Politics: Federal Election – Meet Family First

So, we’ve had our (rather alarming) jump to the left – now let’s try a step to the right. Quite a few steps to the right, in fact, because group C on the Victorian ballot paper is about as close to the Christian Right as Australian politics gets while still being marginally electable – Family First.

Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

We believe Australia should be the best country in the world to raise a family.
* We are passionate about families and small businesses; two groups which do not have a strong voice in Parliament.
* We will promote family values and campaigns on the issues that really matter to families and small businesses. Issues like:
– Improving job security and workplace conditions
– Reducing unacceptably high petrol and grocery prices
– Helping Australians afford their own home
* We will lobby for sensible solutions to improve legislation and get the best outcomes for families and small businesses.

So we have a bit of an appeal to national pride (not particularly common in Australian politics) and lots of family values. Many of these family values are highly annoying, but there are also a fair number of very practical policies (I personally like the one about making mortgage interest on the home you live in tax deductable) that really would make life easier financially for many families.

Of course, in defining family they also say that “Family grows out of heterosexual relationships between men and women,” which pretty much loses them my vote. But then, the ALP and the Liberal party are hardly shining lights in this department, either.

(incidentally, Family First’s policies are all in the form of PDFs to download, which is really irritating when trying to write something like this. Also, they have a lot of policies, which means I’m not going to cover all of them.)

Predictably, FF’s Senate voting ticket preferences to the Christan Democratic Party (the party that makes Family First look like a bunch of commies) and then, regrettably, to the Climate Sceptics. After that we have the Carer’s Alliance, the DLP (which is the Catholic ALP spin-off), and then through a role-call of all the other tiny right wing parties and candidates including One Nation before finally ending up in the Liberal / National ticket. At the bottom of their ticket, we find the Greens, who are such a threat that they manage to do even worse than the Sex Party (yes, we have a Sex Party. Don’t worry, I’ll review it soon enough.).

As for their policies, interestingly enough, they do have some I like. Not, admittedly, their policies on abortion (to which they are, unsurprisingly, opposed), or the environment (where they say, on the one hand, that we need to protect the environment, but on the other hand that we need more research to show that climate change and environmental problems really are being driven by the things we think they are), or on drugs (they are fairly abstinence-only about this), but they are actually pretty good on childcare (they want all families to receive childcare credits, which can be used to help support the family if a parent is staying at home, or to pay for childcare if both parents are working), carers (four weeks paid respite per year at the average wage), and tax (raising the tax-free threshold to actually meet the dole.

Do you notice a pattern in this? Family First’s response to pretty much all the difficulties facing families is to give people money for things. They even mention specific amounts of money in most cases. This is absolutely lovely, of course, but where is the money going to come from? If this were the Labor party, the Libs would be all over them for fiscal responsibility. Hell, if even I’m noticing the economic basket-casishness of all this, it must be bad.

Family First supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which would provide funding for essential care, support, therapy, aids, equipment, home modifications and access to the community, education and training, and be funded by a levy similar to the medicare levy. In fact, their disability policies in general are very good, and strongly support inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in the workforce, in education, and in the community generally. And they do have some nice (if not entirely practical) plans for carers, too.

They are also surprisingly non-xenophobic in their asylum-seeker policy, and in fact, I prefer their policy to that espoused by Labor:

• FAMILY FIRST will push for all countries in our region to become signatories to the Refugee Convention, to discourage the secondary movement of asylum seekers, to curb the criminal and exploitative activity of people smuggling and to share the load more equitably among nations;

• FAMILY FIRST will ensure all unauthorized arrivals and asylum seekers are detained in secure centres to assess health, identity and security issues;

• FAMILY FIRST will ensure people smugglers are given tougher penalties and are not allowed to escape with lenient sentences;

• FAMILY FIRST will provide additional resources to ensure detention time is kept to an absolute minimum. Asylum seekers will then be transferred to low security facilities that are more like a home than a prison until their claims can be fully processed;

• FAMILY FIRST will reform the claims assessment process to ensure fast and fair processing of asylum seekers to promptly determine the substance of their claims for refugee status;

• FAMILY FIRST will ensure that applicants who are not eligible to remain in Australia are deported as soon as is practicable. But FAMILY FIRST believes deportation rules should be relaxed for those who have suffered long periods of detention and uncertainty.

This is far from perfect (I far prefer the Greens’ policy, for example), but it has the advantage that I can just about imagine Labor being willing to adopt it, even in these xenophobic times. And there is no off-shore processing.

They also want to increase foreign aid spending, particularly on maternal health (one thing I will say for Family First is that their anti-abortion stance is supported by numerous policies aimed at making life easier for mothers, including single mothers. I still can’t vote for them, but I approve of their consistency). Sadly, their policy on Aboriginal communities is corrupt, so I can’t tell you much about that, except that they talk about ‘rights and responsibilities’ in a way that I find slightly ominous in the context.

I don’t like their censorship policy. I’m actually not entirely opposed to censorship – I’m certainly in favour of strong ratings for violence on TV, film, etc, but I don’t trust Family First’s standards (they are more concerned about sex, of course, and while there are plenty of things that I don’t think children need to see, I do think parents should be the ones deciding). They support Conroy’s mandatory internet filter, which is amusing, since they also have a policy about fast, affordable internet connections for all (which this filter will certainly bugger up, says she, making her post susceptible to filters). I also don’t like the subtle tone of government paternalism that pervades the website. And I have to admit, despite knowing quite a number of very good people who are Christian, and being myself more than somewhat inclined in that direction, I am rather mistrustful of anyone who makes their Christianity a large part of their political identity. They may not be on the verge of oppressing me personally (though as a woman, I can’t really feel secure in this), but they are quite likely to oppress my friends.

Still, I have to say this much for Family First: if I was starting a nice, ‘ordinary’ family, and if my family was my first priority, they do have the policies that would help me. Whether these policies could become reality, I’m not sure. Whether they are policies that would be good for all Australians, including people who are single, or gay, or career-oriented, I doubt. But there is no doubt that they do, in fact, stand for precisely what it says on the box. And, like the SEP, they appear to be very sincere. This is not always a good thing, but, you know, I don’t think Family First are going to get the place of dishonour at the foot of my Senate ballot paper. They won’t be at the top – indeed, they won’t be anywhere near the top – but at this point, they are running ahead of the Liberal Party.

But, oh, the fiscal irresponsibility!

ETA: Yes, I am perfectly well aware that Family First are a right wing party and that they are sexist and homophobic and climate change deniers and all manner of other things I don’t like, and I have absolutely no intention of voting for them. Saying that I prefer them to the Liberal Party is not actually saying very much. However, the purpose of these posts is to try to find out what sort of policies the different parties have, in particular the ones that everyone and his dog doesn’t already know about. This occasionally means I have to say nice things about parties I don’t like. It doesn’t mean I’m overlooking the rest of it.

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