Talking to factions within the splintered Christian Democratic Party (CDP) yields a strong sense of unity around one key point. The party activists and officers are fed up with the party’s receiver and fear that the party’s funds have been largely eaten up by legal costs and the cost of a long receivership.
The receiver and two – or is it three? – factions were meant to be before the NSW Supreme Court this week, but the date was vacated. A hearing which will consider whether the party is solvent or whether the court should wind it up, is now scheduled for February 22, 23, and 24.
The series of disputes that threatened the party centred on previous board elections, which party branches should take part in a new election, and even what sort of election it should now come down to a solvency hearing. The CDP matter was transferred to the solvency list of the Supreme Court as the focus shifted late last year.
The party’s receiver, Schon Condon, says the party is solvent in an affidavit dated January 18. In a further submission to the court, dated Jan 22, he says the basis of this is “existing funds in the ‘operating accounts’ of the CDP, … of $276,486. And “a sum of $486, 307 … forming part of a ‘State Election account’.
The receiver states that his view that the party is solvent is based on the availability of the $486,307.
Eternity takes this to mean that the other money has been used up in the receivership costs and ongoing legal action.
As noted above, party activists and officers believe that most of the party’s funds have been used up in this way.
At this point, the origin of this money is significant – because it is a key part of the ongoing dispute. The money came from the NSW Electoral Commission as the CDP’s share of the public funding based on their vote in the 2019 NSW election.
Condon, the receiver, says that the Electoral Funding Act 2018 allows this money to be used for party purposes apart from campaigning. The Act allows for the Electoral Commission to impose conditions on the use of the money – but he notes in his submission they have not done this.
As Eternity understands it – key leaders of the factions that oppose the current board – agree.
When the “Nile group”, the current party board, sought to move the hearing from this week, one reason they gave the court was “they were seeking the input of the NSW Electoral Commissioner regarding the use of the accounts for non-electoral purposes.” According to notes from one of the lawyers present, they seek to have a different receiver appointed.
The Nile group remains optimistic that the party will retain its funds, tackle party renewal, and find a successor to Fred Nile. Lyle Shelton, the erstwhile endorsed replacement for Fred Nile until they fell out, continues to campaign vigorously.
Whether the party keeps its money – or if it has largely been used up in the receivership and legal costs – is critical as to whether the party comes out healthy.
If not, the two alternative outcomes are a party with much fewer funds or a party that the courts wind up.