In extraordinary developments inside the Christian Democratic Party, Rev Fred Nile has become President for Life and his critics have been purged.
Nile’s political coup occurred at the CDP’s annual conference held at the Meroo Christian conference centre in the Blue Mountains on the weekend of August 22-24.
The biggest casualty in the executive elections was party vice-president Rev Gordon Moyes, the other CDP MP in the NSW upper house.
Although from the same party, Nile and Moyes are miles apart politically. Nile resigned from the Uniting Church in 2003 over the ordination of gays while Moyes has taken a leading role in advocating a more inclusive Christian agenda for gays and support for people with HIV/Aids.
Nile has campaigned against Muslim immigration and for a ban on the chador (headscarf) worn by Muslim women while Moyes has supported inter-faith understanding, particularly between Christians and Muslims.
The conference also dumped party secretary Ken Gregory, a party stalwart of 15 years’ standing, and state treasurer Arie Baalbergen who served in the trenches of Christian politics for 20 years.
Another casualty was executive member John Phillips who had supported three office workers who made complaints about workplace harassment inflicted by a senior party official (not Nile).
In the bloodletting, the CDP has also lost state director Phil Lamb and office manager Ben Carpentier, both veterans of federal, state and local election campaigns.
Nile’s latest ally is Dutch-born Wally Vanderpoll, the NSW state manager since August 4 who has vowed to “uphold Australia’s Christian heritage and reinforce our proven Judeo-Christian moral principles in Australian society”.
A former Young Liberal, Vanderpoll has the stamp of approval of Nile’s other leading lieutenant, Michael Darby, the hard right-wing maverick who was expelled from the NSW Liberal Party last year.
Prior to the March 2007 state election, Darby was defeated by Michael Baird for Liberal pre-selection for the seat of Manly. After the loss, Darby went off in a huff and spent the campaign supporting Nile whose main platform was imposing a 10-year ban on Muslim immigration to Australia (which John Howard declined to condemn).
Darby is the son of the late Douglas Darby, Manly MP for 31 years (1947-78), and a former researcher for right-wing rabble rouser and radio ham Alan Jones.
Under the newly-formed Nile-Vanderpoll-Darby leadership the political trajectory of the CDP is clearly mapped out: more criticism of gay people and Muslims and full support for the entire US “moral majority” agenda.
Nile, who is pleased to refer to himself as “the father of the NSW parliament” is, at 82, old enough to be the father of Premier Morris Iemma, Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson.
He has earned a special place in the affection of the Labor Government by voting in favor of its most controversial — and often unpopular measures — and chairing committees of inquiry to rescue the government from political embarrassment.
His CDP critics are seething. One of them has suggested the party change its name. He told Crikey: “It is no longer Christian and it is no longer Democratic. It should be re-registered as the Fred Nile Party.”