Trouble in the Christian Democratic Party is likely to continue towards the end of this year, when it is tipped that Fred Nile will be under pressure to either retire or leave the party he founded.
Amid what is some say is a toxic office environment and the loss of several former Christian Democratic Party candidates and party executives, Nile is facing calls to resign from political life at the end of this year.
One staffer has been moved out of the main office shared by Fred Nile and fellow NSW MLC Paul Green and their staff, and the staffer’s move is being viewed by those in the know as a salvo in the cold war between Nile and Green. The relocation was blamed on renovations in the office, but a source tells Crikey the move happened well before renovations took place.
A source close to the matter told Crikey that what is playing out is not just about Fred Nile, but the succession plan for what will happen if, and when Fred Nile plans on retiring. Green is seeking Nile’s job, Crikey has heard, but will be up for re-election at the 2019 state election.
Former candidates and party executives Leighton Thew, Greg Bondar and Aaron Wright have all resigned from the party citing a lack of leadership from Nile, Green and CDP president Ross Clifford.
Clifford, currently the principal at seminary Morling College, is also gunning for Fred Nile’s job as head of the party and so is said to be stepping up to settle the disputes in the CDP offices.
But Nile might not be ready to hang up his boots. The rumour in the CDP is that Fred Nile is considering leaving the party and sitting as an independent in NSW Parliament, while handing over the running of the CDP to his wife, Silvana. Or he might not retire at all continuing his 35-year political career well into his 80s.
The rumours of Nile planning to hand over the running of the party to his wife likely stem from an increasingly dim view of Nile’s attempts to expand his wife’s role in the party. Nero-Nile was a candidate in the North Sydney by-election last year, and Nile was rolled when he wanted Nero-Nile to run at the top of the NSW senate ticket at the federal election.
Nile’s dominance in the party he founded in the 1970s has surfaced again and again as an issue, with several members claiming that the CDP was becoming less about being a Christian or democratic party and more about being the Fred Nile party. The Australian Christians split from the CDP in 2011, and Bondar has told members he is planning to form a Coalition of Christian parties ahead of the 2019 NSW state and federal elections.
Others such as Thew have said that they would return to the party if there were a change in management.