|Senator for Victoria|
1 July 2005 – 30 June 2011
|Born||17 October 1960|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Political party||Family First Party|
|Alma mater||RMIT University|
Steven Fielding (born 17 October 1960) is a former Australian senator for the state of Victoria and the former federal parliamentary leader of the Family First Party. He was elected to the upper house at the 2004 federal election on two per cent of the first-preference votes. He failed to gain re-election at the 2010 federal election. His term ended on 30 June 2011.
Fielding was born on 17 October 1960, in Melbourne, where he was raised in the suburb of Reservoir. His parents, Shirley and George Fielding, had a large family consisting of 16 children, and Fielding spent much of his childhood sharing a bedroom with five brothers in the family's three-bedroom home. His early education was at the local Keon Park Primary School, He later attended the nearby Merrilands High School.
Academically, Fielding suffered setbacks through an undiagnosed case of dyslexia, and this led to problems studying subjects such as English. Nevertheless, he excelled in mathematics, and his high marks in this subject allowed him to graduate with sufficiently high scores to gain entry into the Bachelor of Engineering degree at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he studied electronic engineering. Upon graduating in 1983, Fielding accepted a position at Hewlett-Packard, and later he moved into management at technology firms NEC and Siemens.
Fielding returned to university to undertake a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Monash University, completing it in 1992. He later moved to Wellington, New Zealand, where he worked for Telecom New Zealand in "change management" during a difficult time for the industry, as it was undergoing deregulation. He returned to Australia three years later, in 1995, and worked for United Energy, the Australian Yellow Pages and as a marketing manager at Vision Super.
Fielding entered politics in 2003 when he successfully stood as an independent candidate for the Knox City Council. He has described the decision to stand as "very last-minute", but others, such as the mayor of the council, Jenny Moore, and then Victorian Labor MP Peter Lockwood, said Fielding was very open about his intent to move into federal politics. Either way, both Lockwood and Labor MP Bob Stensholt have described how Fielding later made inquiries about the possibility of running for one of the major parties before joining Family First.
Fielding's election was not expected – Family First had only been founded two years before the election, and it was not expected to succeed in its first federal election in Victoria. Like many senators, Fielding gained a quota under the Senate's proportional representation system by receiving preferences from other parties (see Australian electoral system). The Australian Democrats and the Australian Labor Party agreed to swap preferences with Family First. But Fielding benefited from the larger-than-expected surplus of Liberal preferences, and stayed in the count long enough to receive Democrat and Labor preferences, defeating the Australian Greens' candidate David Risstrom for the last Senate place in Victoria. As a result, Fielding was elected although his party as a whole received just 56,376 votes (1.9%) for the Senate in Victoria.
When first elected, the Howard Government held a slim majority in the Senate, sufficient that Fielding would only hold the balance of power if one of the government senators chose to cross the floor. This changed after the 2007 federal election (the changes of which took effect in 2008), when the balance of power in the Senate shifted to a combination of Fielding, the five Australian Greens senators and independent Nick Xenophon.
While Family First is generally regarded as a conservative party, Fielding stated he would not be an automatic supporter of the then Coalition opposition in the Senate. On some issues which he saw as affecting the wellbeing of families, such as the WorkChoices industrial relations policies, he indicated disagreement with government policies. In February 2009, he told a Senate hearing that he believed divorce added to the impact of global warming because it resulted in people switching to a "resource-inefficient lifestyle".
Balance of power
With some backbenchers being willing to cross the floor, Fielding's vote was important on some of the Howard government's more controversial legislation. His vote ensured the passage of Voluntary student unionism, the overturning of civil unions legislation in the Australian Capital Territory, and changes to media ownership laws. Conversely, his intention to vote "no" ensured the defeat of the Howard government's proposed tightening of asylum seeker laws.
In mid-2009, Fielding flew to the US on a self-funded trip to discover more about climate change. He came back unconvinced that man-made carbon dioxide emissions were the main driver of climate change. He subsequently voted against the Rudd Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Fielding also attended the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009.
In 2009 Fielding teamed up with the coalition to defeat the government's proposed changes to the youth allowance system. He said the changes were unfair to rural and regional students and that it would leave 26,000 students worse off.
Fielding opposed the Rudd Government's alcopops tax. He argued that taxing ready to drink alcohol beverages wouldn't put an end to binge drinking. He campaigned for the government to act against the practice.
Following the global financial crisis the Rudd Government passed an economic stimulus package with the help of Family First. As part of the deal Fielding secured a $200 million jobs fund called 'Get Communities Working'.
Voluntary Student Unionism
At the end of his campaign in support of the Howard government's Voluntary Student Unionism legislation, which was passed, the walls of Fielding's office were vandalised with pro-union graffiti.
Luxury car tax
An increase to the luxury car tax was defeated in the Senate on 4 September 2008, with Fielding joining the coalition in blocking the budget legislation. It was passed after Fielding negotiated exemptions for farmers and tourism operators.
Considered changing parties
In early 2008, Fielding reportedly considered breaking away from Family First to establish a new political party, inviting Tim Costello and other "big names" to join him. The revelations came after Fielding changed his position on abortion, after being rebuffed by his party for taking a softer approach.
ISP level content filtering
Fielding gave conditional support to the mandatory ISP level filtering scheme. A spokesperson for Family First indicated that the party would want X18+ rated and refused classification (RC) content banned for everyone, including adults. Fielding's support for Internet censorship in Australia was not reported on his official website.
Paid Parental Leave Scheme
In June 2010, during the Senate discussion on the proposed Paid Parental Leave Scheme, Fielding suggested "some women may rort the scheme by deliberately falling pregnant and then having a late-term abortion". He was subsequently criticised by all sides of Australian politics for these comments.
Fielding introduced the following legislation into Parliament:
- Protecting Problem Gamblers Bill 2009
- Keeping Jobs from Going Offshore (Protection of Personal Information) Bill 2009
- Britt Lapthorne Bill 2009
- Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs Bill 2009
- Keeping Banks Accountable Bill 2009
- Removal of Excessive Super Bill 2009
- Easy Comparison of Grocery Prices Bill 2008
- Poker Machine Harm Minimisation Bill 2008
- Poker Machine Harm Reduction Tax Bill 2008
- Alcohol Toll Reduction Bill 2007
- Restoring Family Work Balance Bill 2007
- Fair Bank and Credit Card Fees Bill 2007
- Predatory Pricing Bill 2007
- Creeping Acquisitions 2007 Bill
Fielding's use of publicity stunts was commented on by The Sydney Morning Herald. in May 2008, he joined protesting pensioners, who brought traffic to a standstill in the Melbourne CBD, when he and others took their shirts off in the style of the cab drivers who had successfully stripped for increased cab security, to demand $70- to $100-a-week rise in the pension.
Fielding is a Christian and attends CityLife Church, a large Pentecostal church in Melbourne. He rejects evolution and has publicly espoused his belief in Young Earth creationism. Fielding has three children. He has claimed he was sexually abused by a scoutmaster and family friend for two years when he was a teenager. No-one has been charged or prosecuted for the alleged offences.
- Gordon, Josh (28 September 2008). "Fielding first: one man, one vote ... and a whole lot of power". The Sunday Age. Melbourne, Australia. p. 14.
- Family First's Steve Fielding loses Senate seat: The Age 16 September 2010
- Zwartz, Barney (23 August 2010). "Ballarat blacksmith forges ahead with nod to DLP heroes". The Age. Melbourne.
- 2010 Senate Results – Summary: ABC elections
- Cadzow, Jane (8 October 2005). "Meet the Fieldings". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. p. 20.
- "About Steve". Senator Steve Fielding. 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- Riley, Robyn (27 September 2009). "Time to get 'fiskal' – Funding calls on dyslexia". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia. p. 102. His dyslexia was only diagnosed after he revealed his learning difficulties in 2009, and he was diagnosed as suffering from both developmental apraxia of speech and developmental surface dyspraxia, along with the dyslexia.
- Fielding, Steve (13 September 2009). "A learning disability doesn't have to limit who you are". The Sunday Age. Melbourne, Australia. p. 19.
- Bachelard, Michael (6 November 2004). "Not a hellfire and brimstone man". The Weekend Australian. Sydney, Australia. p. 21.
- Green, Jonathan (10 August 2005). "Tears and cheers at Family First man's debut". The Age. Melbourne, Australia. p. 1.
- Green, Anthony (9 October 2004). "Final Victoria Senate Results". Australia Votes: Federal Election. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 November 2009.
- "Divorce adds to the impact of global warming – Steve Fielding". The Daily Telegraph. Australia. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- Graffiti Attack on Steve Fielding's Office After VSU Vote, The Age, 10 December 2005
- Bid to save ACT civil unions fails, PM, 15 June 2006
- Media laws pass the Senate, PM, 12 October 2006
- Backbench rebellion forces border protection backdown, Lateline, 14 August 2006
- Kippist, Lucy. "The real reason I'll fight in the Senate on climate change | Article". The Punch. Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- "Senate blocks youth allowance changes – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 November 2009. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- Kippist, Lucy. "Our drunk nation | Article". The Punch. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- "Parliament of Australia:Senate:Committees:Finance and Public Administration Committee:Nation Building and Jobs Plan – Inquiry into the provisions of the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008–2009 and 5 related bills – $PageTitle$". Aph.gov.au. 12 February 2009. Archived from the original on 9 August 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/17/2367134.htm, ABC news, 17 September 2008
- Ben Packham and Peter Jean (30 September 2008). "Senator Steve Fielding wanted to quit". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
- Ben Packham (27 September 2008). "Family First Senator Steve Fielding retreats from abortion comments". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 17 March 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
- Net filters may block porn and gambling sites, The Age, 27 October 2008.
- "Fielding's abortion rorts claim 'offensive'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
- http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation/billslst/billslst_c5cb7dfd-6ea5-42d2-bea7-a4c40e628ce8/upload_pdf/Bills%20List%202009.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22family%20first%22[permanent dead link]
- "Mr 2%: why Steve Fielding bothers: SMH 26/8/2008". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- "Note to Steve: forget the stunts: SMH 7/9/2008". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 September 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- "Ageing Aussies strip in pension protest – Breaking News – World – Breaking News". The Age. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- LIVENEWS.com.au > National > Pensioners strip during pay protest Archived 17 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "Steve Fielding dresses as beer bottle". ABC News. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- "Working for God". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia. 23 July 2005. p. W07.
- ABC – Q&A , 9 March 2010.
- Cooper, Mex (16 November 2009). "Senator reveals he was sexually abused". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- Munro, Ian (17 November 2009). "Fielding's abuse claim stuns father". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2 August 2010.