters on short- and long-term leases and to end donations from clubs with poker machines.

“I think that’s really important in keeping the political parties at arms length from people who have a vested interest in ongoing poker machine revenue,” he said.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, at left, meets religious leaders during a meeting with the Shadow Cabinet in Sydney on 7 November. Photo: Jack Begbie
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, at left, meets religious leaders during a meeting with the Shadow Cabinet in Sydney on 7 November. Photo: Jack Begbie

The Council for Catholic School Parents (CCSP) has welcomed the new Labor government’s commitment to spending $60 million on new and expanded pre-schools, co-located at non-government schools, saying this will help many families with the convenience of having children educated on the one site.

During the election campaign, the Coalition promised an extra $50 million in classroom upgrades and building projects for non-government schools and CCSP chairman Wayne Davie has called on the new government to match that commitment.

“The schools we’re most concerned about are those affected by the NSW floods, since some of them have essentially been wiped out and haven’t been able to get any commitment from insurance companies to cover insurance for those schools,” Mr Davie said.

“Affected dioceses simply don’t have the capital funding to be able to go and buy new land and build new schools and that’s where the NSW Government needs to step in and provide that support.”

The Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) deputy director, Dan Flynn, said Christian groups have welcomed Labor’s commitment to establish a faith affairs council which would be made up of representatives appointed by the various faiths and which would be able to meet and present their concerns directly to the new government.

“It’s a great initiative and it reflects very well on Premier Minns who is a man very committed to his Catholic faith and so to have an organised mechanism in place, for faith leaders to be able to raise their needs and concerns directly with government, is a very positive step in the right direction”, he said.

Mr Minns has confirmed that Labor MP for Rockdale, Steve Kamper, will be the government’s point of contact for faith communities on the new faith affairs council.

A government spokesman has confirmed that current representatives on the religious communities advisory council established by the outgoing Coalition government would continue on the faith affairs council if their faith community supported their appointment.

Labor has also committed to reviewing the current Anti-Discrimination Act within its first 100 days in government to include the need to address discrimination on the basis of religion.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Dan Flynn believes caution is needed to ensure that public preaching is allowed for under the legislation.

He also believes there is an urgent need for the incoming government to introduce anti-discrimination laws, allowing greater protection for faith-based organisations in their workplace decisions.

“NSW and South Australia are the only states without religious discrimination legislation and while the federal government has indicated it is likely to provide us with protection to allow faith-based organisations to give preference in recruitment practices to people from the same faith, these protections don’t extend to staff members who may then openly contravene faith-based values after they have been recruited,” Mr Flynn explained.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul also congratulated Mr Minns, and called for an increase in social housing.

“We look forward to working with Mr Minns and his government to shape a future where everyone has a safe, secure, stable and healthy place to live,” said Yolanda Saiz, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW acting CEO.

“The society called for housing justice through our state election platform to ensure that people can live securely in housing, support is available in times of hardship, and underlying issues that contribute to housing stress are remedied.”

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