1 October 2004

my last on Family First

I have a problem with the federal election. Instead of blogging up a storm I find myself yawning. I certainly hope the Man of Steel is defeated. I think Mark Latham would make make a much better (and certainly more honest) prime minister. Just once I would like to hear Latham say that unjust war is wrong. I'm just not finding all that much to say that isn't already being said elsewhere.

I'm interested that the Man of Steel personally brokered the preference swap with Family First. I would badly like the date of those negotiations. FF have a longish policy document. If you're prepared to download a .75 meg pdf and read the whole thing you discover part of putting families first is:

To this end Family First will pursue a range of strategies to reduce the incidence of and negative outcomes of family and relationship breakdown by:

  • Providing relationship and marriage education as well as ongoing opportunities for building and developing skills so that families have optimal chances for success
  • Providing relationship and family rescue and preservation programs for the provision of support and counselling for relationships and marriages under pressure
  • Providing divorce recovery and separation programs that offer strategies and support to every family member
  • Explaining the extra benefits marriage bring to family life and increasing opportunities to help people, especially young Australians to select marriage as the best environment in which to raise a family
  • Affirming and defending the institution of marriage as being a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life

Oddly enough, the Commonwealth Marriage Act tells us at S6:

"marriage" means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

That language was inserted in the Act by the Marriage Legislation Amendment Act 2004 which passed with Labor's support in the last few days of the old parliament. It is pirated from Lord Penzance's definition Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee, where he defined marriage as ‘the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others’.

It would be interesting to know if the marriage amendment was the subject of the Man of Steel's conversations with Family First. the government was certainly anxious to get the bill passed before the election. At one stage they were giving it priority over an anti-terror bill. It would be a great, great joke if Labor in its wisdom passed a discriminatory law in order to secure the Man of Steel's preferences.

Stealth politics is not completely unknown to the religious right in the US.

Downplaying Christian affiliation has become a tried and true strategy of American conservative evangelical organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition and the Heritage Foundation. During the 1990s, all of those robustly religious organizations began coaching their local leaders and campaign workers to avoid speaking what some strategists called 'Christianese' - the kind of overtly religious language, sprinkled with Biblical allusions and evangelical code-words ('born again', 'sin', 'salvation') likely to alienate secular voters. Instead, candidates and recruiters learnt to emphasise terms like 'family', 'common sense' and 'decent'.

The result was significant election successes. The 1994 congressional elections, which delivered Republican majorities in both houses for the first time in forty years, enabling the conservative Contract with America, is a case in point. In many cases, voters often only discovered afterwards that the candidates they had supported in fact stood on explicitly religious policy ground. No one was more frank about the technique than early 1990s Christian Coalition executive Ralph Reed: 'I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know till election night.'

The appeal of ambiguously Christian rhetoric is not limited to minor parties. On the contrary, it has been central to the Howard government's shift of the Liberal Party to the socially conservative right. The most prominent example is the Lyons Forum, the recently reconvened 'family policy' pressure group whose spokespeople typically deny it is a Christian organisation, while affirming that its members share Christian principles. Its track record includes increasing censorship, the reshaping of tax and family benefits to favour single-income families with a stay-at-home mother (first articulated in the Forum's 1995 submission to the party executive on tax) and the Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill 2000 (first mooted by the Lyons Forum in 1997).

While you're at it, you should read Family First- One Christian's View at The Baliset Palimpsest. Tip via Dogfight at Bankstown. Kull wahad!

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