Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fielding's Big Month: No, No, Yes

Family First Senator Steve Fielding has had a big month, and he's loved all the attention from the Government, and the media.

1. Political Donations

Senator Fielding voted with the Opposition to defeat a bill that would have improved the reporting and openness of political donations. Here, Senator Fielding has apparently acted in the interests of the Family First party. On 14-March-09, the Sydney Morning Herald asked Senator Fielding revealed that the Victorian branch of Family First declared "total receipts of $284,758. It disclosed one receipt above $10,500: a $100,000 donation from company director Jehan Salib. That left $184,758 in undisclosed receipts." Questions from the Herald apparently elicited a game of pass the parcel, which eventually returned to Senator Fielding, who refused to answer. Senator Fielding had previously said, on his blog:

“We need protection against political donations...we really have call these 'donations' by their proper names - inducements or bribes. They are used to buy favour or policy…” Sen. Steve Fielding

Senator Fielding voted against legislation to reduce the disclosure limit to $1000, and remove a tax deduction for donations to political parties of up to $15000.

2. The Alcopop Tax

Senator Fielding flexed his 'sole-senator' muscles and refused to vote for the increases in the alcopop tax. The government would not yield to his demands to ban alcohol advertising during sports broadcasts., Along with the Coalition opposition, he voted against the legislation. About $140 million in already-collected taxes has to be returned to the brewing industry.

Senator Fielding argues that binge drinking is not a tax problem. "It's a culture problem and breaking the back and the link between alcohol and sport is absolutely critical for all Australian families". But taxation is one of the tools used by government in social policy, and while the selective taxation of alcopops is not an ideal solution, Senator Fielding could have voted for it, with a negotiated sunset clause after the full review of taxation. That is, if the legislation were an interim measure, where it had some chance of achieving a reduction in excessive consumption.

3. WorkChoices is Dead

Senator Fielding voted with the Government to pass the Fair Work bill, which replaces, and undoes much of, the Coalition's WorkChoices, introduced without mandate by John Howard in 2006. Immediately after the election of Kevin Rudd's government in 2007, most of the Opposition, including current leader Malcolm Turnbull, and Joe Hockey, declared that WorkChoices is dead (as a policy). Yet they voted against the government's replacement, the Fair Work Bill, because Peter Costello and the right wing of the Liberal Party have dragged the moderates much further to the right than they wanted. They hope to resurrect the WorkChoices corpse after some future election. (probably under then new leader Peter Costello)

Senator Fielding was elected with less than 1.8% of the primary senate vote, and Labor preferences. Labor is unlikely to give him any preferences next Senate election, or if there is a double dissolution of Parliament (unlikely)