For the last few years, a strange phenomenon has pervaded political discussion in Australia, mainly led by middle-aged, often religious, white men.
The term “woke” became the conservative pejorative of choice.
Action on climate change was “woke”. Protection of the rights of the rainbow community was “woke”. Indigenous recognition was “woke”.
Addressing inequality, corruption, women’s issues, multiculturalism, welfare – all “woke”.
In fact, anything that threatened the power and wealth of white Christian men was dismissed as “woke”.
Hearing people like George Pell and Tony Abbott misuse an African-American slang term just sounds ridiculous.
According to Merriam-Webster, “woke” means “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”
Since when did this become a bad thing?
In March last year, the SMH published an article titled ‘It’s our turn’: Inside the Christian Right conference plotting a political takeover
The article covered the “Church and State” conference held in Brisbane the previous weekend and how conservative Christian activists are attempting to grow their numbers and influence within the Coalition, and their belief that opposition to transgender rights would be key to their political success.
Speakers included George Pell, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Iles, Nationals Senator Matt Canavan and Liberal National MP George Christensen. In the past, the summit has featured Murdoch scribbler Miranda Divine and Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker.
The ACL director spoke at length about what he called “the transgender thing”, describing it as the weakest part of the LGBTQI rights movement because it was “where the lie is most fragile”. He said governments had “given up [their] God-given duty” to “punish those who do evil and reward those who do good”, and implied that behaviour viewed by the church as sinful should be outlawed. He also claimed that within a few years there will be enough of a Christian presence in parliament to send a “shockwave” through it.
Iles recounted a comment by his father that we needed “a good war” to sort this out because society would not be so concerned about climate change or gender identity if we were at war with China.
And it sure looks like the Morrison government heeded his advice, pre-selecting the odious Katherine Deves, drawing a “red line” in the Pacific, and telling us, on ANZAC day of all days, that we must prepare for war with China.
At the behest of this crowd, Morrison reinvigorated his push for a religious freedoms bill which provides those of faith with the means to discriminate against anyone on the basis of sex, sexuality, gender, race or disability if they can justify their discriminating behaviour in the name of their religion, or more specifically Christianity.
Stories of the infiltration of branches of the Coalition by the religious far right abound which may go a long way towards explaining why they failed so spectacularly at this election. The party members are not representative of broader Australia.
Morrison said in his first speech to parliament that Australia was not a secular country. He ignored the wishes of his electorate by abstaining from the vote on marriage equality. He “laid hands” on bushfire victims. And he promoted and surrounded himself with fellow Pentecostals like Alex Hawke, Stuart Robert and Ben Morton.
On Saturday, Australia rejected this march of the religious right to take over our parliament. They chose science over faith and compassion over coercion.
May 21, 2022, was the day Australia “woke” up.
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