Family First Senator Steve Fielding is getting a kicking around the Parliament at the moment. The ALP, the Dems, Barnaby Joyce, the Gallery, Crikey – me – have all put the boot in. And Michelle Grattan does it in The Age today, albeit in a ladylike way:

The Coalition’s upper house majority at the 2004 election meant Family First’s Steve Fielding missed out on getting the Senate “balance of power” — but he has had it on crucial occasions…

Fielding does not fully explain himself. His political style is to delay revealing his position until as late as possible, then give only a sketchy argument backing his stand.

Pressed yesterday about his vote last week, he said he had not been convinced by the scare-mongering about the media legislation, but he could not articulate what had convinced him. Who knows how persuasive James Packer was when they met?

For a senator elected on less than 2 per cent of the Victorian vote, who does not actually have the balance of power, Fielding has already exercised huge clout. Depending how the results fall in next year’s election, he could acquire a lot more — the formal balance of power…

If the Coalition loses a seat, Fielding’s vote routinely becomes crucial…

Fielding is not up for election next year but Family First will have plenty of candidates. Fielding and his party should be pushed to provide much more detail next time about what his agenda is across the range of issues.

Indeed.

Yesterday, Fielding called a presser – ironically, to discuss a policy backflip on corporate law – where he got a grilling over the media laws.

After repeated questioning, he finally confirmed he had had a meeting with James Packer.

So does this mean Family First don’t just wait to the last moment to declare their policy positions – but are also tardy with the facts about what may have shaped them?

Peter Fray

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