Friday, August 10, 2007

Viewing the PM

The Prime Minister wants to speak to you. That's a hard one to ignore.

For the first time in Australia, a debate between the PM and the Opposition Leader was going to be streamed live over the Internet to churches around the nation. All we had to do was brave the wild winter weather to get to the church hall by 7 pm.

The only webcasts I've seen on my home computer were rather hit-and-miss affairs, so I settled in to my seat with some trepidation about what was to come.

Fortunately some members of our congregation are younger and more technically savvy than yours truly, so they were able to run a long cable from the office modem to their laptop and from there into the Data Projector. Once that was set up, all they had to do was project the live feed onto a screen at the end of the hall and it was just like being at the cinema.

The format was fairly simple. Each politician spoke for 20 minutes, then spent 15 minutes answering questions from church leaders gathered at the National Press Club in Canberra. There was a half hour break between the two men.
There was a lot similar about the two speeches. Each speech broke up into three parts - the valued place of our Christian heritage in the national fabric, the speaker's own faith, and the party political section.

In practice, PM John Howard had the easier run. Coming from the conservative side of politics, he had no compunctions about saying he was a believer and endorsing the role of the churches in national life. Being the incumbent, he was also able to announce Federal funding for the Net Alert project to keep Australian children safe on the Internet.

Kevin Rudd, the Leader of the Opposition, had to walk a finer tightrope. He praised the work of all religions in our tolerant multi-faith society and made vague noises about his personal religious faith, but of course coming from the left-wing he wasn't going to risk being quoted in the media as being a "god botherer" -- it certainly wouldn't have helped his standing with the tree-hugging Greens who think of Gaia rather than God when they contemplate the spiritual realm.

In the end, it was an interesting rather than involving evening. The polls may speculate about a Labor landslide, but I suspect it will take a lot to dislodge the canny Mr Howard from the PM's seat.

The webcast organised by the Australian Christian Lobby was beamed to about 900 churches all round the country. Quite an impressive achievement.

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