Politics and Universal Ethics South Australian Launch

The Hon Leesa Vlahos (Labor), Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, South Australia

Certainly when Dennis Hood (MLC, Family First) popped the book into my pigeon hole the other week , I sat on my bed and read it and it makes me ponder many of the things that I have encountered here since I’ve become a MP in 2010 in that March election.

I come from a background of being involved in the Labour Party for about 20 years. I’m from the right of the Labour Party if that helps you place me on the geographical spectrum of Parliament. It provided me with the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the things that I’d witnessed at National Conference, but the thing that struck me when I got here and I’ve worked with quite a few of you now on many issues of conscience in Parliament and some of the things that you speak about, about values and things that Bert Kelly was passionate about, have become more important to me, the longer I have been in this forum.  And I think that’s what this book is about – the foundation of making good judgements in government for the whole of society not just a largely noisy minority that we often get presented and lobbied with. Most of those people don’t live in my electorate – I’m in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide. The silent majority that get on with their lives, protectionism, schools, hospitals, healthcare are the things that they really care about, which I’m supposed to be legislating for.


So just to talk to you about a few things today. I’m looking forward to hearing Shimon talk a little bit more about the book, but some of the things that struck me from my little time on the bed reading it was about the marginalisation of Judeo-Christian ethics in our Parliamentary debates, now where even the question of whether we say prayers every day is something that gets debated in here and people  exercise their right to ignore it quietly or some are more radical and suggest we don’t have those things. Many of my colleagues, I’m struck the more I’m here, don’t actually ponder deep values in the way we conduct our legislative business and books like this, that will hopefully make them think more deeply, are really important and needed. So in an increasingly secular society where value based discussions are not sought or even deeply sought, even if you have them at a superficial level and we’re saying you come from a Judeo-Christian background or even a Buddhist, of which I have many in my electorate, which values faith and spirituality, you are considered to be somewhat folksy and old-fashioned. It’s really important that we make a firm space for all of these things to be discussed and not marginalised.


We need to think about rule of law from those perspectives and it’s a good thing our society has been built up on them for hundreds of years and many places around the world and we’ve had good governments by and large because of it. And certainly that’s one of the key stands of democracy and where we emerge from as a nation. So in a world where we live, where self-control, where I think this gentleman (if you haven’t read this book, it’s another one I recommend) talks about it as the right of the individual in an age of excess where you can do almost anything because you have the right to do it, is not necessarily the best thing for society as a whole. “Politics and universal ethics” is a really important theme that we need to address in our parliamentary debates as much as it is in our kindergartens and schooling for our kids and the future. So that’s why I am happy to be here today and learn more about the book.