Steve Fielding is shocked and appalled that Labor is trading preferences with those devil-children in the Greens. The main problem with this, apparently, is the Greens' immoral and damaging drug policy, which Fielding likes to characterise as "handing out free heroin" or somesuch.
Free heroin for all! It's such a sexy policy, so perfectly radical-left, that I'm surprised nobody but Fielding has picked up on it. Unfortunately for those of us who like our heroin free and our Family First politicians truthful, it's a bit of a strawman. I've been over the Greens' drug policy with a fine-tooth comb and it doesn't appear that Green control of the Senate will get me free drugs. In fact, it all sounds quite sensible. It starts with "The Australian Greens do not support the legalisation of currently illegal drugs" and lists among its principles:
- Imprisonment for personal use of illicit drugs, when not associated with other crimes, is not an appropriate solution to drug dependence.
- Information and education programs should be available to enable informed debate about the effects of all drugs, including prescription, non-prescription, legal and illegal drugs.
- Policy and programs should be adopted that are evidence-based and subject to continuous evaluation.
Evidence-based policy! Get out of here with your drug-fueled radicalism! Not content with this heresy, the Greens then go on to outline their drug policy in quite a bit of detail: bans on political donations from the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries; education and counselling instead of criminal penalties for users; legalising and regulating medical marijuana; and making drug substitution treatments available on the PBS (also known as "free heroin for all").
So that's the hippy junkie approach to drug policy. What do Family First think?
In the spirit of evidence-based inquiry, I checked the Family First drug policy, and frankly it's a little weird. It's not nearly as comprehensive as the Greens', limiting itself to three actions, but it nevertheless finds room to mention "alternate therapies such as Naltrexone implants" and pin its hopes on an anti-drugs campaign involving celebrities. High-profile people such as sportspeople and singers? Sportspeople like Andrew Johns? Ben Cousins? Singers like Nick Cave? Michael Hutchence, perhaps? I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but one would hope the party has a fall-back, just in case the celebs don't quite cut it. But apart from jailing everybody who goes near something resembling a drug, it doesn't seem they have much of a plan B.
On a separate issue altogether, Family First have quite a bit of nerve chiding Labor for trading preferences with the Greens. The Greens have a substantial, entrenched role in Australian politics - at the moment they're polling around 7% of the primary vote. Family First are puny upstarts by comparison. And it's not like they're above a little preference-trading themselves, far from it: Fielding received preferences from all over the political spectrum in 2004, and he's yet to rule out preference-trading with Pauline Hanson's party. This despite the fact that Hanson is an unhinged bigot, whereas Family First, for all their quirks, are quite compassionate when it comes to their policy on asylum-seekers.
I fail to see how Labor trading preferences with the Greens represents any more of a lapse in integrity than Fielding's dealings with Hanson. But given that Family First are currently polling around 1.5%, they need all the preference trading they can get if they want to impose their petrol-tax-cutting, TV-censoring program on the rest of us. Could it be that Fielding's latest tantrum is motivated more by existential anxiety than by steadfast principle?