By | 18 Oct 2015

Photo of pro and anti-Proposition 8 protesters rally in front of San Francisco City Hall as California Supreme Court determines definition of marriageThe recent change of prime minister was sudden, though not unexpected. Tony Abbott and his Coalition government had been languishing in the polls for many months.

Some people claim that a PM elected by the people ought not to be removed by his colleagues, but this is a misunderstanding of the way our parliamentary democracy works. We, the people, vote for our local MPs; they get to vote for their leader. So if MPs decide their leader is not doing a good job, they can replace him or her. Hence the election of Malcolm Turnbull as Australia’s 29th prime minister, by his fellow MPs. This led to major ministerial changes and the possibility of a better governed country – a development welcomed by humanists.

Humanists favour democracy as the best form of government. As we state in our introductory leaflet:

Humanists hold that human rights and the fullest development of each individual are best achieved in a liberal democracy, having secular government and constitutional separation of church and state.

Although humanists send letters and submissions to politicians about policies we support or disapprove of, we are not as an organisation involved in party politics. When anyone seeks to join a humanist society, we expect them to endorse humanist values, but we don’t ask them to disclose their political affiliations.

Humanists understand the importance of supporting the political processes within our wider society. We hope that the men and women who put themselves forward for political office are motivated by the desire to do good. While some Australians denigrate politicians and question their motives, this is not the view of most humanists who consider that engaging in political processes is a civic duty.

However, as noted above this does not translate into the HSV supporting a particular party or candidates. So when a member recently suggested running a humanist candidate for the Senate, discussion led us to decide this was not an acceptable idea.

Humanists do regularly recognise the good politicians have done through legislation they have championed and the stances they have taken on important issues. When they have also exhibited distinct humanist leanings, we have honoured them with an Australian Humanist of the Year award. Past AHOYs, all now former MPs, include Lionel Murphy, Olive Zakharov, Anne Levy, Gareth Evans, Bill Hayden, Diana Warnock, Lyn Allison, Bob Brown and Carmen Lawrence. The details of what each has done is available through the CAHS website.

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