November 25, 2014 – 12:00AM
By Elyas Khan, Daryl Holland and Andy Hazel
Read more about Family First in our feature article: ‘The property developer and the party – Family First lives up to its name’ (24/11/2014)
Family First is preferencing right-wing and conservative Christian parties in most lower house seats for the upcoming election, contradicting claims by their state director that they would favour ‘centre’ parties.
The preference flow also suggests Family First has been using its lower house candidates as bargaining chips in their negotiations on upper house preferences with the Liberal Party.
Family First are contesting 39 unwinnable lower house seats. These include the 21 most marginally held seats, all of the seats where the contest is close between Labor and the Greens, and the second and third most marginal Nationals-held seats.
Crucially, Family First has preferenced the Coalition parties ahead of Labor in every lower house seat they are contesting. The Liberal Party is returning the favour, preferencing Family First second in 26 of the 39 seats they are contesting, and third in a further eight. The Liberal party has also preferenced Family First second in the upper house seat of Northern Metropolitan.
Family First has also reportedly negotiated highly favourable preference deals with the Liberals and many of the minor parties in Northern Metropolitan, where their candidate is Mr Brendan Fenn, a family member and business associate of state party director Mr Ashley Fenn.
But Family First is also favouring the far right.
Last week Victorian state director Mr Ashley Fenn told UniPollWatch that Family First were allocating preferences on a seat-by-seat basis and said: ‘You could probably say we start centre, then right, then to the left.’
He added Family First would also take into account individual candidates’ positions on issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.
But an analysis of Family First’s how-to-vote cards for the lower house show that in fact the party is preferencing far-right parties wherever that is an option.
Family First is preferencing the socially conservative Australian Christians party second in all nine of the lower house seats that the two parties are contesting.
They are also preferencing the far-right, anti-Islamic Rise Up Australia Party second in 10 of the 14 lower house seats the two parties are contesting and third in the other four.
None of the 36 independents in seats where Family First is running get better than fourth preference.
Mr Fenn told UniPollWatch last week that the party is running in the lower house in a strategic fashion, hoping to influence the election result through preference deals and by making it likely more people will vote for the party in potentially winnable upper house seats.
It is a common tactic for the many micro-parties running in this election. Each has no realistic chance of winning a lower house seat, yet between them they have hundreds of lower house candidates.
Family First policies include opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, a rejection of human-caused climate change, and an abandonment of nearly all restrictions on housing development in Melbourne’s fringe.
The Australian Christians Party believes the Biblical tradition of prioritising family integrity is the philosophical and economical basis for society.
Victorian Australian Christians party director, Ms Vickie Jensen, says that the most important policy is the provision of ‘family impact statements’ presented alongside each piece of parliamentary legislation.
Speaking at an Ethics Forum last years, Ms Jensen said, ‘Broken families actually slow the economy, so the best thing we can do is to have a solid family.’ When asked whether she would be preferencing Family First, she said the Australian Christians’ preferences would be ‘flowing that way’.
The party is also campaigning against same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. It sees prostitution as ‘modern-day slavery’, advocates raising the minimum age for alcohol consumption to 21 and is against harm minimisation measures for treating drug addiction.
Rise Up Australia also has many policies in common with both the Australian Christians and Family First, namely the repeal of Section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act, roll back of the ‘UN-sanctioned, homosexuality-promoting’ Safe Schools program, rejection of voluntary euthanasia and for political representation of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
On its website the party states: ‘We love the Muslim people but oppose their texts (Quran/Koran) and Islamic doctrine and ideology because it is oppressive and incompatible with the Australian way of life.’
The Australian Christians party skirts around the phrase ‘climate change’, but Rise Up Australia expressly states that anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide cannot have an impact on climate, stating it ‘is a quasi-religious hypothesis unproven by objective scientific facts’