There is always a long list of pressing issues that confront any incoming government. This reality does not appear lost on Australia’s 31st Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, who hours after taking office, boarded a flight to a meeting of Quad leaders in Tokyo.
In taking on the reins of Australia’s top job, many welfare groups have urged the Labor leader to ensure he remains true to his Catholic roots and creates policies that focus on the common good.
Change is often lauded as a chance to embrace new opportunities. Irrespective of personal political preferences, as a nation we will be best served by supporting our new Prime Minister.
History reveals the most successful leaders are those who unite people. This often takes great courage and an ability to ‘hear the people’ and their aspirations of the time. Accordingly, government leaders would do well to take inspiration from another famous Catholic leader, Pope Francis.
Last year, as he launched the historic consultation process entitled, ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,’ Pope Francis urged Catholics to not “remain barricaded in our certainties” but “listen to one another”.
The first stage of the three-part process which is now underway, is the ‘listening phase’ and reflects the Pope’s advocacy on the importance of collaboration between all people, including leaders and laypeople. This approach is also consistent with his writing in Evangelii Gaudium where he states, “The whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts.”
As governments worldwide responded to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear the crisis led to a necessity to do things differently. Moving away from their typical functions as regulators and providers, many significantly amplified their efforts as connectors and facilitators of capabilities.
As a result, private and non-government providers responded by increasing their provision of ministry and pivoting their operational models to help deliver essential services. Our own Diocese played a part in this process. We worked with government at all levels to address the challenges we faced as a community in social welfare, mental health, childcare and educational services. The outcome of this approach was clear: the whole was greater than the parts and, the sum of its parts.
While I am glad to assume the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is now behind us, I hope that Anthony Albanese takes forward the collaborative model that underpinned our ability to weather the storm as he sets about his new role.
Constructing a 47th Parliament that produces policies designed as part of an open and participative process will help to harness the passion, expertise and capabilities that exist within our community and help us to move closer towards a society that truly services the common good.
Sean Scanlon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.