Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2007
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2007sThe Australian
Author: Selina Mitchell
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


THE Liberal and Labor parties have been told it would be absurd for 
them to direct preferences to the Greens in the federal election 
because it would be sending children the message it was acceptable to 
use drugs.  In an attempt to gain crucial support for his party at 
the next election, expected in October or November, Family First's 
only federal representative, Steve Fielding, has warned the major 
parties against any association with the Greens.

In response to Greens leader Bob Brown's call for Labor preferences, 
Senator Fielding said the Greens were pushing dangerous views on 
drugs and had no sensible policies on families or small business.

A party that promoted extremism should not be allowed to hold the 
balance of power and any mainstream party that supported the Greens 
would be tainted by association, he said.

His attack continues the escalating battle between the two parties 
for inheritance of third-party status from the Democrats, amid 
expectation that the Democrats would struggle to win support in this 
year's election. The non-government parties are keen to warn voters 
against repeating the 2004 election result, which left the Senate in 
the Coalition's control.

Senator Brown warned last week there would be open revolt among 
Labor's rank and file if the ALP gave preferences to the conservative 
Family First.

He said the Greens would offer to direct preferences to Labor in 
return for help winning the balance of power.

A spokeswoman for Senator Brown said the Greens' drugs policy had 
changed since the last election and involved a harm-minimisation 
approach. The policy did not support legalising drugs but it did 
promote needle- and syringe-exchange programs.

Senator Fielding said a leopard did not change its spots.

"Despite the extreme Greens' latest marketing attempts to make 
themselves more presentable, the fundamentals haven't changed," he said.

"The extreme Greens are still pushing their dangerous policies to 
provide free heroin to addicts, open shooting galleries across the 
country and abolish criminal sanctions for drug users."

Senator Fielding said his record showed he voted on issues on their 
merit, rather than along party lines. He has been campaigning 
strongly on issues such as petrol tax and the sale of Qantas in an 
effort to broaden his party's appeal.

At the 2004 election, Family First won 1.8 per cent of the national 
vote in the Senate. It did not run in the Northern Territory or ACT. 
The Greens won 7 per cent of the vote while the Democrats crashed to 
2 per cent.

In apparent support for Senator Fielding, federal Minister for Ageing 
Christopher Pyne said the Greens still condoned consuming illicit substances.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman