Every left-winger’s favourite religious right politician, Gordon Moyes MLC, looks set to finally break his ties with Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, with Nile moving to expel Moyes after a recent falling-out between the two.
Moyes joined the Legislative Council in 2002 when Fred Nile’s wife Elaine retired, and Moyes was re-elected in 2003. He faces election in March 2011, while Nile’s current term finishes in March 2015.
The two fell out over the last few months, with Moyes challenging Nile’s focus on anti-gay and anti-muslim policies as the central agenda of the Christian Democratic Party. It appears that the two have been functioning as independent MLCs for months now, with the two trading insults a few months back. It appears now that the division has been cemented, with Moyes moving towards joining Family First, in a move that could destroy Nile’s own CDP.
Nile, with his new allies led by Michael Darby, a former Liberal right-winger who lost preselection for the state seat of Manly in 2006 before defecting to the CDP, appears to have purged the party of all those loyal to Moyes, in a process that makes a joke of the concept that the party is anything other than the personal vanity project of Fred Nile. In an article quoted on Moyes’ website, Alex Mitchell covered the purging:
Although from the same party, Nile and Moyes are miles apart politically. Nile resigned from the Uniting Church in 2003 over the ordination of gays while Moyes has taken a leading role in advocating a more inclusive Christian agenda for gays and support for people with HIV/Aids. Nile has campaigned against Muslim immigration and for a ban on the chador (headscarf) worn by Muslim women while Moyes has supported inter-faith understanding, particularly between Christians and Muslims.
The conference also dumped party secretary Ken Gregory, a party stalwart of 15 years’ standing, and state treasurer Arie Baalbergen who served in the trenches of Christian politics for 20 years. Another casualty was executive member John Phillips who had supported three office workers who made complaints about workplace harassment inflicted by a senior party official (not Nile). In the bloodletting, the CDP has also lost state director Phil Lamb and office manager Ben Carpentier, both veterans of federal, state and local election campaigns.
Nile’s leading lieutenant, Michael Darby, the hard right-wing maverick who was expelled from the NSW Liberal Party last year. Prior to the March 2007 state election, Darby was defeated by Michael Baird for Liberal pre-selection for the seat of Manly. After the loss, Darby went off in a huff and spent the campaign supporting Nile whose main platform was imposing a 10-year ban on Muslim immigration to Australia. Darby is the son of the late Douglas Darby, Manly MP for 31 years (1947-78), and a former researcher for right-wing rabble rouser and radio ham Alan Jones.
The dispute reached a head last weekend when Moyes was expelled from the party in a process that makes a joke of any democracy in Fred Nile’s world (or in his head):
…an appeal after expulsion of a member who was never informed of the expulsion being discussed, never invited to speak in his own defence, and who was never counselled concerning the event by his leader, does not negate the original denial of natural justice nor the way it was communicated to me.
For Rev Fred Nile announced in a newspaper report I had been expelled from the party by the management Committee is an example of appalling manners and declining personal relationships.
Moyes has published a long speech outlining all of his criticisms of Nile’s process and strategy:
I was expelled not because of any moral, sexual, financial or any other kind of unacceptable Christian behaviour but because I have some different views to the leader and believe the Management committee to be dysfunctional.
Fred Nile already rejects the views of all Church Councils, denominational leaders of all major denominations if they do not fit in with his own extremist fundamentalism. This means our Party and leadership are not seen by many as Christian. The public in general see us as moralists but not Christian. There are many criticisms, even by Christian Parliamentarians, that the CDP is not Christian and does not operate in our public statements as a party of God’s grace.
Nile has called on Moyes to resign in favour of Ross Clifford, who has previously run as Nile’s #2 candidate. Although it appears that Nile plans to replace Clifford with Darby from the 2011 election:
Ross Clifford whom Fred has announced should replace me, told me, that if I resign, he would accept my seat, but he would never contest an election! Ross has been named as our next candidate. Has Ross agreed to that? Has Ross agreed, as the constitution requires, that every candidate agrees on every policy with the CDP President? Do the Morling College staff, Morling College Board and the Baptist Union of Australia know that?
The Liberals have told me they will never be doubled crossed by Fred again, and they want me to stand and will give me the Liberal preferences. In the new parliament, probably the Liberals will be one short of an absolute majority. They will not ask a Green to support them, nor the two Shooters who have opposed them, nor Fred who sold out to Labor. So they want me to stand, to win, and then to join with them as the majority in the Legislative Council.
So what does this mean for the state of play in the Legislative Council? It appears that Moyes is flirting with joining Family First. Moyes says:
Or I may accept an invitation from Family First, if it is extended, to be their man in New South Wales Parliament for the next two years. I would then lead their ticket in the next election.
I will not resign, but if expelled I will feel free from any sense of obligation to the CDP. I could then be willing to be the Member for the Family First in the Legislative Council and then, if I get elected as a FF candidate at the next election, I would stay only about two years, and then hand over to a younger FF candidate ensuring the seat will remain in the Family First Party.
I will never come back to the CDP. There is no requirement that any sitting member should hand back the seat to the original Party if that member decided to change parties.
The ABC quotes Family First’s national president, Bob Day, saying:
The Family First national president, Bob Day, has confirmed that he has been approached by the MP.
“We haven’t received any formal application from Gordon at this stage. We’ve had an initial chat but that’s all,” he said.
Mr Day says any application would have to be vetted by the Party’s federal executive.
If the next election sees the right-wing minor party vote split between Moyes standing for Family First, Darby standing for the CDP and Roy Smith standing for re-election for the Shooters, it looks like the CDP could fail to win a seat for the first time in decades. The Shooters have proven to be the best organised, and the CDP is bound to be damaged by the splitting of its support base and the ugly internal battle. It would appear likely that Family First would finally make a breakthrough in New South Wales, where the presence of the CDP has always hindered their presence, and it will make the party one step closer to being a truly national party. New South Wales, Australia’s largest state, has always been Family First’s biggest weakness.
If Moyes manages to align himself with Family First, we could see the party strengthened again to be the clearly dominant conservative minor party in Australia, and a challenge to Nile’s own re-election in 2015.