Facing the loss of his seat in the South Australian Upper House, Rob Brokenshire a member of parliament for 24 years says the voters were confused.
Confused that is by the merger of Family First with Senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, which caused the Family First brand to disappear.
“The amalgamation was not a mistake – that was good – [but] we made a mistake with how we went about marketing it,” he told the Adelaide based indaily.com.au news website.
“We didn’t realise the extent of the power of Family First as a brand name until after we amalgamated with the new name.”
Brokenshire has had a long term presence in the SA Parliament as a Liberal (including as a cabinet minister), Family First and lately as an Australian Conservative representative.
Lyle Shelton, who joined the Australian Conservatives this year, leaving his leadership role at the Australian Christian Lobby, agrees.
“Like Rob, I too think the merger is best in the long run. Sadly it is taking a while for people to realise this and brand awareness is a big priority for us going forward,” he told Eternity.
“Engagement by people in general with politics is a big challenge, especially for a values-based start-up like Australian Conservatives.”
The Family First party had strong Christian links, although it did not campaign as a purely religious party. It was founded in 2002 by Pentecostal pastor Andrew Evans OAM, long time leader of Influencers Church, the largest church in the state. Brokenshire took over Evan’s seat when he retired in 2008.
The Australian Conservative vote declined at this election, dropping from 4.4 per cent to 3.5 per cent, compared to the old Family First results. The last two federal elections had also seen a fall in then Family First Senator Bob Day’s vote.
Across the border in Victoria, the Conservatives did better in the Batman by-election. Party leader Cory Bernardi told The Australian that “The goal was to prevent another Greens member of parliament and, to that extent, it was mission accomplished.”
The party scored 6.37 per cent of the vote, or 5223 first-preference votes, in the absence of a Liberal candidate. It will possibly be the last time the conservative senator will boast that 90 per cent of Australian Conservative preferences went to the ALP.