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Family First Party
Leader Steve Fielding
Founded 2002
Headquarters PO Box 1042
Campbelltown SA 5074
Ideology Social conservatism,
Family values,
Right-wing,
International affiliation No affiliation
Website
http://www.familyfirst.org.au/
Politics of Australia
Political parties
Elections

The Family First Party is a socially conservative minor political party in Australia. It has one member in the Australian Senate (Steve Fielding), two members in the South Australian Legislative Council (Robert Brokenshire and Dennis Hood), and one member in the New South Wales Legislative Council (Gordon Moyes).

Contents

History

The party was founded in South Australia in time to contest the 2002 state elections, when former Assemblies of God pastor Dr Andrew Evans became its first Member of the Legislative Council (MLC), winning a seat in the South Australian Legislative Council. A second MLC, pharmaceutical executive Dennis Hood, was elected at the 2006 state election.

In the October 2004 federal election it contested seats all over Australia, generally exchanging preferences with Liberal candidates (but in some seats exchanging preferences with the Australian Labor Party). At that election the party was successful in electing their first and at present only federal politician Steve Fielding, Senator for Victoria. No candidates were elected at the 2007 federal election, however Fielding shares the balance of power in the Senate with independent Nick Xenophon and the five Australian Greens since the new Senate met on 1 July 2008.

In recent years the party has grown with support on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, gaining members through online advertising along with supporters and followers on Twitter. Currently Family First NSW on Facebook has more fans than either the NSW Liberal fan page or NSW Labor fan page.[1]

Although officially eschewing religious labels, many of its candidates and members are from conservative Christian backgrounds.

Elections and results

2002 South Australian election

The first election Family First contested was the 2002 South Australian Election. Dr Andrew Evans received a primary vote of 4.02%[2] which, with preferences from other parties, was sufficient to get him elected to one of the 11 seats available in the South Australian Legislative Council.

2004 federal election

The party agreed to share House of Representatives preferences with the Liberal-National Coalition at the 2004 election[3] (with some exceptions discussed below).

Family First picked up 1.76 percent of the vote nationally, outpolling the Australian Democrats by more than 40,000 votes. This resulted in a victory in Victoria, where candidate Steve Fielding was elected on preferences to the Federal Senate, despite receiving significantly fewer primary votes (56,376 or 1.88% Group Totals) than The Greens' David Risstrom (263,551 or 8.80% Group Totals).

The party also came close to picking up other Senate seats in Tasmania (largely due to surplus Liberal votes, because Liberal polled over three quotas but only stood three candidates) and in South Australia where the then party leader Andrea Mason narrowly missed out (polling 3.98% and receiving Liberal preferences).

State elections since 2004

In the 2005 Western Australian election, Family First polled just over 2% in the Legislative Council where it contested 5 of 6 seats.[4] In 2005, the Liberal member for Ningaloo, Rod Sweetman, and Alan Cadby (who was defeated in Liberal preselection for a further term) offered to serve out their parliamentary terms as a Family First members. The offer was rejected by Family First because both had supported a bill for decriminalisation of abortion in 1998.[5]

In the 2006 South Australian election, Family First's vote increased to 4.98% in the Legislative Council,[6] and a second Member of the Legislative Council was elected - former pharmaceutical executive Dennis Hood. In several rural and outer metropolitan seats, Family First's vote approached 10% - and in the seat of Kavel, Tom Playford achieved a vote of 15.7%.[7] In the Legislative Council, Family First shares the balance of power with the other minor parties and independents.

In the 2006 Queensland state election, Family First received a primary vote of 7% in contested seats (many seats were not contested), with a high of 14.5% and several other seats posting results of 10%[8][9]. Queensland does not have an Upper House, and these results were insufficient for any candidates to be elected.

In the 2006 Victorian state election, Family First's vote increased from 1.9% to 4.27% of first preferences[10], however no candidates were elected.

2007 federal election

Family First contested the 2007 federal election, in particular seeking to increase its Senate representation. Nationwide, the party received 1.62 percent of the primary vote in the Senate, and 1.99 percent in the House of Representatives, both down slightly on the 2004 result. In Victoria however, both the lower and upper house vote increased by 0.64 percent, to 2.52 and 3.02 percent respectively. No Family First candidates were elected. Sitting Senator Steve Fielding's term does not expire until 2011.

Before the 2007 federal election, Fred Nile criticized Family First for giving preferences (in some states) to the Liberty and Democracy Party, a libertarian political party that as one of its policies wants to legalize recreational drug use, stating "They gave their preferences to the enemy, the anti-Christian party."[11] This was suggested as a reason for their poor election result.[12] Fred Nile's own Christian Democratic Party had also preferenced the Liberty and Democracy Party before any other major party in the Senate.[13]

2007-2008 defections from other parties

The party has benefited from a series of high-profile defections from the Liberal Party in 2007 and 2008.

  • Former South Australian state Liberal minister Robert Brokenshire contested the 2007 federal election for the party, and subsequently won preselection to replace retiring founder Evans in the state Legislative Council.
  • In June 2008, former Western Australian deputy Liberal leader Dan Sullivan announced that he would become the parliamentary leader of a new state branch of the party, WA Family First.[14] Three former One Nation MPs have expressed support for the new party.[15] On 14 August 2008, independent (former Liberal) Western Australian MP Anthony Fels joined the Party[16] At the Western Australian state election, 2008 both Sullivan and Fels stood for seats in the Western Australian Legislative Council, but neither was successful. Fels remained a member of the Legislative Council until his term expired in May 2009.
  • Also in June 2008, Bob Randall, a former South Australian Liberal MP and party president joined the party, complaining that the Liberal Party had drifted too far to the "left", and that "Family First is the only truly conservative political force now left in Australia".[17]
  • On 3 August 2008 Bob Day, a prominent Coalition fundraiser and Liberal candidate for Makin in the 2007 federal election announced that he was joining Family First.[18] He contested the Mayo by-election, 2008 for the party, but was not elected.

Wanting to "relaunch himself as a mainstream political player, beyond Family First's ultra-conservative evangelical Christian support base" as some commentators put it, Fielding considered breaking away from Family First to create another party. He tried to recruit Tim Costello and other big names around the beginning of 2008, but failed to convince them.[19] The revelations came after Fielding changed his position on abortion, after being rebuffed by his party for taking a softer approach.[20]

In New South Wales, former Christian Democratic Party MLC Gordon Moyes became an independent in 2009 for a few months before joining Family First.

2010 federal election and state elections

In the lead-up to the 2010 federal election, Family First began fielding candidates such as Wendy Francis from Queensland and Linda Rose from Western Australia for the Senate. Gordon Moyes is seeking re-election in the NSW state election for 2011. As the Australian Labor Party of NSW is tipped to face a "devastating electoral defeat"[21] in the next state election Family First is hoping to gain more voters.

Policies

Abortion

According to their web site, Family First say that they will "seek to promote recognition and valuing of the inherent dignity of each human being from conception. In this context, Family First is opposed to the medical procedure of abortion."[22].

Altruistic surrogacy and same-sex parenting

In the state of Queensland the Family First has opposed to Premier Bligh's introduction of altruistic surrogacy and same-sex parenting. Family First's official stance on the issue is that "the legislation is weighted heavily against the child. It is clearly about satisfying the desires of adults. No-one has a right to a child. A child is a subject of human rights, not an object of someone else’s rights"[23], with the fact that also Article 3 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child states: ‘In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.’

Family First suggests that "The proposed legislation will deny to some children their fundamental rights to both a father and a mother". Causing concern in and amongst the community regardless of political affiliation.[23] Family First's comments on the legislation have been to the extant that "While we understand the desire of adults to have children, we should not be placing those desires above the rights of a child. Children are not commodities and their interests should always come before the desires of adults. This is a form of social engineering and experimentation with children which would undermine the natural family in a way that would be of great concern to many people in this State. The new laws would not discriminate against same sex couples but rather discriminate against the right of a child to have both a mother and a father."[23]

Asylum seekers

Family First "recognises the importance of ensuring well managed immigration programs that, while supporting Australia’s interests, are also compassionate and supportive of families". Family First supports fast on-shore processing for asylum seekers.[24] In 2006, Federal leader Steve Fielding voted to oppose the Howard Government's offshore processing legislation.[25]

As of 2009 onwards Australia has seen an increase in asylum seekers[26] and resulting from this Family First, along with other political parties have questioned the government on the growing number of arrivals. In a recent trip to Christmas Island, Family First's Steve Fielding has told the public that conditions on the island's detention center is more like a hotel and is ready to burst.[27] Family First has been lobbying government for a change of tactic, as the influx of asylum seekers has public opinion changing rapidly over the issue.[28]

Drugs

"Family First rejects harm minimisation as the primary strategy for combating substance abuse. The Party favours prevention, rehabilitation and avoidance as more acceptable primary strategies."[29]

Environment

Family First's environment and resources policy states that "Family First is committed to the environment as essential to ensuring the health and happiness of future generations of families".[30]

In the South Australian parliament, Family First MPs have taken outspoken positions on environmental topics such as desalination schemes[31] and the Murray-Darling Basin.[32] Family First MPs also successfully lobbied the government to include an interim 2020 greenhouse reduction target in Climate Change legislation.[33]

In the 2006 Victorian election, Family First advocated several positions that the Australian Conservation Foundation viewed as non-environmental[34][35]. These positions included the construction of new dams to increase water supplies,[36] arguing for a reduction in fuel taxes,[37] arguing against cuts to existing logging agreements, and supporting continued access to public lands for "recreational fishing, shooting and hunting".[38]

Euthanasia

Family First is opposed to euthanasia, holding the view that "the duty of health carers is to promote health, relieve suffering and safeguard life". Instead, they favour palliative care.

Sexuality

Family First's LGBT rights policy is that "all co-dependents should not be discriminated against – whether Homosexual or not".[39] However, Family First opposes LGBT adoption, IVF treatment for lesbians, and opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, stating their declaration of marriage as "a union of a man and a woman".[40] In the 2004 federal election the party directed preferences to the Coalition ahead of Labor except in the seats of Brisbane and Leichhardt.[41] The party's lead senate candidate in Queensland, John Lewis indicated that the reason was the public advocacy on gay issues of the Liberal candidates for those seats.[42]

In 2006, the two SA Family First MLCs voted against the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Partners) Bill.[43]

Indigenous Australians

Family First was the first party in Australia to nominate an Aboriginal woman, lawyer Andrea Mason, as party President. The party did hope to attract a large Aboriginal vote in South Australia where Andrea Mason was touted as possibly the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to parliament.

Although Family First's policy on indigenous Australians[44] does not specifically address the Stolen Generation, Mason has said: "I think there is a cobweb, there is a veil over our country... in terms of this unresolved issue... I think that there will be a significant change in the way we perceive ourselves and our relationships with each other when there is an apology made to the stolen generations".[45]

Industrial relations

Family First is opposed to some aspects of the Howard government's Australian Workplace Agreement measures, campaigning against the measures in the Federal Senate,[46] and voting against the 2005 WorkChoices legislation.[47] In his Maiden Speech, Senator Steve Fielding argued for a fairer work / rest / and 'family time' or leisure balance in opposing the measures.[48]

Pornography

Family First's internet pornography policy calls for a "Mandatory Filtering Scheme at the ISP Server Level" as a matter of child protection.[49]

"It is a national travesty that is so easily fixed if the Government and the opposition would exercise their moral will and pass legislation that requires Internet Service Providers (ISP's) to provide a compulsory filtering of pornography on the Internet... Adults can elect to opt out, but we are putting ISP's on notice that greater diligence is required", said Andrea Mason in a media release on Wednesday, 25 August 2004.[50]

War in Iraq

Family First believes that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was wrong because diplomatic avenues had not been exhausted, but that having participated in that invasion Australia is now obliged to protect Iraqis and Australians in Iraq through a military presence.[51]

Structure

Family First is incorporated as a limited liability company[52] overseen by a Board of Directors. A National Conference occurs at least once every two years for policy formulation and to endorse candidates. Federal and State branches have Annual General Meetings that are open to all members.[citation needed]

Political relations

Family First and the Australian Greens are often at odds, with Family First often referring to the Greens as "extreme" in their media statements.[53] The two parties are in competition for Senate preferences, particularly from the Labor Party, and ideologically opposed on many issues[54][55]. In the 2006 Victorian election, Family First's limited television advertising campaign specifically singled out the Greens for criticism [56].

Relations between Family First and Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party (Australia) are strained by the need to compete for the same group of voters and to secure Senate preferences, particularly from the Liberal Party of Australia.

Although Family First New Zealand is also a Christian Right lobbying organisation, it is not a political party, nor does it have any association with its Australian namesake.

Religious affiliation

Family First co-founder Pastor Andrew Evans was the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia for twenty years.[57] In the 2002 South Australian election and the 2004 Federal Election, a number of Family First candidates were church members. In New South Wales, 11 of their 23 candidates for the 2004 federal election were from an Assemblies of God church, the Hawkesbury Church in Windsor[58]

South Australian Family First Member of the Legislative Council Dennis Hood, the party's state parliamentary leader, is a member of the Rostrevor Baptist Church. When Sunday Mail columnist Peter Goers stated that Hood was an anti-evolution Creationist,[59] Hood did not deny this in his response, while he did attempt to set the record straight on issues of policy.[60]

Family First's preferencing agreement with the Coalition in the 2004 federal election led Barnaby Joyce, the National senate candidate for Queensland, to publicly slam the party the day before the election, calling them "the lunatic Right", and stating that "these are not the sort of people you do preference deals with".[61] Joyce's comments came in response to a pamphlet published by one of the party's Victorian Senate candidates, Danny Nalliah who in his capacity as a church pastor had criticised other religions and homosexuality.

In September 2004, party leader Andrea Mason said that Family First is not a Christian party[62] and Family First Federal Secretary Dr Matt Burnet issued a press release stating:

"The party is not a church party or an Assembly of God party, nor is it funded by AOG churches. It does see itself as socially conservative, with Family Values based on Christian ethics. Like any main-stream party we do not have on record the religious affiliations of any of our members. The Board of Reference in South Australia includes business-people, members of the medical profession, as well as ministers and people from Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Uniting and other church groups. The rapid national growth of the party leading into this election and the late decision to contest in all seats possible, has meant that in some states there are candidates, with strong family values, who have been introduced to the party through the personal relationships they have from their involvement in community/church networks".[39]

However, news reportage continued to associate the party with Assemblies of God, as did concerned church member Nathan Zamprogno, who commented publicly about the intersection of politics and the church.[63]

References

  1. ^ Incompatible Browser | Facebook
  2. ^ Past Election & Referendum Results
  3. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/mr/fullpref240904.pdf
  4. ^ WA Electoral Commission - State General Election Results
  5. ^ The Poll Bludger
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ 2006 South Australian Election. Kavel Electorate Profile. Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC)
  8. ^ Minor parties hail poll results - National - theage.com.au
  9. ^ :: Family First - Queensland::
  10. ^ Family First vote doubles in state | The Courier-Mail
  11. ^ Steve Lewis (2007-11-06). "Christian party's unholy alliance". Herald Sun. http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22709097-5013904,00.html. 
  12. ^ Steve Lewis (2007-11-26). "Electorate strips landscape of the bit-part players". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22819447-5001031,00.html. 
  13. ^ NSW_2007_GVT_A4.indd
  14. ^ Splinter Party Another Blow to Struggling Libs, The West Australian, 20/8/08.
  15. ^ "Fischer throws weight behind Family First in WA". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-06-22. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/22/2281987.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  16. ^ http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=91828
  17. ^ Former Liberal leader joins Family First - Breaking News - National - Breaking News
  18. ^ Sunday Mail, 3/8/08
  19. ^ Senator Steve Fielding wanted to quit: Herald Sun 30/9/2008
  20. ^ Family First Senator Steve Fielding retreats from abortion comments, Herald Sun, 27/9/2008
  21. ^ We hate Labor but Galaxy Poll shows Kristina Keneally is a hit | The Daily Telegraph
  22. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/documents/ABORTION_000.pdf
  23. ^ a b c http://www.qld-familyfirst.org.au/Newsletter/altruistic_surrogacy_wf.pdf
  24. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/policy/policyasylumseekers.pdf
  25. ^ http://www.stevefielding.com.au/html/news/news%20articles/ffpwebnewsAdvertiser060814.pdf
  26. ^ A long wait for a new life - the fate of the asylum seekers on the Jaya Lestari | The Daily Telegraph
  27. ^ Christmas Island ‘more like motel than detention centre’ :: Senator Steve Fielding
  28. ^ Opposition attacks over asylum seeker transfer
  29. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/documents/ILLEGALDRUGSINCLUDINGMARIJUANA_000.pdf
  30. ^ http://familyfirst.org.au/documents/EnvironmentandResources.pdf
  31. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/ffimages/File/Upper%20South%20East%20Dryland%20Salinity%20and%20Flood%20Management.pdf
  32. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/ffimages/File/Murray-Darling%20Basin%20_Amending%20Agreement_%20Amendment%20Bill.pdf
  33. ^ http://familyfirst.org.au/ffimages/File/Climate%20Change%20&%20Greenhouse%20Emissions%20Reduction%20Bill%2027.03.07.pdf
  34. ^ ACF - Victorian election: Environment groups release policy score card
  35. ^ untitled
  36. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/ffimages/File/Victoria/Pst/Water.pdf
  37. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/ffimages/File/Victoria/Pst/Petrol.pdf
  38. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/ffimages/File/Victoria/Pst/TimberAndPublicLandsPst.pdf
  39. ^ a b http://www.familyfirst.org.au/mr/ffptruth250904.pdf
  40. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/documents/THEFAMILY_000.pdf
  41. ^ Dasey, Daniel (10 October 2004). "Deal with Family First delivers for Coalition". The Sun-Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/Election-2004/Deal-with-Family-First-delivers-for-Coalition/2004/10/10/1097261869418.html. 
  42. ^ "Family First refuses preference swap with lesbians". The Age. 5 October 2004. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/10/05/1096871859778.html. 
  43. ^ Hansard of SA Legislative Council, 7 December, 2006
  44. ^ [2]
  45. ^ Howard promises win won't go to his head - Election 2004 - www.smh.com.au
  46. ^ http://www.stevefielding.com.au/html/news/news%20articles/ffpwebnewsHeraldSun061129.pdf
  47. ^ Family First cuts ties to Libs over IR policy, AM, 30 November 2005
  48. ^ Parliament of Australia: Senate: Senator Fielding's First Speech
  49. ^ http://www.familyfirst.org.au/documents/INTERNETPORNOGRAPHYANDCHILDREN.pdf
  50. ^ Microsoft Word - Internet Pornography - SA.doc
  51. ^ [3]
  52. ^ ASIC Free Company Name Search
  53. ^ http://www.stevefielding.com.au/html/media/SF%20124%20Fri%20Apr%2013%202007%20Australians%20want%20a%20party%20that%20supports%20family%20values.pdf
  54. ^ Compass - ABC TV Religion | Stories
  55. ^ Greens completely cut down to size | NEWS.com.au
  56. ^ Family First Party
  57. ^ Toni Hassan (2004-09-29). "The Religion Report". Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/relrpt/stories/s1209308.htm. 
  58. ^ Mike Seccombe (2004-09-24). "Behind Family First is a clan of true believers". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax). http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/24/1095961858738.html. 
  59. ^ "This Hood's hardly one of the boyz". Sunday Mail (Adelaide). 2006-08-13. 
  60. ^ "Family First far from extremists". Sunday Mail (Adelaide). 2006-08-27. 
  61. ^ [4]
  62. ^ Karen Barlow & Nance Haxton (2004-09-20). "Family First Party campaigns on family values". The World Today (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Local Radio). http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1202986.htm. 
  63. ^ Jana Wendt (2005-07-03). "Hillsong: Songs of praise - and politics (Transcript)". Sunday (Nine). http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/cover_stories/transcript_1811.asp. 

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