“A quiet
anniversary will pass this week, but one that should be noted by both sides of
politics,” Glenn Milne writes in The Australian
today. “Come Saturday it will be a year since Steve Fielding took his place in
the Senate, the first Family First politician to win a seat in the federal
parliament.”

He hasn’t been
in the headlines, but has Steve Fielding ever gone away? The experience of the VSU
vote – when Fielding’s support saw the package passed, despite Barnyard’s
belligerence – should act as a constant reminder of the importance of the
Victorian Senator.

Yet it seems
as if Fielding has been forgotten. Too many journalists forgot to factor in his
obvious support for the government’s actions to overturn the ACT’s same sex
union legislation when they explained how it might be blocked in the Senate.

Here’s hoping
they don’t forget his maiden speech.
Barnaby Joyce hogged the attention, but Fielding’s was the best by far. He
quickly and cleverly tapped into everyday concerns:

We live in an age of self: self-interest,
self-fulfilment and self-promotion. It is also an age of materialism. Far too
many of us feel defined by what we own, what we earn, where we live, where we
go on holidays and where we send our kids to school… Demolishing our
traditional social structures has simply enslaved us to the forces of the
market. Where once the labour market respected the fact that workers had family
responsibilities, today workers struggle to balance their paid work and family
life. Sue and I are wealthier than my parents. We have been to more places,
live in a bigger house and have more gadgets. But does that make our generation
happier than that of our parents? I do not think so.

That’s
conservatism – but it sure isn’t Bible bashing.

“Fielding has turned into a canny and hard-nosed political campaigner
with a sure feel for what the broader Australian community sees as its core
interests,” Milne writes. “The development of Family First as a political power
has gathered pace over the past year.”

So does the government remember Fielding’s
conservatism on IR in the same speech?

We need to keep
the best of the past and, if needs be, restore it when we go wrong. Take the
eight hour day as an example. One hundred and fifty years ago our forebears
fought for the idea of eight hours work, eight hours rest and eight hours
leisure. It was not just about shorter working hours; it was also about the
chance to participate fully in community life. Today, in the name of progress,
this model has been discarded to the dustbin of history… The economic tools used to achieve this ideal
may be ineffective or inappropriate today. But that is no excuse for ditching a
model of strong family and strong community life. Today, sadly, what are sold as
family friendly policies are really market friendly policies…

They should – particularly given that, since
then, they’ve burnt him badly. Fielding certainly hasn’t forgotten that.

Peter Fray

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