Former Labor government ministers, Jack Snelling and Tom Kenyon, announced in late July they were preparing to relaunch the Family First party after long-held concerns that religious freedoms were being restricted in parliamentary debate.
Speaking to The Southern Cross, the two devout Catholics said the passing of the late term abortion bill earlier this year and more recently the euthanasia bill were significant triggers in their decision to quit the Labor party and join Family First.
“We are concerned that the voices of people of faith are basically being ignored,” Mr Snelling said.
“Five thousand people participated in the Walk for Life while only 300 people protested in favour of the (abortion) legislation,” he said.
“Members of both political parties pushed this legislation through despite the objections of thousands of people, both those who protested and wrote.
“Just participating in a major political party, we needed to carefully think whether there should be a different strategy because otherwise we just keep losing that larger battle.
“While Tom and I have always thought being members of a major party was how we could have the most influence, recent events have caused us to rethink.
“What worries me is that proposals have gone from allowing things like abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, to being far more coercive. So it’s not enough that these things are allowed, everyone must now participate.”
Mr Snelling foreshadowed two major issues that would be on Family First’s agenda in the future including changes to Equal Opportunity legislation to remove exemptions for faith-based entities from provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act.
“We’re talking about Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, Catholic welfare organisations potentially being taken to the Equal Opportunities Commission over their employment decisions and essentially their ability to employ people who have values aligned with that of the organisation,” he said.
“This is the biggest attack on religious freedom in this country since the earliest years of colonial settlement when Catholicism was everything but outlawed.”
With the party to be officially registered in the next few weeks, the duo is now focusing on selecting suitable candidates, with plans to have one in each of the 47 electorates at next year’s State election. Deepa Mathew, who was the Liberal’s candidate for the safe Labor seat of Enfield at the 2018 State election, was announced as the party’s first candidate. Mr Snelling has ruled out standing, however Mr Kenyon said he might depending on his work commitments.
“There is no reason for people – Catholics and other religions – to vote for a particular party out of habit,” Mr Kenyon said.
“You should be voting for individual candidates in your seat based on their preparedness to defend Christian teachings and freedoms and that’s what we are trying to achieve.”
Mr Kenyon, who is involved with the Love Adelaide group which organises the annual Walk For Life, urged Catholics to become more involved and vocal about their beliefs.
“Other denominations are taking more action than Catholics,” he said.
“My frustration with the hierarchy and parishioners is that they haven’t been more involved. Some have, but personally I want to see a lot more action.
“It’s not acceptable to believe something and do nothing about it. It’s not acceptable to be disheartened and allow that to stop you. You have example after example in the Bible where prophets and identities have been discouraged, have been at their lowest ebb, and still been required to take action.
“That has to happen now. It is either take some form of political action now or watch our faith get crushed by the government over time. It is a critical moment in history.
“The easiest way to do something is to come to next year’s Walk for Life on February 12. There are around 300,000 people who identify themselves as Catholics in South Australia. It would be great to see thousands of them there.”
Admitting reviving Family First is a “big undertaking”, Mr Snelling and Mr Kenyon said they are hoping to receive support from “thousands of volunteers” in the lead up to the 2022 election.
Family First was originally founded in 2000 by Andrew Evans, who was a pastor at the Paradise Assemblies of God Church. It merged with South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives Party in 2017, and has not been operational since 2018.Jump to next article