Archbishop Philip Freier says there is a disconnection in Australia between many features of society, such as the welfare system, and their Christian origins.

Dr Freier said the welfare state in England had come out of a strong Christian context but while Australia had adopted some of the policies, it had done so without the context.

He also said primacy of conscience was part of the DNA of the United States but that a similar strong unifying narrative in Australia “might be harder to get in an increasingly secular society which, from my perspective, is trying to privatise faith here”.

Archbishop Freier was hosting a round-table event for The Global Foundation at the Anglican Centre in Flinders Lane recently at which the publication of a series of speeches by senior Victorian Federal MP, Mr Greg Hunt, was launched. The ‘Australia 2030’ Speeches, all of which were delivered in the past 12 months, cover long-term planning of Australian cities, Liberalism’s “Third Wave”, preparing Australia for Asia in 2030, rethinking global approaches to climate change and “Fostering a Great Society from the Bottom Up”.

Mr Hunt, the Liberal MHR for the Mornington Peninsula seat of Flinders, is Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage.

Other participants included the CEO of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Mr Tony Nicholson; the CEO of Melbourne-based Anglican relief and development agency Anglicord, Ms Misha Coleman; a partner in Deloitte Access Economics, prominent Anglican layman Professor Ian Harper; and the senior Australian member of the International Olympic Committee, Mr Kevan Gosper.

Mr Hunt thanked the Archbishop for agreeing to host the event, saying it showed that the Church was engaged in the life of the community, “which of course is what you should do and what you do do”.

On Australian cities, Mr Hunt said: “Our cities have great challenges but they are not broken.”

On Australia’s future relations with Asia, Mr Hunt doubted there was any territorial threat to Australia in the next 30 years but said there were risks of a breakdown in relations between India, China and the US. But Australia was “almost uniquely placed” to be able to make a contribution to ensuring that there was no such breakdown.

Mr Nicholson warned of an economic and social fault line in Australia in which prosperity was coupled with the fact that a significant number of people had been left behind.

“The imperative has to be around inclusive growth,” he said.

Professor Harper said as state governments provided services to people, that was where fiscal stresses would be felt – in the declining quantity and quality of services as costs rose and revenue fell.

“It is becoming increasingly urgent because the fiscal circumstances of the states are out of kilter with the fiscal circumstances of the Commonwealth,” Professor Harper said.

The Global Foundation’s Secretary General, Mr Steve Howard, said in thanking the Archbishop for hosting the event that Dr Freier had made “quite a mark in civic life” in a relatively short time in Melbourne.
For a full report, read the March issue of ‘TMA’



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