Fred Nile
Fred Nile

Political decisions to preference a “pro-homosexual candidate”, nepotism from its founder, and office turmoil are said to be behind a recent exodus from the Christian Democratic Party.

The first major sign of trouble in the party was the North Sydney byelection last year to replace retiring MP Joe Hockey. Fred Nile’s party put up Nile’s second wife, Silvana Nero-Nile, as the candidate, and made the decision to preference independent candidate Dr Stephen Ruff over Liberal candidate Trent Zimmerman, who is gay. But several CDP volunteers were seen handing out how-to-vote cards that put Zimmerman above Ruff, in defiance of party orders. A source tells Crikey the decision to preference a “pro-homosexual candidate” did not go down well with many in the CDP.

The second issue was Nile’s attempt to get Nero-Nile to head up the party’s Senate ticket in New South Wales. Nile was ultimately rolled by his party in that decision, with Nero-Nile running instead in Tasmania, where she secured 0.84% of the vote at the 2016 election.

There is also a reportedly “toxic” environment in Nile’s parliamentary offices, with one staff member reported by The Daily Telegraph to be working out of a separate office, tensions were so high. The statement given to the paper indicates that the office had been allocated due to renovations happening in Nile’s office, but a source close to the matter says that the office was allocated well before any renovations were due to take place.

Several members of the CDP management committee are said to have left. Federal director, NSW state director and former candidate Greg Bondar announced last month that he would resign from the party due to a lack of leadership and a failure “to meet the ethos and values of a truly Christian democratic party”. Party secretary Leighton Thew resigned in early May because he had lost confidence in the leadership of the CDP in Nile and NSW state president Ross Clifford. Thew had been the party secretary for close to three years, and the acting state manager for two years before that.

The party’s operations and media manager Aaron Wright has today resigned from the party.

Bondar, Thew and Wright ran most recently in the 2016 federal election for the seats of Banks, Berowra, and Greenway securing 5.32%, 5.21%, and 5% of the vote respectively. Thew had resigned from the party before he ran in the election.

It is understood Thew remains loyal to the party, its policies, and its membership, and would return if there were a change in management.

Nile and fellow CDP MP Paul Green hold, in part, the balance of power in the NSW upper house. The party Fred Nile founded in the 1970s and has represented in the NSW Legislative Council since 1981 is no stranger to controversy, with fellow CDP MLC Gordon Moyes being expelled from the party in 2009, eventually joining Family First. The Australian Christians party also is an offshoot of the CDP, created from the Victorian and Western Australian branches of the CDP in 2011. It has been joked that Fred Nile is effectively the “president for life” of the CDP.

The party is boasting a strong performance in the federal election, claiming a 1% swing to the Christian Democrats.

The CDP was approached for comment, but did not respond by deadline.

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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