The Victorian ALP is said to have given up on a preference deal with Family First, but Kim Beazley is still keen to stay on the right side of the Assemblies of God party: yesterday he came on board with the idea of “family impact statements” for cabinet decisions.

Speaking on ABC radio in Brisbane, Beazley said “the time has come for Family Impact Statements to be placed alongside all decisions that are taken by the Cabinet and when those decisions emerge publicly, that assessment that went into the impact of them on the family should be public as well.”

Family First senator Steve Fielding welcomed the announcement, saying “that’s what Family First intended the first time around”.

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Beazley therefore needs to answer the same question that arose when John Howard first made this promise: why should membership of a family give someone the right to special influence over government decisions?

“Family impact statements” amount to an explicit declaration that those whose living arrangements don’t fit the (undefined) norm are second-class citizens, not worthy of the same consideration. Government decisions should be based on the interests of everyone. Their social and financial impact should be considered as it effects all citizens, not just those in a particular domestic relationship. The “basic unit of our society” is not the family, but the individual.

Beazley may protest that every living arrangement amounts to a “family”, but that manifestly is not how our language works. A single person living alone – as growing numbers of us do – is not a family.

Even if their interests are nominally included in the “family impact statements”, the rhetoric is telling them that government doesn’t care.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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