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Family First Senator-elect sets out party agenda.

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Wednesday 17 November 2004

Family First Senator-elect sets out party agenda


MARK COLVIN: One of the new kids on the block in Federal politics was in Canberra today, promis ing to represent the voice of the people. 


At the National Press Club, the Family First Party's Senator-elect, Steve Fielding, set out part of the agenda he'll pursue when he takes his seat in the Senate in July next year. 


Mr Fielding wants to make superannuation capital available to first homebuyers, and he agrees with relaxing the Government's cross media ownership rules. 


He said that there should be a Federal debate about abortion, and women seeking abortions could be given counselling that could include taking an ultrasound of their foetus. 


Matt Brown reports from Canberra. 


MATT BROWN: Family First may only have one senator headed into the Federal Parliament, but its Federal Chairman, Peter Harris, says a new political force was born in the lead-up to last month's Federal election. 


PETER HARRIS: Three thousand members were recruited to the party, and $1.2-million was raised from private individuals. 


MATT BROWN: Mr Harris says he wants to expand the party's support base and build on its Christian roots. 


PETER HARRIS: The party founders and leadership are Christian and proud of it. Most of all, most of, if not all, the party's candidates in the Federal campaign were actually Christian people. Why? Because that is the network base that we have come from. 


MATT BROWN: According to Mr Harris, Family First demonstrated that it can marshal its forces and wield its preferences. 


PETER HARRIS: We significantly influenced the outcome of the Lower House seats, including the seats of Greenway, Makin, Wakefield, Hindmarsh, Bonner, Hinkler, Braddon and Solomon. 


MATT BROWN: And that record, he says, means that the Labor Party will need to think very carefully at the next election about its relationship with the Greens. 


PETER HARRIS: If there were wholesale deals with the Greens at the next Federal election, as there were at this election, which was a primary driver of our preferencing decision making, there were no deals with the Liberal Party on preference decision making, we would do the same thing. 


MATT BROWN: Mr Harris says his party was not formed to take a Christian agenda into politics. 


PETER HARRIS: And we'll become champions for those that need care and support in society, for the growth and development of small to medium enterprises that are the biggest employers in the nation that keep the large corporations strong, for a centric approach to caring for our environment and protecting and promoting the values that are important to everyday Australians, the silent majority of Australians. 


MATT BROWN: The silent majority delivered Family First 1.88 per cent of the vote in Victoria, and the party's Senator-elect, Steve Fielding, says his election translates into a promise and a threat to the Coalition. 


STEVE FIELDING: A one-seat majority in a coalition is vulnerable at the best of times, and we would seek to exploit this and have influence on behalf of Australian families if we were unable to build constructive relationships. Our experience to date does not indicate that will be necessary. 


MATT BROWN: Mr Fielding says his party will be pro-business, and while his Federal Chairman says it wasn't formed to push a Christian agenda in politics, Mr Fielding says the church should have a role in politics to some degree. 


STEVE FIELDING: The church should not try to impose morality or a spiritual agenda on the nation, but it should try and have a productive input into policy debate and policy discussion, which affects their constituency as well as everyday families. 


MATT BROWN: When it comes to worldly affairs, Family First wants first homebuyers to be allowed to dip into their superannuation to realise the Australian dream. And it wants a relaxation of the rules stopping media moguls from dominating the electronic and print media in Australia's cities.  


The pro-family approach also involves allowing small business owners to sack workers more easily, as long as they're not acting unfairly. 


STEVE FIELDING: Industrial relations policy that protects and enhances the security of prospects of workers, whilst holding them accountable to perform. 


MATT BROWN: Family First also wants asylum seekers dealt with, quote "far more humanely than is currently the case," end quote. And Mr Fielding says he supports a Federal debate about abortion, and wants the Federal Government to fund a forum on the subject. 


STEVE FIELDING: People that are making this decision should have informed sessions that could potentially include counselling, and potentially a scan. 


MARK COLVIN: Family First Party's Senator-elect, Steve Fielding, ending Matt Brown's report.