In Victoria Christian parties disappear without trace
Much of “Bible Belt” joins in swing to Labor
Alongside a huge swing to the Labor government led by Daniel Andrews, the Victorian state election marked the disappearance of the Family First, Rise Up Australia and Australian Christian political parties.
They appear to have disappeared without trace. Unlike the SA election last year Family First and Australian Christian local candidates and local volunteers did not reappear as Australian Conservatives. They were simply missing from view. As Health Minister Jill Hennessy told the ABC News election panel, the eastern Melbourne seats in areas with a high level of church attendance (the “Bible Belt”) took part in the even swing against the Coalition.
The swing in eastern Melbourne was the surprise of the election. The newspaper guides to which seats to watch, which focused on the south east “Frankston line” seats, missed the mark.
The apparent lack of impact of the Coalition campaigning on the “Safe Schools” curriculum in state schools which has been supported by the Andrews government after the withdrawal of federal funding, will feature in any analysis of the Coalition’s campaign – although law and order issues were a stronger theme.
Any lesson from this for Federal Coalition policy makers will factor in the nature of Victoria as a socially progressive state.
Another factor, pointed out by Senator Jane Hume, was that few women candidates were running for the Coalition.
Matthew Guy, the opposition leader had promised to bring back “Religious Instruction” (RI) classes to state schools led by volunteers from churches and other religions. This was a key commitment made at an Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) pre-election forum. The election result means another four years of RI banishment from class time to before and after school or lunchtime. It has proved difficult to get support from schools for the “out of class hours” classes.
A number of the Family First and Australian Christian party members have joined SA Senator Corey Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party. Others joined the Liberal Party. In August the Australian Conservative’s sole Victorian MP, Rachel Carling-Jenkins left the party. Kevin Bailey, who has a relatively low profile is the lead Senate candidate for Victoria – and the absence of a state election campaign is not a good sign for him.
In SA, Senator Corey Bernardi leader of the Australian Conservatives party holds the Senate seat he won as a Coalition senator – and the Family First team on the ground in that state campaigned at the last state election for the new party. In Queensland, the high profile Lyle Shelton, formerly leader of the ACL, is campaigning to win a Senate seat for the Australian Conservatives and in NSW their Senate campaign is headed by Sophie York who was National Spokeswoman for the conservative Marriage Alliance.