And now the Festival of Ungrouped Independents comes to a close, and we return our attention to parties that actually have a chance of being elected. God help us all. Quite literally in this case, because the next party in my Carnival of Tiny Parties is the right-wing Christian party, Family First.
Family First’s slogan is “Strong Families. Strong Values. Strong Australia.”
(you have no idea how much I want to parody this slogan.)
They then unpack this slogan to explain to us that “A job, a home, your finances under control, a safe neighbourhood to live in, a secure retirement and a few of life’s small pleasures… contribute to healthy families”. And when they say families, they are talking about extended families. But probably not gay families.
We are told that values are the foundation of a nation, with the values in question including “telling the truth, living within your means, hard work, respect, courtesy, compassion, courage, generosity”. Lots of good, conservative values there, with just a teensy bit of potential for judgment (living within your means, for example, sounds good until you’ve been so poor that your income simply does not cover rent, food and bills any more – and then it just becomes a judgment on why didn’t you plan better).
Under Strong Australia, we start with this:
Anything not based on economic reality is doomed to failure. Whether it’s farming, mining, tourism or small business, it is a truism that capital goes where it is made welcome and stays where it gets looked after.
Definitely positioning themselves as a voice of economic rationalism here, I would think. I worry a bit about capital going where it is made welcome – this can become an argument for lower wages awfully easily. To do them justice, Family First does at least pay lip service to a need to understand “how ‘barriers to entry’ to getting a job causes unemployment.”
So we have the introduction to our themes, but before we hear the entire symphony, let us take a brief pause to find out what Family First thinks of the other instruments in the orchestra. Preferably before my metaphor gets completely out of control (I’m doing a lot of singing this weekend, and it’s taking over my brain…).
Family First is favouring the Coalition over Labor in every electorate, though mostly not by much. At the bottom of every ticket, we have the Sex Party, the Greens, and the Euthanasia Party, if available. Labor and the Animal Justice Party are also almost always in the bottom five. At the top of the ticket, we have more variety, but the Australian Christians, DLP and Rise Up Australia are almost invariably in the top five. Other favoured parties include the Country Alliance, Vote 1 Local Jobs, Voice for the West, Shooters and Fishers, and Palmer United.
There is a clear intention to put conservative and Christian parties high on the ticket, and the heathen Greens and scandalous Sex Party as far down the ticket as possible.
On to the policies!
Family, Marriage and Life
Since this is Family First, we should probably look at family, first. And I think we all know that this is likely to be the series of policies that makes me the most cross, so best to get them out of the way early, don’t you think?
Families are “the building blocks of society and the nurturers and developers of the next generation”. Family First want to support those who choose to be stay at home mums or dads – and kudos for remembering stay at home dads – and are committed to equal funding parental leave. They disapprove of any paid parental leave scheme that leaves stay-at-home mums worse off than working mums. Family First doesn’t like divorce – they are big on relationship counselling with ‘a “Mend it, don’t end it” approach’. They are also anti-pornography.
We all know that Family First is anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia. They are particularly upset about late term abortion, which they believe is on the rise and frequently used for psycho-social reasons. I could write a whole post on this, but I’m going to restrain myself. Suffice it to say that if you are really want to reduce late-term abortion, your best bet is to increase access to contraception, fund research into screening techniques for genetic and other congenital illnesses so that choices can be made earlier, fund research into pre-eclampsia (I know several women who have found themselves around the 23-26 week mark in a situation having to choose between their own lives and the lives of the child they were carrying), and provide better legal support for pregnant women and teenagers who leaving abusive relationships (unfortunately, forced pregnancy is used as a deliberate tactic to keep women in abusive relationships, because it makes it much harder to leave – and if a woman has the child, she is often tied to her abuser for life).
Physiologically, late term abortion is much the same as labour. Women do not do this for fun. Please stop assuming that we are that stupid and that shallow.
OK, I’m done now.
Or maybe not, because here we go with the policy on Marriage. Family First is, obviously, against marriage equality. They are also in favour of strengthening marriage, and rather against divorce, and they cite a range of dubious benefits from this, including the old chestnut about boys from single-parent homes being more likely to commit crimes. Also, women who are married to their partners are less likely to be victims or domestic violence, which sounds great, until you realise that what the study actually said was that they were less likely to *report* being victims of domestic violence. This is a slightly different thing.
Health and Disability
Like the DLP, Family First has some really good policies around disability. They preface theirs thusly:
The greatest respect a person can be shown is to be fully included. At Family First we are committed to supporting practical initiatives that enable people with disabilities to be included in recreation, work and community life to the full extent of their ability. This means advocating for support where support is needed; seeking systemic change where systems fail to offer opportunities for growth and development all of us expect, and importantly, ensuring that every citizen, regardless of their ability, is assisted in claiming their human and democratic rights.
Sounds good to me. And their policy is not bad at all – they want to establish, as a fundamental right “supported access to education, employment, medical care and housing for those who are unable to live independently as a consequence of their disability”. They want to expand early intervention, develop new information and communications technologies to include quality of life, legislate to make medical aids associated with allowing people with disabilities to enter the work tax deductible (hopefully for the workplace – it becomes more problematic if people have to provide their own equipment up front), they want to support carers, and create incentives to bring well-qualified people into the caring field.
I can see one or two absences and issues. I am aware, for example, that a lot of mobility aids and other necessary equipment for people with disabilities are very expensive, and there isn’t much funding to replace it at the end of its lifespan. This is somewhere I’d be inclined to put money, personally. And I’m a little wary of Family First’s apparent desire to get everyone into the workforce, not because I don’t think that people with disabilities want to work, but just because I know how terrified some of my friends with mental health issues were recently when the government wanted to re-assess whether they should be on disability or whether they were able to work. It wasn’t about not wanting to work – it was a fear of being penalised when they couldn’t find or keep work due to their illness. S0 – access to employment is not a dreadful idea, but it’s one I’d watch carefully to see how they planned to carry it out.
They do a bit better on carers, though they view family and friends as being responsible for the primary caring role. Nonetheless, they want the government to support carers, both financially and emotionally.
Family First believes that illicit drug use is ‘eating at the fabric of society’ (nice turn of phrase there), and that it is a key driver of crime, as well as of mental illness. They therefore are committed to drug education programs for children, and rehabilitation and recovery programs for users, including prison based programs. They are also in favour of harsher sentencing for drug dealers, and are against injecting rooms.
Family First joins the other Christian parties in being in favour of government funding for private and religious schools, and support ‘a high level of autonomy for schools’, which could mean quite a few things, both good and bad. The good would be school principals being able to arrange things to meet the needs of their students. Bad might be schools choosing their own curriculum (creationism, anyone?) or wanting the right to sack staff based on their ‘lifestyle choices.’
Employment and the Economy
Family First is rightly concerned about barriers to entering the labour market, particularly for people with few skills or who might be socially disadvantaged. And then they say this:
Yes, yes we do regulate health and safety. We do have a minimum wage, and we do have laws that attempt to prevent discrimination in hiring and firing.
THIS IS NOT A BAD THING.
But Family First think it is, because it ‘places obstacles in the path of those who choose to work differently’. And that sends a chill down my spine. Yes, one might well choose to ‘work differently’ by working in an unsafe environment, for a low wage, or while being harrassed, if the alternative was unemployment and poverty. And employers might well choose to be ‘efficient’ by encouraging this.
And that is precisely why we have these laws. Because we don’t want our young people, our people with fewer skills or our socially disadvantaged citizens to be at the mercy of unscrupulous employers – and I’m sorry, but not every employer is the benevolent, hard-working owner of a small family business, who just wants to do right by his employees and give young people a go, but is hampered by red tape.
I personally believe that people have the right to be safe in their workplace, and to be paid a fair wage. This should not be something someone has to compromise on to get a job. And I think it’s hypocritical to talk about how immoral it is to have these laws that price young people out of the labour market when it is exactly these young people who, having the fewest options elsewhere, are the most likely to be taken advantage of if laws do not exist to protect them. And never mind what being able to hire a young person for below minimum wage will do for the job security of older staff members who are currently paid more…
Family First wants to lower taxes, and in particular, wants to create a flat taxation system that increases the incentive to work. Also, there’s too much bureaucracy. I’ve just had a rant, so I’m just going to roll my eyes on this one and move on.
Family First’s feels that the problem of unaffordable housing is actually one of unaffordable land, and would therefore remove zoning restrictions and urban growth boundaries. They feel that home ownership is vitally important for long-term security, and I agree with them, but then they say this:
I have this horrible mental image now of Australia being covered with these grim, concrete housing estates with no amenities or public transport… While I don’t think that this is actually what Family First are envisaging, I have a bad feeling that this would be the outcome.
Native Title and Aboriginal Affairs
Family First don’t like Native title, because they are big on property rights. They also seem to feel that Aboriginal Australians need to get educated, get into the workforce, own homes, and settle down in mainstream, urban Australia.
I actually find that quite shocking to read – there is a total lack of any acknowledgment of cultural issues, in particular the First Australians’ connection to land. There is a very definite thread throughout this website on self-reliance and a one-size-fits-all idea that hard work and home ownership are the keys to good society, but it seems particularly insensitive here.
Family First has, as one might expect, a reasonable sense of global responsibility, at least as far as people are concerned. They want to increase Australia’s foreign aid budget, and aim for ‘sustainable relief of poverty best achieved through trade and stable institutions’. I am not entirely sure what they are saying there, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are talking about initiatives that help people and communities build businesses that allow them to pull themselves out of poverty. Family First also wants to encourage more young people to do community aid abroad work.
What climate change? The climate is always changing, except that actually, it’s not really changing at all now, and anyway, China and India aren’t doing anything about it so why should we?
Something tells me that Family First would not get on well with Save the Planet.
I’ve saved this one for last, because I thought we all deserved a treat. Unlike all the other policies on this site, the button leading to the Youth page is in a different colour with a funkier font. The page on Youth has a different colour scheme, and a sort of graffiti aesthetic, to appeal to the cool kids, obviously. They’ve dumbed down their policy a bit, because everyone knows that young people like to be patronised, and they have a special YouTube clip called “Don’t waste your vote”, with rock and roll music, because that’s what all the young people are listening to these days.
And then they have a link that is attempting to be to their page on Facebook, except that it just goes to the generic Facebook page. This is pretty much the cherry on top of the sundae of really not getting how the younger generation works.
And that, my friends, is enough politics for one day. I’m going to sign off for the evening.
Note on Pascoe Vale
The Family First Candidate for Pascoe Vale is Thomas Ha. I don’t know much about him, except that this being Pascoe Vale, he’s a long-shot candidate. Apparently, he declined to be interviewed by the Leader, or rather, his representative said that it would be “extremely difficult” to organise for the leader to speak to him. On his How To Vote Card, he preferences Liberal, Labour, Independent Francesco Timpano, the Greens and last of all the Socialist Alliance. No surprises here.