Fred Nile may have lost battles against pornography and
decriminalisation for homosexuality, there is still the last frontier
of gay marriages to be tackled and Fred is up for the challenge – in
the Senate.
They will be breaking out the red and green condoms down at NSW
Parliament House with news that Christian Democrat MLC Fred Nile will
be departing the Legislative Council and contesting this year’s Senate
election.

This may sound an odd way to celebrate, but the Reverend Fred was
instrumental in ending the sale of red and green condoms in the NSW
Parliament’s souvenir shop several years ago. The colours represented
the interior colours of the two parliament houses, and the good Rev
validly asked if this was the right message to send the electorate.
(Personally, we here at Crikey would like to know why anyone would want
to use a green condom.)

Rumours abound that Fred is in fact being kicked upstairs as his party
drifts into the hands of the Reverand Gordon Moyes. For many years the
party was known as the Call to Australia (Fred Nile Group), switching
to its Christian Democrat moniker only in recent years.

Fred built his name in opposition to pornography and led the battle
against all forms of decriminalisation for homosexuality. With that
battle well and truly lost, Fred now says the new challenge is Federal
politics and opposition of the recognition of gay marriages.

So maybe Rodney Croome is right, and the next wedge issue is gay
marriage. Only it looks like it could be Fred trying to hammer the
wedge in.

The CTA polled 9.1% at its first election in 1981 when Nile was first
elected and the Liberal Party, then led by Bruce MacDonald, was at its
political nadir. Since then, the vote for the CTA/CDP has fallen away.
It polled 6.1% in 1984 (former Liberal MP Jim Cameron elected) and 5.7%
in 1988 (Elaine Nile elected). The party was helped by having high
profile lead candidates in the days before party names were put on the
ballot paper.

But once party names were on the ballot paper, the Nile vote dropped,
to 3.6% in 1992, 3.0% in 1995, 3.2% in 1999 and 3.0% in 2003. The
CTA/CDP elected an MLC on every occasion. But the Legislative Council
quota is 4.55%, compared to 14.29% for the Senate. On these figures,
the chances of Nile being elected do not look good.

Where the presence of Nile will be interesting is in how it affects the
chances of the Coalition winning a third seat. Labor wags call the
Christian Democrats the Liberal Party at Prayer, and those with
historical bent sometimes called it the Lloyd George Party, though
there was nothing ‘liberal’ about Fred’s politics.

The Christian Democrats tend to take votes off the Liberal Party in
upper house elections, which does make the Coalition’s task slightly
more difficult to win a third Senate seat in NSW. But if Nile gets 3-5%
of the vote, his preferences could be crucial.

You need 43% of the vote to elect a third Senator in a state. Nile
presence on the ballot paper means the Coalition will not do that in
its own right. But the Coalition plus Nile might get to 43%, his
preferences electing a new National Party Senator.

Even if he does not elect a third Coalition Senator, his preference may
then play a critical roll in any battle between Labor and the Greens
for a final Senate spot. (Already we are discounting any chances of
Democrat Aden Ridgeway.)

Last time, an obscure flow of preferences almost elected former Hornsby
Mayor Mick Gallagher, standing for the No GST / Abolish Child Support
joint ticket. In the end, he did not quite get there, and preferences
of several obscure right wing groups and One Nation resulted in the
Greens’ Kerry Nettle passing the Democrats to win the final seat.

The danger posed to the Greens by Nile is that he may sweep up many of
these right wing votes. And being a much cannier politician, he will
know the importance of his preferences. You can guarantee his
preferences will go to both Labor and the Democrats ahead of the Greens.

Nile’s chances of entering the Senate look dim, but his presence on the
ballot paper will make the NSW Senate contest much more interesting.

Peter Fray

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