Family First set to put Labor last

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 25/09/2004 - 18:57

LABOR is likely to be the loser in crucial lower house preference deals struck by church-based Family First, which will be announced today and are likely to influence the outcome of marginal seats.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10859801%2...
The Australian
Michelle Wiese Bockmann

September 24, 2004

The socially conservative party, backed by the Assemblies of God, is contesting its first federal election, standing more than 120 lower house candidates and seeking Senate seats in six states.

Further leveraging its growing national influence is a television advertising campaign to be launched on Saturday.

Ten commercials have been developed to air in prime-time spots across South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and country Victoria.

Internal party polling showed Family First's primary vote had already reached 4 per cent in South Australia and Queensland, a party spokesman said. "That's significant enough to influence the marginals there," he said.

About 60 to 70 per cent of Family First voters followed their how-to-vote card in the last South Australian state election, according to federal leader and South Australian Senate candidate Andrea Mason. The party's only MP, Andrew Evans, was elected to the state's upper house at that election.

Family First yesterday criticised the Labor Party's formal response to a survey form sent to all major party candidates and MPs across Australia to determine their views on "social and ethical issues".

The questionnaire was used to help determine where to best direct preferences.

Only those who supported Family First's policies and shared its values would get its preferences, Ms Mason said.

Labor's response on behalf of its candidates indicated the party only permitted a conscience vote on life and death issues, said a Family First spokesman. "They gave us the official party line only and ... that disappointed us," the spokesman said.

Family First had a good response from "most" Coalition candidates, although preferences would not necessarily be directed on a party-related basis, he said.

Family First's executive board was to meet early this morning to sign off on preference deals.

The party's astute Senate deals, announced last weekend, included agreements with all parties except the Greens.

The latest state breakdown of Newspoll figures has shown the Coalition strengthening in South Australia, although Labor leads on the primary vote.

The Newspoll, taken last weekend, revealed that support for the Coalition rose three percentage points from 41 per cent to 44 per cent, almost all at the expense of Labor, which fell from 44 per cent to 41 per cent.

Before the latest preference deals, though, the support for Labor on a two-party preferred basis was 52 per cent, while the Coalition was on 48 per cent.

Labor's marginal seat campaign in South Australia appears to be struggling under the weight of factionalism and underfunding, although party officials say their only concern is that leader Mark Latham has not visited more often.

The Liberal member for Adelaide, Trish Worth, holds her seat by a slender 0.6 per cent margin, while in Hindmarsh, where there is no sitting member, the Liberals' margin is 1.1 per cent.

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