Originally established as the “Call to Australia Party” in 1977, the party grew out of earlier organisations such as the Festival of Light, with which Nile has been associated for more than 30 years. 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 to date.
The Niles have built a small but stable electoral base among conservative Catholics and Protestants alike 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, but has lacked similar representation in its state parliament because its seats have higher election quotas.
The party concentrates almost exclusively on moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality and pornography. Recently it has made opposition to same-sex marriage a major part of its platform. The party is staunchly monarchist, on the grounds that Australia was founded on the British Judeo-Christian political and legal systems.
The Christian Democratic Party sees the policies of the major parties as an attack on their traditional views. Gordon Moyes 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 won no seats and contested subsequent elections separately.
The Christian Democratic Party has generally had two (sometimes three) sitting Members in the Legislative Council (MLCs) at any one time. Usually, these two individuals have been Fred Nile and one other MLC. The 1984 NSW election saw Nile joined by former Liberal politician, Jim Cameron. Cameron retired shortly after being elected, due to serious health problems, and was replaced by Marie Bignold. Fred’s wife Elaine Nile joined her husband and Bignold after achieving election to the LC at the 1988 NSW election. Bignold subsequently had a falling out with the Niles over her opposition to the Liberal Party stance on industrial relations, which the Niles supported. The restructuring of the Legislative Council in 1991 meant that Bignold’s MLC seat was abolished and she was forced to an early election, but she failed in her bid to seek reelection.
In the early 2000s, 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 who had defected to the CDP before being defeated. However, this fell through due to disagreements between the Niles and Bradford, and 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.
Nile made a bid for a NSW seat in the Australian Senate at the 2004 federal elections. He achieved 2.6% of the primary vote, but failed to win a seat. Another rival conservative party, Family First, won a seat in Victoria with 1.9% and a better preference deal.
During the New South Wales legislative election, 2007 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.” Nile and another CDP candidate Allan Lotfizadeh reported receiving death threats on account of this announcement. Fred Nile was re-elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council on March 24, 2007, achieving a vote of 4.4%. This was the highest vote for the CDP since 1988. Gordon Moyes’ seat is up for re-election in 2011.