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Jan 15, 2015

Fred in denial: the Christian Democratic Party has lost all relevance

Fred Nile's tired attempts to stir up controversy after the Sydney Siege are just further signs that the Christian Democrats have lost all relevance.

As regular as clockwork, New South Wales upper house MP Fred Nile makes an outrageous public statement in the lead-up to a state election to create headlines, controversy and notoriety for himself. It is a public signal that Nile has come to the end of another eight-year term and he is standing yet again.

Nile has not let down his tiny band of ageing supporters this year. With a state election on March 28, the 80-year-old Nile, leader of the Christian Democrats, has told Fairfax’s 2UE that male hostages who fled the Lindt Cafe siege in Martin Place in December should not receive bravery awards. He also broadcast his remarks on the Team Nile Twitter account: “So every Sydney siege hostage will get a bravery award? Even the men who fled leaving women behind? Don’t shame, but don’t reward.”

As intended, his comments have drawn coverage all over the media — an op-ed piece by Nile in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, an appearance on Channel Seven’s Sunrise and excitable coverage in The Daily Telegraph.

Nile is NSW Parliament’s longest-serving MP with 33 years under his belt. Over the decades, he has become the wiliest of campaigners. At previous elections he has made deeply homophobic remarks or attacked Muslim women for wearing headscarves. When those ugly diversions were taken over by elements in John Howard’s and then Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party, Nile moved on.

He is attempting the old magic again by dumping on the male hostages who survived the siege in mid-December. It is desperate stuff, and it is likely to offend more voters than it appeases.

Nile and his fellow MP Paul Green are from one of the minor parties that hold the balance of power in the upper house. In the past it was Fred and his wife Elaine, who died in 2011, who held governments to ransom.

It is stating the obvious that both Labor and the Coalition would like to see the Christian Democrats wiped out. But Nile’s CDP (along with the Shooters and Fishers Party) provide a counter-balance to the six Greens MPs. This means that election time provides a unique example of parliamentary democracy at work when sworn enemies from the major parties swap preferences with minor parties. In the process they agree to support each other’s legislation, with an occasional overseas trip thrown in for good measure. Perfectly above board — it’s the way the place works.

Over the years, Nile’s parliamentary salary has been inflated, first by his promotion to “Assistant Deputy-President” of the upper house and then to “Assistant-President”. In addition, as chairman of the general purposes standing committee, he receives further remuneration for his attendance at sittings.

It would be foolish to write off Nile’s re-election chances, but there is a sense that his reactionary and divisive message has reached its use-by date.

In December, 2013, he controversially remarried a fellow evangelical Christian, Silvana Nero, 55, attracting wedding guests such as (now Premier) Mike Baird, Liberal MLC David Clarke and Labor’s inseparable twins, Luke Foley, now the Opposition Leader, and Walt Secord, MLC. A protester outside the North Sydney church shouted through a loudhailer:

“Divorce the church from the state
Love is equal, don’t preach hate.”

More worrying for Nile is his party’s declining vote. When he was first elected to the upper house in 1981 he receiving a whopping 9.1% of the vote, including 248,425 primary votes. He rode into Parliament on a “law and order” backlash against the Wran government’s libertarian and civil liberties agenda, after receiving encouragement from UK and US morals campaigners — Mary Whitehouse and Billy Graham, respectively.

But when he was re-elected in 2007 for his current eight-year term, Nile received only 168,545 votes, or 0.97% of the vote, and squeaked back with the distribution of preferences from other parties.

Now he’s back on the campaign trail.

Recent issues of the monthly publication Family World News have featured front-page pictures of Nile, the Editor-in-Chief, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Mike Baird, plus inside pictures of NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, Pastor Brian Houston (Hillsong), federal Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, Sydney University vice chancellor Michael Spence and NSW MP Marie Ficarra.

Among articles, “Jesus Christ Greater than Mohammad” and “Muslim radicalisation is a form of child abuse”, the newsletter has printed prayers calling on “Almighty God” to assist the election of CDP candidates at the end of March. Nile, and his number-two candidate the Reverend Ross Clifford, will need all the prayers they can muster to win the seats.

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12 comments

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12 thoughts on “Fred in denial: the Christian Democratic Party has lost all relevance

  1. wayne robinson

    There was the Montreal Massacre in 1987 in which a deranged gunman entered a classroom and ordered the male and female students to separate, and then proceeded to shoot the female students. The male students were later unfairly criticised for not attempting to overcome the gunman.

    How could the male students know that the gunman was intending to shoot? He might have been wanting to take hostages for a siege, choosing female students as being more controllable.

    Anyone in a siege, male or female, with the possibility of escape should grab it. It provides information to the authorities, and it’s standard practice to offer the hostage taker minor concessions to gain the release of individual hostages.

    Fewer hostages mean that it’s easier to storm the premises if required too.

  2. Cantbeeffed

    The gay community loves Fred, he’s a constant reminder of how whacky his mob are, and prevents the fair-minded from falling into a false sense of security. There was a great cartoon in the Sydney Star Observer many, many years ago about a young, brave gay activist who pledged his life to pretending to be a homophobic loon to garner support for gay rights, and so became Fred Nile.

    We all need reminders of just how dreadful other human beings can be.

  3. wayne robinson

    I should have read the article before commenting. Fred Nile is wrong in asserting that Jesus is greater than Mohammed. There’s a convincing theory that Mohammed was Jesus. ‘Mohammed’ means ‘he who is to be praised’. Islam started off as a Christan sect, which rejected the incoherence of an indivisible God divided into three in the Trinity. ‘There is but one God, and Mohammed (ie Jesus) is his messenger’ is just a slogan differentiating Islam from other Christian sects.

    There’s as little historical evidence for the existence of Mohammed as there is for Jesus. Precisely zilch, plus or minus.

  4. Honest Johnny

    I once saw a couple of Christian Democrats at a polling booth handing out pamphlets saying that the Greens attracted paedophiles. I responded by saying that I hadn’t met or heard of any paedophiles among Greens but couldn’t say the same about people from the Churches.

  5. Norman Hanscombe

    So the Crikey Collective felt Fred Nile has to be attacked for suggesting those who did no more than flee from the Martin Place siege shouldn’t automatically receive a Bravery Medal.
    Even if the word “bravery” has been badly cheapened by the way it’s now used, what’s so wrong with someone pointing this out?

  6. Tim Davies

    Mad Fred actually proposing a bravery award for a gay man?
    I wonder if he has really thought this through, I propose an award for all those who have opposed this lunatic throughout the years.
    Who are these bigots who support this fool?

  7. michael dwyer

    What happened to Fred’s previous fellow upper house member Rev Gordon Moyes. They were great buddies at one stage. Gordon would be 76 now, and may not be interested in resuming a political career.

  8. Justin

    @Norman I agree with your sentiment. It does seem a little over the top to be awarding the hostages with bravery awards for trying to survive.

    But it seems as though you have missed Fred’s point. Fred only singled out the male hostages who fled as being unworthy for bravery awards. As if their gender somehow instills a greater responsibility in situations where one faces imminent danger. Conversely, it implies women are expected to flee from danger and should not be expected to behave “bravely” (by staying within the hostage situation and trying to protect the other hostages).

    It is the old-fashioned gender roles that Fred’s comments represent, as though he lives in a world where women are helpless beings needing to be rescued, and men who do not seek to be the rescuers are weak. Do you believe that Fred is correct?

  9. MAC TEZ

    Just Fred trying to grab a headline,in the hope it will gain a few votes. Looks like he may have won over Crikey’s swinging voter/Labor loyalist at least.

  10. AR

    The ever present reminder to NSW voters that all religious luatics are just that, religious lunatics and nothing more.