The Family First Party is a socially conservative minor political party in Australia. It has parliamentary representation federally through Senator Steve Fielding, and in the state parliaments of Western Australia and South Australia.
In the October 2004 federal election it contested seats all over Australia, generally exchanging preferences with Liberal candidates (but in some seats exchanging preferences with the Australian Labor Party). At that election the party was successful in electing their first and at present only federal politician Steve Fielding, Senator for Victoria. No candidates were elected at the 2007 federal election, however Fielding shares the balance of power in the Senate with independent Nick Xenophon and the five Australian Greens since the new Senate met on 1 July 2008.
Family First did better than expected at the election, picking up 1.76 percent of the vote nationally, and outpolling the Australian Democrats by more than 40,000 votes. This resulted in an unexpected victory in Victoria, where candidate Steve Fielding was elected on preferences to the Federal Senate, despite receiving significantly fewer primary votes (56,376 or 1.88% Group Totals) than The Greens' David Risstrom (263,551 or 8.80% Group Totals).
The party also came close to picking up other Senate seats in Tasmania (largely due to surplus Liberal votes, because Liberal polled over three quotas but only stood three candidates) and in South Australia where the then party leader Andrea Mason narrowly missed out (polling 3.98% and receiving Liberal preferences). Their preferences also assisted the performance of the governing Liberal Party in several House of Representatives seats, such as in the highly marginal South Australian seat of Makin.
In the 2006 South Australian election, Family First's vote increased to 4.98% in the Legislative Council, and a second Member of the Legislative Council was elected - former pharmaceutical executive Dennis Hood. In several rural and outer metropolitan seats, Family First's vote approached 10% - and in the seat of Kavel, Tom Playford achieved a vote of 15.7%. In the Legislative Council, Family First shares the balance of power with the other minor parties and independents.
The 2006 Queensland State Election saw Family First receive a primary vote of 7% in contested seats (many seats were not contested), with a high of 14.5% and several other seats posting results of 10% . Queensland does not have an Upper House, and these results were insufficient for any candidates to be elected.
The 2006 Victorian State Election saw Family First's vote increase from 1.9% to 4.27% of first preferences , however no candidates were elected.
Before the 2007 Elections in Australia, Fred Nile criticized Family First for giving preferences (in some states) to the Liberty and Democracy Party, a libertarian political party that as one of its policies wants to legalize recreational drug use, stating "They gave their preferences to the enemy, the anti-Christian party. This was suggested as a reason for their poor election result. Ironically, Fred Nile's own party had also preferenced the Liberty and Democracy Party before any other major party in the Senate.
Wanting to "relaunch himself as a mainstream political player, beyond Family First's ultra-conservative evangelical Christian support base" as some commentators put it, Fielding considered breaking away from Family First to create another party. He tried to recruit Tim Costello and other big names around the beginning of 2008, but failed to convince them. The revelations came after Fielding changed his position on abortion, after being rebuffed by his party for taking a softer approach.
In the South Australian parliament, Family First MPs have taken outspoken positions on environmental topics such as desalination schemes and the Murray-Darling Basin. Family First MPs also successfully lobbied the government to include an interim 2020 greenhouse reduction target in Climate Change legislation.
In the 2006 Victorian election, Family First advocated several positions that that the Australian Conservation Foundation viewed as non-environmental . These positions included the construction of new dams to increase water supplies , arguing for a reduction in fuel taxes , arguing against cuts to existing logging agreements, and supporting continued access to public lands for "recreational fishing, shooting and hunting" .
In the 2004 federal election the party directed preferences to the Coalition ahead of Labor except in the seats of Brisbane and Leichhardt. The party's lead senate candidate in Queensland, John Lewis indicated that the reason was the public advocacy on gay issues of the Liberal candidates for those seats.
In 2006, the two SA Family First MLCs voted against the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Partners) Bill.
Although Family First's policy on indigenous Australians does not specifically address the Stolen Generation, Mason has said: "I think there is a cobweb, there is a veil over our country... in terms of this unresolved issue... I think that there will be a significant change in the way we perceive ourselves and our relationships with each other when there is an apology made to the stolen generations.
"It is a national travesty that is so easily fixed if the Government and the opposition would exercise their moral will and pass legislation that requires Internet Service Providers (ISP's) to provide a compulsory filtering of pornography on the Internet... Adults can elect to opt out, but we are putting ISP's on notice that greater diligence is required", said Andrea Mason in a media release on Wednesday, 25 August 2004.
Relations between Family First and Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party (Australia) are strained by the need to compete for the same group of voters and to secure Senate preferences, particularly from the Liberal Party of Australia.
South Australian Family First Member of the Legislative Council Dennis Hood, the party's state parliamentary leader, is a member of the Rostrevor Baptist Church. When Sunday Mail columnist Peter Goers stated that Hood was an anti-evolution Creationist, Hood did not deny this in his response, while he did attempt to set the record straight on issues of policy.
Family First's preferencing agreement with the Coalition (Australia) in the 2004 federal election led Barnaby Joyce, the National senate candidate for Queensland, to publicly slam the party the day before the election, calling them "the lunatic Right", and stating that "these are not the sort of people you do preference deals with. Joyce's comments came in response to a pamphlet published by one of the party's Victorian Senate candidates, Danny Nalliah who in his capacity as a church pastor had criticised other religions and homosexuality.
In September 2004, party leader Andrea Mason said that Family First is not a Christian party and Family First Federal Secretary Dr Matt Burnet issued a press release stating:
"The party is not a church party or an Assembly of God party, nor is it funded by AOG churches. It does see itself as socially conservative, with Family Values based on Christian ethics. Like any main-stream party we do not have on record the religious affiliations of any of our members. The Board of Reference in South Australia includes business-people, members of the medical profession, as well as ministers and people from Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Uniting and other church groups. The rapid national growth of the party leading into this election and the late decision to contest in all seats possible, has meant that in some states there are candidates, with strong family values, who have been introduced to the party through the personal relationships they have from their involvement in community/church networks".
However, news reportage continued to associate the party with Assemblies of God, as did concerned church member Nathan Zamprogno, who commented publicly about the intersection of politics and the church.