The Family First Party

The Author recently participated in a State By-election in the seat of Brisbane Central. This has prompted a consideration of the behaviour of one of the contending parties for this seat, the Family First Party. Many accuse the party of being a ragtag bunch of fundamentalists, only concerned with who sleeps with whom, and who would unreservedly support whatever the "conservative" Liberal-National Coalition would vote on. The recent opposition by the party to first the inhumane legislation on off-shore asylum seeker processing (more on that in a later wonderpost), and aspects of the market fundamentalist "WorkChoices" legislation, have demonstrated that there is more to the party than these caricatures.

A 24th July post of a blog called The Baliset Palimpsest engaged in a series of statistical analysis and came up with a picture that, to the mind of the Author, would make the party qualify for the status of "Very Complex". The results are worth extensive quoting and are found below.

Voting Patterns:
It must be remembered that there are many Senate divisions that are of a purely procedural nature and both the major parties vote the same way. This was true a surprising 59% of the time from 2001-2005, but dropped sharply to 32% of the time after 2005.

However, if one excludes these times and only counts the times that Family First voted with one major party and against the other (that is, on votes of substance where the major parties disagreed) then Family First favoured the Opposition 175 times (30% of all votes) as opposed to the Coalition 119 times (20% of all votes).

Even more extraordinarily, Family First voted with the Greens on no fewer than 198 occasions, when both were voting in concert to oppose the Government, a significant 34% of the time. The natural antipathy between Family First and the Greens makes this revelation of more than passing interest.

Family First saw fit to oppose both major parties on 87 occasions, or 15% of the time.

One could look at the above results in a number of ways.
Firstly, Steve Fielding's attendance in the Senate chamber reflects well on his diligence as a parliamentarian, equalling that of ex-Democrat Meg Lees, and greatly exceeding that of other independent Senators of recent time.

Secondly, Family First have distinguished themselves by not slavishly following the voting pattern of either major party. However, this should cause the Coalition to totally re-assess whether Family First deserve their preferences in the unqualified way they have been dispensed previously. Family First voted with Labour 50% more often than the Coalition when real differences of opinion (not just procedural matters) were at stake. The Coalition should be very cautious about giving Family First any endorsement when they now have a track record like this.

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