Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shouldn't Steve Fielding be observing the Sabbath?

I got up just in time to watch Senator Steve Fielding, Family First, on Meet the Press this morning. I still have some residual gratitude for Fielding from the time he made the Government back down from its plan to process asylum seekers offshore. That was probably the Howard Government at its kookiest, and in that instance the system worked: Fielding told the Government to get stuffed, and they went on to devise new and subtler ways of demonising brown people.

But that was then. This morning he was talking about his grand plans for holding the balance of power in the Senate, which I found none too reassuring, although I was quite entertained by his little dig at the Greens for "wanting to give out free heroin". Those sneaky, dirty hippies! Also, he thinks petrol prices are outrageous and wants to cut fuel taxes. I wonder which opinion pol... I mean, carefully researched economic survey he got that idea from.

The highlight of the interview was when Fielding announced his proposal for a $10,000 baby bonus for the third child. Quick as a flash, the News Ltd journo probed: "Would that apply for the children of gay couples?" Fielding avoided the question once, but when it came straight back at him he had to admit that no, it did not apply to gay couples, because Leviticus says homosexuality is a sin and besides, gay people are all rich urbanites, they don't need us subsidising their stainless steel kitchens and cocaine habits. Actually he didn't say any of that, just something vague about doing what's best for the kids, but I heard the subtext loud and clear.

With all the recent hype about the influence of the Christian vote - Rudd banging on about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Howard'n'Costello kissing up to the Exclusive Brethren - it's worth remembering how this man came to be a Senator in the first place. Family First received 56,376 primary votes in Victoria in the 2004 election. If every Victorian who voted for Family First in 2004 formed a group on Facebook, it would have slightly more members than "You were sexy until I saw that cigarette in your hand" , but fewer members than "If You Can't Differentiate Between "Your" and "You're" You Deserve To Die". So why does Steve Fielding get to go on Meet the Press and talk seriously about his legislative agenda? Antony Green, bless his wonky little heart, explains:

Despite polling only 0.13 of a quota, Family First harvest preferences from numerous groups including the Progressive Alliance, the Christian Democrats, the Aged and Disability Pensioners Party, Non-Custodial Parents Party, One Nation, Liberals for Forests, the Australian Democrats, the DLP and the surplus from the Coalition.

You see? It's a goddamn mandate, that's what it is.

One of my more endearing habits is encouraging everyone I ever meet to vote below the line in the Senate. The paragraph above is why. Your vote is far too important to leave in the hands of the political parties.

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