OPPOSED: Uniting Church Reverend Bob Rutherford (left) and Pastor Garry Dronfield are concerned about planned workplace changes
OPPOSED: Uniting Church Reverend Bob Rutherford (left) and Pastor Garry Dronfield are concerned about planned workplace changes

Church speaks out on IR lawsFears change may hurt poor not shared

by allBehold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. (James 5:4)

LISMORE Uniting Church Minister Bob Rutherford has little time for politicians who say church leaders should keep their noses out of the Government's planned new workplace laws.

Prime Minister John Howard has responded to objections by religious leaders to the new laws by saying there could be 'no such thing as a Catholic or an Anglican view on anything' and that 'God is neither a Liberal supporter nor a Labor supporter'.

Not all local religious leaders opposed the laws. Ballina Assembly of God Pastor Kari Panttari said he was 'not anti-it'.

Rev Rutherford said the Church had to speak out.

"The Church's role throughout history has been to call people to account for injustice," Rev Rutherford said.

Besides, Reverend Rutherford said he would be the one left to pick up the mess he believed the new laws would create on the Northern Rivers.

"There are days when it's like a doctor's surgery down here; there are people lined up wanting to talk," he said.

"These are the people who become long-term unemployed and these reforms will make it worse for these people."

Lismore Anglican Church Priest Viv Hoskins said his church's five Australian archbishops and 17 bishops, along with other leaders, had issued a joint statement calling for the Government's Work Choices to be delayed to give people time to understand it.

"This is the first time, perhaps for decades, that such a unified call has come from within the church leadership," he said.

Rev Hoskins said the legislation needed protections for the most vulnerable, such as people for whom English was their second language.

Local representatives of the Catholic Church declined to comment, but nationally the Catholic Church has expressed concerns.

Kari Panttari said the Assembly of God hosted a broad mix of views on the proposed changes.

"Across the church there appears to be a varied view, ranging from those that there are implications that could affect the poor- er sections of the community, especially the young, to the other extreme, where a lot of people are quite happy with the proposals," he said.

"Whoever's elected into power, the Government has the right to rule. We have entrusted that to them and we have no indications John Howard's not doing a great job," Rev Pant- tari said.

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