Christian Democratic Party (Australia)

The Christian Democratic Party (CDP) is a socially conservative political party in Australia, founded in 1977 under the name Call to Australia Party by a group of Christian ministers in New South Wales, who had Fred Nile, a Congregational Church minister, run as their upper house candidate in the NSW State election. Fred Nile commonly refers to himself as the party's founder; however, the party states that it was founded by "concerned Australian ministers".[3]

Christian Democratic Party
Federal PresidentFred Nile
Christian Youth PresidentSamraat Joshua Grewal
Founded1977 (1977)
Headquarters1 Wentworth Street
Parramatta, New South Wales 2150
Youth wingChristian Youth[1]
Social conservatism
Christian democracy
Christian right[2]
Political positionRight-wing
Colours     Orange (official)
     Purple (customary)
NSW Legislative Council
1 / 42

The party changed its name in 1998. It is primarily active in New South Wales, and since the 1981 NSW state election has had at least one member in that state's Legislative Council, often holding or sharing the balance of power. The Christian Democrats have never succeeded in having a member elected to federal parliament, although John Bradford briefly sat with the party in the House of Representatives after defecting from the Liberal Party before the 1998 federal election.

In 2011, the Victorian and Western Australian branches of the CDP voted to form a new party, leading to the formation of the Australian Christians in those states.[4]


Fred Nile is the federal president of the Christian Democratic Party (the federal party currently lacks a constitution and a board) and he is the New South Wales Deputy President. Ross Clifford is the party's New South Wales state president.[5] Craig Hall, is the New South Wales state director; the organizational leader of the party and by extension exercises authority over the party activities in all states.[6] The "Christian Youth" is the youth wing of the CDP, and is headed by Samraat Joshua Grewal as its president.[7]


Originally established as the "Call to Australia Party" in 1977, the party was founded by a group of Christian ministers, and Fred Nile ran as their candidate.[8] These groups had sought to mobilise conservative and evangelical Protestants as an electoral force. Nile was elected to the Legislative Council in 1981, and the party has managed to see a candidate elected at every subsequent New South Wales state election.[9]


The Christian Democratic Party exists to support Christian representation in every level of government – federal, state and local - and to promote "ethical values based on...Christian values".[10][11]

The party is supportive of family values (including traditional marriage), freedom of speech, protective of children and their rights including those of unborn children, and policies that are protective of established Australian values and systems, inclusive of a requirement that immigrants to Australia demonstrate a desire to learn English.[10][12][13] They are opposed to both abortion[14] and euthanasia[13] as well as pornography, drug decriminalisation and sharia law.[10][12][15][16]

Law and order

The CDP supports rehabilitation of criminals when possible. They seek "a wisely governed penal system that seeks to restore convicted persons where possible to good contributors to society."[17]

Economy and housing

CDP's policy on the economy is to ensure "a healthy environment for business to start and grow". They support an adequately "remunerated job" to allow for "a balance between work and non-work times" and have an emphasis on "the financial well-being of each person in [the] community".[17]

In 2015 Nile supported the Liberal government's privatisation of electricity infrastructure, such as poles and wires.[18][19]

Education and health

The Christian Democratic Party believe that parental input in a child's education plus writing, reading and arithmetic are the basis of a good education system. They also support Special Religious Education (SRE).

CDP believes that Health Care "should be available, accessible and affordable".[17]

Environment and social security

According to their 2018 policies, the CDP supports a balanced approach to both environment and social security. They seek a "good and sustainable use of the earth" and social security for "those who genuinely need it".[17]

Employment, immigration and infrastructure

The CDP is for local industry and local jobs and "proactively [work] to advocate for jobs growth".[17]

Their policy on immigration reads:

"Each nation needs to manage its immigration so that there is a balance of visitors and immigrants that will contribute positively to the nation. In the last several years we have seen a rise in immigration that has outpaced infrastructure and potentially affecting housing affordability, health affordability, and employment declines, and a strain on the social security system resulting in community disquiet towards some new immigrants. This has the potential to change the character of the Australian society. Immigration needs to be carefully managed, taken on the advice of demographic experts and not growth economics."[17]

The Christian Democrats also support strong infrastructure programs for roads, bridges, hospitals, airports, waterways and power supplies. They state that these should be "steady and affordable" and planned for "future generations", not simply as short-term goals.[17]


The party and a candidate, Peter Madden, came under intense opposition from their policies and political campaign actions by the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL).[20] Their campaign to have the Sydney Mardi Gras banned because of, as he puts it, "the lifestyle and perversion that it promotes" saw opposition from the RSL as one of their campaign YouTube videos, which featured Madden, labelled a "battle cry", calls upon "10,000 warriors" to rally against the event and shows Madden in front of the Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park inviting viewers to become "lions" and join him.[20] The NSW RSL president, Don Rowe, said that returned servicemen and women and the public as a whole find it "totally offensive" that anyone would use the image of the War Memorial to make a political statement.[20] Don Rowe said to The Sydney Morning Herald, "I am neither a supporter nor a detractor of the Mardi Gras and the RSL has no official position on it, but we totally disapprove of the use of the War Memorial in a politicised way. It is a sacred site and symbolises those Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and for our freedoms … not for someone trying to make a political stand."

Peter Madden was also criticized by the LGBT community when he called for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to be "moved off the streets".’[21] and stated in an interview with Glenn Wheeler and Anthony Venn-Brown on the Sydney radio station 2GB[22] that one of the main objectives of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was "recruitment".[23]

Electoral outcomes

The CDP has built a small but stable electoral base among conservative Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants in New South Wales, particularly in the "Bible Belt" suburbs of north-western Sydney and in some country areas, but the CDP has only achieved modest results in its attempts to expand its electoral base further. The party has comparable support in Western Australia (which broke away to form the Australian Christians party) but has lacked similar representation in its state parliament because its seats have higher election quotas.

The Christian Democratic Party sees the policies of the major parties as an attack on their traditional views. Gordon Moyes (no longer a member of the party) explained, "Our Christian heritage is under attack from pagan and secularist forces, militant Islamic groups, a neo communism under a Green guise and a strident homosexual lobby that has successfully gained the support of the Labor Party, Australian Democrats and the Greens, and many from the left of the Liberal Party."

For the 1983 federal election, the CDP formed an alliance with the Victoria-based Democratic Labor Party. They did not win any seats and contested subsequent elections separately.

The Christian Democratic Party has generally had two (sometimes three) sitting members in the New South Wales Legislative Council at any one time. Usually, these two individuals have been Nile and one other member. At the 1984 New South Wales state election Nile was joined by former Liberal politician Jim Cameron. Cameron retired shortly after being elected, due to serious health problems, and was replaced by Marie Bignold. Nile’s wife, Elaine Nile, joined her husband and Bignold at the Legislative Council at the 1988 New South Wales state election. Bignold subsequently had a falling out with Fred and Elaine Nile over Bignold's opposition to the Liberal Party stance on industrial relations; a policy position supported by the Niles. The restructuring of the Legislative Council in 1991 meant that Bignold’s seat was abolished and she was forced to an early election; but she failed in her bid for re-election.

The party has been involved in Glenn Druery's Minor Party Alliance.[24][25]

Retirement of Elaine Nile and election of Gordon Moyes

In August 2000, it was announced that Elaine Nile would retire due to ill health and be replaced with John Bradford, a former Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives from Queensland who had defected to the CDP before being defeated at the 1998 Federal election.[26] However, this fell through due to disagreements between the Fred and Elaine Nile and Bradford. Elaine Nile served until 2002, at which time she was replaced by Gordon Moyes of Sydney’s Wesley Central Mission. Moyes was elected in his own right at the 2003 NSW election.[27]

In 2004, Moyes suggested Nile make a bid for a Senate seat at the 2004 federal election. In that election, Nile achieved 2.6% of the primary vote, but narrowly missed attaining a seat. Another rival conservative party, Family First, won a seat in Victoria with 1.9% and a better preference deal. With Nile's return to the New South Wales Legislative Council, Moyes began to question the leadership of his former party leader.

During the 2007 New South Wales state election the CDP called for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to Australia, seeking to replace them with "persecuted Christians from the Middle East." Nile said the moratorium should be in place to allow a study of the effects of Muslim migration. "There has been no serious study of the potential effects upon Australia of more than 300,000 Muslims who are already here," he said. "Australians deserve a breathing space so the situation can be carefully assessed before Islamic immigration can be allowed to resume. In the meantime, Australia should extend a welcoming hand to many thousands of persecuted Christians who are presently displaced or at risk in the Middle East."[28] Nile and another CDP candidate Allan Lotfizadeh reported receiving death threats on account of this announcement.[29]

Fred Nile was re-elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council on 24 March 2007, achieving a vote of 4.4%. This was the highest vote for the CDP since 1988.

Battle between Nile and Moyes

In 2007, the President of the Legislative Council, Meredith Anne Burgmann retired from public service[30] and the Council sought a replacement. Tensions flared when both Moyes and Nile applied for the position. Nile subsequently withdrew his application and nominated Moyes at Moyes' behest. Peter Primrose was confirmed President on 8 March 2007, Moyes having received only two votes, Nile's and his own.[31] After Nile was made Assistant Deputy President on 28 June 2007 and then Assistant President 28 November 2007, Moyes began to publicly attack Nile.

Moyes argued that Nile's anti-homosexual, anti-abortion and anti-Muslim focus should be altered and that greater emphasis be placed on environmental issues. In contrast to Nile, Moyes inferred that the burden of responsibility for Islamic terrorism lay at the feet of western civilisation, the "Crusades" and the "excesses of the 'war on terrors'.[32]

Moyes (then aged 70 years) claimed Nile (then aged 75 years) was too old and was too "committed to gaining money and status, and [...attacked...] any who disagree[d] with himself". According to Moyes, Nile was a pathetic figure who has never laughed, has no friends, is a workaholic, has no interests or hobbies, eats fast-food meals and when in Sydney attending Parliament, spends every night alone in a cheap motel in western Sydney.[33]

In February 2009, Nile wrote in his monthly newsletter that he regretted allowing Moyes to take his wife's place upon her retirement "because of his disloyalty and divisive actions and his frequent support of the Greens".[34] Moyes stated that the Greens were "far more Christian".[35][36]

Moyes also attacked the Christian Democratic Party itself, stating that the party was a cult,[37] a hypocritical, anti-Christian, anti-democratic dictatorship that adhered to the values of extremist fundamentalism.[38] Moyes claimed that the "end was nigh" for the party as there was a conspiracy to disband the party and form a new conservative Christian political party.[39] Moyes attempted to draw Nile's parliamentary staff into the conflict by making claims that they had intimidated and bullied his own.[40] Moyes ignored repeated warnings from the CDP management committee, claiming that they were dysfunctional:[38] calling the committee "sad, mad, senile and aggressively ambitious."[41] As a result, Moyes was expelled from the Christian Democratic Party in March 2009 by secret ballot of its members.[42][43] Moyes became an independent for several months before joining the Family First Party in 2009. Moyes failed in his attempt to be re-elected at the 2011 state election.

Paul Green

Paul Green was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council at the 2011 state election, aged 45 years at the time of this election.[44] He failed to be re-elected in the 2019 election.[45] This was the first NSW Legislative Council election that the party failed to get any candidates elected since its founding.

2019 Internal Party Coup

On the third of June 2019, Samraat Joshua Grewal announced that he had seized control of the Christian Democratic Party and removed the Party's Board following a vote of no confidence at a Party State Council which had passed unanimously after half the membership vacated the meeting. This included the Party's leader Rev Fred Nile, who is a longtime member of the New South Wales Parliament.[46] This was allegedly done in an attempt to reform the Party.[47][48] Subsequently, it was announced that he had established a Directional Committee, leaving the party with two competing Board of Directors[49] to investigate internal party breaches of Electoral Commission regulations.[50] In the following weeks, there were allegations made that the Party's State President Ross Clifford had been bullying party members and staff of Morling Theological College of which he is Principal.[51][52]

In the following weeks it was confirmed that the Party had been involved in high level breaches of Government Regulations. The Party's State Director Craig Hall said that 'The Party needed to change if it was to survive,' and that the Party's deficient Constitution was being changed by the orders of Government Regulators.[53] By August, it was announced that the Party would have a re-vote of the motion. At this time a former State Director of the Party, Greg Bondar commented that the re-vote would give the membership and opportunity to set a new direction for the Party and its leaders. Eternity news reported that the Coup by Samraat was partially instigated by succession issues, such as when Fred Nile allegedly reneged on a promise to hand over his parliamentary seat to Ross Clifford, Principal of the Baptist Morling College. Resulting in the party losing 80 branches in a year, including four interstate organisations.[54]

By the end of August 2019 the Party had concluded its re-vote of the no-confidence motion which was defeated. Criticisms were made about the secret ballot requiring names to be written on them. In addition, claims were made that the Party Executive moved a motion to prevent Samraat from addressing the membership. After the meeting an associate of Samraats claimed that the Party was a cult of personality and would not recover from the coup.[55]

In November of 2019, it was announced that the Party President Ross Clifford had resigned his position, confirming the mismanagement claims made by Samraat and other party members.[56]

Members of Parliament


New South Wales

  • Fred Nile MLC (1981–2004; 2004–present)
  • Jim Cameron MLC (1984)
  • Marie Bignold MLC (1984–88) - Bignold remained in Parliament until to end of her term in 1991.
  • Elaine Nile MLC (1988–2002)
  • Gordon Moyes MLC (2002–09) - Moyes was expelled from the party in 2009, but remained in Parliament as an independent before joining the Family First Party. Moyes failed in his attempt to be re-elected at the 2011 state election.
  • Paul Green MLC (2011–2019) - Green was not re-elected in 2019 when his term expired.

Electoral performance


Election Votes % Δ% Seats won Rank
1990 136,522 1.37 –0.09
0 / 76
1993 108,938 1.02 –0.35
0 / 76
1996 117,274 1.08 +0.06
0 / 76
1998 122,516 1.09 +0.01
0 / 76
2001 129,966 1.12 +0.03
0 / 76
2004 140,674 1.18 +0.06
0 / 76
2007 118,614 0.94 –0.24
0 / 76
2010 127,894 1.01 +0.07
0 / 76
2013 72,544 0.54 –0.47
0 / 76
2016 162,155 1.17 +0.63
0 / 76

NSW Legislative Council

Election Votes % Δ% Seats won +/– Rank
1981 248,425 9.11 +9.11
1 / 15
1 3rd
1984 175,068 6.09 –3.02
1 / 15
0 3rd
1988 174,553 5.74 –0.35
1 / 15
0 3rd
1991 114,648 3.58 –2.16
1 / 21
0 4th
1995 101,556 3.01 –0.57
1 / 21
0 5th
1999 112,699 3.17 +0.16
1 / 21
0 5th
2003 112,865 3.03 –0.14
1 / 21
0 4th
2007 168,545 4.42 +1.39
1 / 21
0 4th
2011 127,233 3.12 –1.30
1 / 21
0 5th
2015 126,305 2.93 –0.19
1 / 21
0 5th
2019 101,328 2.28 –0.65
0 / 21
1 6th

See also

Conservatism portal


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  • Fred Nile: Autobiography: Sydney: Strand Publishing: 2001: ISBN 1-876825-79-0
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