Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Family First Party
The Family First Party is a political party in Australia. Although officially a secular party, it does have close links to the Pentecostal movement, and its social policies generally mirror conservative Christian values. The party was founded in South Australia in time to contest the 2002 state elections , when Andrew Evans became its first MP, winning a seat in the South Australian Legislative Council. In the October 2004 federal election it contested seats all over Australia, and its preferences assisted the re-election of a number of Liberal candidates. The party's leader is Steve Fielding, a Victorian elected to the Australian Senate in 2004; he will take his seat in July 2005.
Whether Family First is a Christian party is the subject of dispute, in Australia where the political climate is predominantly secular and overt public manifestations of faith are generally disapproved of. Then Party Leader Andrea Mason said in 2004 that "we are not a Christian party", - a sentiment echoed by others in the party at that time. Party founder Andrew Evans once said the party's vision was "to have a social conservative party. Jesus is our hero, he's our saviour, and we worship and love him, but in politics, it's no good me getting up and preaching about my faith, that's the church's role." . In the same interview he also said "we're a family party based on Christian principles, but we're not church-based."
Andrew Evans was the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia for twenty years . In a speech to the South Australian Legislative Council he indicated belief in a religious basis for laws: "Out of his love for mankind [God] has set boundaries and these boundaries have been accepted by the world as a foundation for the laws of every country."
A large number of Family First's candidates are pastors or members of Assemblies of God churches. In New South Wales, 11 of their 23 candidates for the 2004 legislative election were from a single Assemblies of God church, the Hawkesbury Church in Windsor.
A pamphlet published by one of the party's Victorian Senate candidates, Danny Nalliah, stated that mosques and Buddhist and Hindu temples were Satan's strongholds and that people should pray for their destruction.
Family First's supporters typically characterise it as an essentially secular party open to all who share its values, Christian or otherwise; its detractors see it as an essentially religious party that has obfuscated its true nature and agenda in order to broaden its appeal. Regardless of which analysis is correct, Family First's declared policies and values are at the least highly compatible with those of socially-conservative Christianity.
The party agreed to share House of Representatives preferences with the Liberal-National Coalition at the 2004 election . This was done for a number of reasons, including the Coalition's policy record and promises, and the fact the ALP had already done a major preference deal with the Greens.
This preference deal caused some controversy when, the day before the election, Queensland National senate candidate Barnaby Joyce publicly slammed the party, calling them "the lunatic Right", and stating that "these are not the sort of people you do preference deals with." (Ironically, Joyce himself benefited from these deals, winning a very close-run Senate race with the aid of Family First preferences.)
Joyce's comments came in response to an incident where a Family First supporter said that lesbians were "witches who should be burned at the stake" and an incident in which eggs were thrown at Greens supporters. Family First deny any involvement in egging the Green volunteers, and have disciplined the supporter responsible for the "witches" statement.
One Nation in Queensland reacted to Family First by pitching itself as a conservative family party . The primary Senate votes for One Nation and closely aligned Independent Pauline Hanson exceeded those for Family First in this state.
Family First did better than initially expected at the election, picking up 1.76 percent of the vote nationally, and outpolling the Australian Democrats by more than 40,000 votes. This resulted in an unexpected and controversial victory in Victoria, where candidate Steve Fielding was elected on preferences, despite being outpolled by the Australian Greens' David Risstrom by a ratio of more than four to one first-preference votes. Surprisingly to some, it was ALP preferences that got Family First across the line.
The party also came close to picking up a second Senate seat in South Australia, with then party leader Andrea Mason narrowly missing out. Their preferences also assisted the performance of the governing Liberal Party of Australia in several House of Representatives seats, such as in Family First's base, the highly marginal South Australian seat of Makin.
A complete list of Family First's declared policies may be found on their website; this section will concentrate on those policies that address controversial issues.
Family First believes the family is the most important social unit in society... Family grows out of heterosexual relationships between men and women. - Family First policy document, "The Family".
Family First's published policies prominently affirm the value of heterosexual relationships, but make little or no direct mention of homosexuality and gay rights issues. However, the party has expressed unfavourable views on homosexuality elsewhere. An example of which is their campaign to allow Christian schools to discriminate against job applicants based on religion and lifestyle choices.
Andrea Mason, then the Party Leader, spoke against anti-discrimination efforts by the Greens and Democrats: "The Greens and Democrats policies aim to remove discrimination against what they term as LGBTI people...they want to see that transvestites and others have the right to teach our children" (Sydney Morning Herald, October 8 2004).
Family First's uncompromising attitudes towards homosexuality were also demonstrated in their direction of preferences in the 2004 election. While Family First generally directed their preferences to the conservative Coalition ahead of Labor, they reversed this in the seats of Brisbane and Leichhardt because Ingrid Tall (Liberal candidate for Brisbane) is a lesbian, and Warren Entsch (Liberal for Leichhardt) supports gay marriage. Socially conservative Labor senator Jacinta Collins also received preferences from Family First. In contrast, a Liberal MP who admitted to having an affair while his wife was pregnant received Family First's preferences over Labor.
Family First do not acknowledge families with same-sex partnerships (currently, same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Australia), stating their affirmation of marriage as "a union of a man and a woman". However, they have also stated that "The party... believes that all co-dependents should not be discriminated against – whether Homosexual or not.".
Family First have not indicated whether they acknowledge gays who have children as a legitimate form of family; while it is evident that they consider homosexuality undesirable, it is not known to what extent this disapproval will be expressed in policy.
In a Radio National interview, Andrew Evans said he stood for "Families, and family values." When asked to define what a family was, he said "Mums and Dads, Grandpas and Grandmas, boys and girls, heterosexual, and singles."
Family First advocate mandatory filtering of internet pornography at the ISP level, justifying this on child-protection grounds. They estimate that such a scheme would cost around $7 annually per user; "this may have the result of putting cost pressures on some of the smaller ISPs but there is (sic) arguably too many of these at the moment and adequate competition could be maintained with 30 ISPs rather than the hundreds in existence now". However, advocates of freedom of information strongly objected as there is no surefire way to completely and only block pornography, suggesting that non-offensive sites may be filtered inadvertently.
In support of such a policy, Family First claim that "A Newspoll study commissioned by The Australia Institute found: 93% of parents of teenagers would support automatic filtering of Internet pornography going into homes." However, the scheme proposed by Family First is a mandatory one, whereas the Australia Institute study referred to an optional scheme: "When asked whether they would support a system that automatically filtered out Internet pornography going into homes unless adult users asked otherwise, 93 per cent of parents were in favour...".
Further, the same survey found that 75% of the same group felt the Federal government should be doing more about pornography on the Internet - 18% less than the 93% who favoured a filtering scheme. This indicates either that at least 18% of respondents changed their views on the desirability of government intervention in the course of the study - which would indicate push polling - or that the question did not in fact refer to government-imposed filtering. Without more information on the nature of the poll, its results must be viewed with some scepticism.
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.
Although Family First's policy on indigenous Australians does not specifically address the Stolen Generation, Mason (who is Aboriginal) 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."
The Christian Democratic Party has existed under various names since 1974, and was Australia's only declared Christian party for most of that time. It espouses policies very similar to those of Family First, and in the 2004 election the two parties directed preferences to each other.
Despite their similarities, the CDP has never had anywhere near the level of support Family First has managed to attract within a few years of its emergence. One possible reason for this is an Australian reluctance to mingle religion and politics; where Family First has striven to present itself as a secular party, the CDP emphasises its Christian beliefs, and its public leader Fred Nile is an ordained minister. Another possible reason is Fred Nile's notoriously outspoken rhetoric, which might have reflected badly upon the CDP. Besides broadening Family First's direct appeal to voters, its less religious image may also have made it easier to secure valuable preference deals with other parties. The Family First party also showed a surprising degree of national organisation for a newly-formed political party; this may be associated with the experienced former Liberal Party figures who have become members of the party.
Another party with very similar policies is the Democratic Labor Party, based in Melbourne. The DLP was once Australia's fourth largest party, but now has minimal support. Much like Family First, it had strong religious influences (in the DLP's case, Catholic) and was often seen as a 'Christian party', but did not describe itself as such. While it still contests Victorian Senate elections, it is no longer a significant influence on national politics.
- Family First Party website
- Family First policies
- Family First family policy (PDF)
- AEC Party Registration page for Family First
- Paradise Community Church - birthplace of Family First
- ABC RN report
- The people behind Family First
- Crikey Media's Family First files
- One AoG member's view of party
- Anti-Andrew Evans site
- Pre-2004 election review of some Family First candidates
- ABC Radio National transcript of The Religion Report - featuring Peter Harris and Andrew Evans
- Google cache of Signposts article on both Victorian Senate candidates for 2004
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