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Feb 22, 2016

Money and mining men behind the shadowy Australian Christian Lobby

Who exactly is backing the Australian Christian Lobby?



ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton

They stand to be first in line for funding for any “no” campaign on the expected plebiscite on the question of same-sex marriage, but who the Australian Christian Lobby is, and where it gets its money, remains somewhat of a mystery.

The Australian Christian Lobby was started in 1995 under the name of the Australian Christian Coalition, which was developed by two Network for Christian Values board members: former Townsville Bulletin editor John Gagliardi and Canberra-based Baptist minister John McNicoll.

The lobby’s most public face for many years was Brigadier Jim Wallace, who became the organisation’s executive director in 1998 while serving in the Australian armed services. Wallace stepped down from a public-facing role in the organisation in 2013 after then-prime minister Julia Gillard pulled out of the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference due to Wallace’s comments comparing homosexuality to the hazards of smoking (a Crikey investigation proved his claim to be untrue). Wallace also once tweeted that the Anzacs hadn’t died for same-sex marriage or “Islamic”.

The lobby’s current front man, managing director Lyle Shelton, a former journalist, failed Queensland Nationals political candidate and staffer to former Nationals Senator Ron Boswell, has been much more careful with his words regarding gay rights, although under his leadership the group has said same-sex parenting would create another stolen generation.

The Australian Christian Lobby has been very careful to remain unaligned in a number of respects. The lobby group has no political affiliation and draws speakers from both Labor and the Coalition. It has held debates between candidates on Christian issues, and has hosted speakers including Bill Shorten, Kevin Rudd, John Howard and Tony Abbott. The organisation has already met with Attorney-General George Brandis about running a “no” campaign for the plebiscite.

It is not aligned to any particular church, has no statement of faith, and in a speech in 2004, the ACL’s Philip Clayton said that the group deliberately avoided religious language in its public statements. The organisation also attempts to take a “balanced position” on issues, like supporting some same-sex anti-discrimination reform and some forms of stem cell research while still opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, Clayton said:

“And its this balanced, defensible approach that has helped us to avoid being typecast in the media as right wing extremists, or homophobic conservatives, and to maintain our voice.”

According to the ACL’s most recent financial statements, the ACL has 11 full-time employees, five part-time employees, two casual employees and 20 unpaid volunteers. The lobby’s donations have increased over the past few years, from $2 million in 2013 to $2.7 million in 2015. Most funding goes to paying staffing costs. The amount of money spent on polling and election campaigns sits at an average of around $100,000 a year.

Shelton has said in the past that most of the organisation’s funding comes from individuals, but he has declined to reveal any of the organisation’s backers.

Some of the funding is publicly reported. Gloria Jean’s infamously faced a backlash in 2010 after it was revealed to have donated $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby. Before he sold the business several years ago, Gloria Jean’s was owned by Nabi Saleh, an elder in the Hillsong Church. The source of most of the ACL’s funding remains a mystery — but it does have some wealthy supporters and associates.

Neil Golding donated $100,000 to the ACL in 2010-2011. Golding is reportedly the son of the late Queensland mining and construction magnate Cyril Golding.

There are seven directors in the organisation, including Shelton. Wallace was recently promoted from deputy chairman to the chairman upon the retirement of the ACL’s long-running chairman, Tony McLellan. McLellan has been on the boards of many mining and resources companies for decades, including LJ Hooker, Barrick Gold, Norton Gold Fields, and Ord River Resources. He is also a director for the Menzies Research Centre. He continues to be chairman emeritus for the ACL.

The ACL’s board also boasts a PwC senior executive, Mark Allaby, and a former board member who resigned in 2014 was the former CEO and founder of Optus, Terry Winters.

Motivational speaker and financial planner Darren Laudenbach, who shares an office building with the Australian Christian Lobby in Canberra for his God’s Money Matters financial planning business, lists his support for the Australian Christian Lobby on his LinkedIn page.

The Australian Christian Lobby is currently asking for the government to both suspend anti-discrimination laws to allow them to speak freely during the plebiscite, and to ban the Safe Schools Coalition from providing educational material to schools to teach children against bullying LGBTI students.


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18 thoughts on “Money and mining men behind the shadowy Australian Christian Lobby

  1. mikeb

    Just out of interest…what is the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils stand on same-sex marriage? We never seem to hear anything about them on this subject apart from their support for a poll on the subject.

  2. dennis

    Just how many of these right wing nut’s groups are there,It seems after Hawk and Keating and before Howard came to power these right wing groups really got busy, there religion’s is a direct attack on science and democracy. Christianity and Islamic power brokers seem to have one purpose in mind, end democracy and gain as much power as they can, they really do believe that your not free unless you believe in God. a lot of us are well and truly fucked, they just get stronger and stronger.

  3. Gooseman

    Is there evidence of any crossover between the Australian Christian Lobby and Family First?

  4. JMNO

    Why is AFIC’s view relevant?

  5. Keto Vodda

    “..ban the Safe Schools Coalition from providing educational material to schools to teach children against bullying LGBTI students.”

    Shades of the Holy Inquisition.

  6. CML

    @ JMNO…AFIC’s view is relevant if it intends to join the SSM debate on the ‘NO’ side…along with the other RWNJ’s in the ACL!
    Thankfully, the Constitution forbids funding of religious organisations of any persuasion…but we will need to watch these groups (and the government!), closely on this issue.
    On the funding matter…it never ceases to amaze me how ‘religious’ schools are somehow not religious organisations in their own right. And yes, I do know about the High Court case way back when…still doesn’t make any sense to me! So why are we still funding these schools who want to allow bullying of LGBTI students?
    Maybe someone needs to have another go at removing all government funding from religious/private schools…just think of all the brainwashing of kids we could prevent…along with all the bullying.
    And get rid of the chaplains in public schools while we are at it! After all, we are supposed to have a ‘secular’ government and public institutions, aren’t we??!!

  7. jmendelssohn

    Gooseman: I’m more interested in finding out if there is any connection between the ACL and Christianity – or any of the mainstream churches.

  8. Saul Benson

    ” they really do believe that your not free unless you believe in God”

    No Dennis. You should have said “they really do believe that your not free unless you believe in “their” god.

    Christianity today is not much more than an extension of the doctrinal and political changes introduced during the reign of Constantine around 306 to 337 CE..ie.. a state religion as the classical opiate of the masses.

    Don’t blame God because of latter day religionists.

  9. Tinatoerat

    Could I get funding for running a “no” campaign? Who gets funded and how is it decided.

  10. Norman Hanscombe

    When you’ve done that, Joshua, why not do something similar with having Crikey Land;s censorship policies explained?

  11. AR

    Religious nutters must know they are deadenders but haven’t the brains to understand the movement is necrotic worms.
    Why can’t they keep their unpleasant beliefs & delusions private and not contaminate the public space?
    What pollie is sane – in Sir Humphrey’s term,e ‘courageous’ – enough to advocate abolition of all tax breaks and other ancient abuses upon which the god botherers thrive?

  12. CML

    @ Tinatoerat…As far as I am aware, the Constitution forbids funding for ‘religious’ organisations, fullstop!

  13. Cameron Watt

    Don’t forget that Wallace once said that the Church was the real victim of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy as they had clearly hidden their homosexual tendencies and tricked the church.

  14. Venise Alstergren

    All one has to do is look at America to know how religious nutters screw a country. Does no one look at the Australian constitution? We are a secular society and anyone trying to make it otherwise should be tried for treason.

  15. Dean Tregenza

    @jmendelssohn @Gooseman

    I don’t believe that there are any Christian denominations with formal links to ACL. I believe that the largest ones (Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Uniting Church) have made public statements to this effect.

    My experience is that the vast majority of the regular church going Christians would likely deny that ACL speaks for them, let alone the wider Christian community.

  16. mikeb

    Good point Dean. I don’t think any of the sh*t-stirrers in the USA are part of the bigger Christian denominations either.

  17. dennis

    So ACL is the ISIS of Christianity.


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