Family First have been accused of bigotry and homophobia following the launch of the party’s state election campaign in Victoria.

Their campaign urges Victorians to beware the extreme Greens, who Family First leader Steve Fielding believes will destroy family life with radical policies supporting gay school students and same-sex marriage. He also labelled the Greens anti-business.

But Greens leader Bob Brown responded by claiming it was Family First who was extreme, exhibiting a politics of hate and discrimination and using homophobia as a weapon.

It was an explosive start to the election campaign as both parties vie to win the balance of power in the Victorian upper house when the public votes on 25 November.

At the Family First launch on Sunday, Fielding said the Greens’ extreme values included promoting homosexuality to teenagers through support groups for gay, lesbian and transgender students as young as 13.

Family First stood for mainstream family values such as honesty and respect to be taught, and relationships education that promotes marriage and family life.

He also said the Greens wanted to undermine marriage by legalising same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.

His party would defend and promote marriage as between a man and a woman, which he said was the best environment to raise our kids.

Brown told Sydney Star Observer Family First’s use of homophobia to attract voters was a misjudgment.

Inevitably they will attract the bigots, but they’re in diminishing supply, Brown said.

This party is extreme. It seems unable to get to the wider issues and basically is exhibiting a politics of hate and discrimination rather than inclusions.

The family component is a misnomer, if you ask me. There are thousands of same-sex couples, of homosexual people, in any electorate including Victoria, and exclusion of the variety Family First puts forward is not and should not be part of the thinking in 2006.

Brown said it was not uncommon for Family First and other extremist groups such as the Exclusive Brethren to make such anti-gay attacks on the Greens.

It’s part of the fundamentalist politics which has crept in from the south of the United States into Australian politics. But I don’t think it has the fertile ground here as it does in the US.

Victorian gay rights group, Civil Union Action, condemned Fielding’s attack.

Mr Fielding should explain how the recognition of committed same-sex relationships can possibly hurt other people’s marriages and families, CUA spokesperson John Kloprogge said.

And he should explain how opposing suicide prevention programs can possibly be good for children.

Earlier this week it was reported Labor might direct preferences to Family First in the upper house this election, as it did in the 2004 federal election that saw Fielding become a senator.

The Victorian Greens said if that was the case they would not automatically give their preferences to Labor in the lower house. Instead the Greens would issue a split ticket, so voters could choose to direct their personal preference to either Labor or the Liberal Party.

But reports on Wednesday suggested Labor was likely to side with the Greens and political analysts predicted the Greens could pick up three seats.

When Labor premier Steve Bracks was asked this week if he considered Family First conservative, he told the Herald-Sun, I don’t know much about them, really. I mean, they’ve got one senator in the country, on the conservative side I would say, yes.

Comment was sought from Family First Victoria’s state leader, Cameron Eastman, but he did not return the Star‘s calls.

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