Winding up order issued for Christian Democratic party

A winding-up order to dissolve Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party (CDP) has been issued by Justice Black of the NSW Supreme Court. The Party is not insolvent – the winding-up order that will cause the Party to no longer exist – because it cannot govern itself.

The Party has not had valid officeholders for several years, Justice Black finds. For example, Fred Nile is not the President of the Party, or Annie Wright the State Director – the Party failed to appoint them and previous officeholders properly.

This mess is due to the Party’s constitution, which is unworkable – a clause requiring officeholders to have a 75% approval vote from the Party’s State Council has been ignored for years.

Charles Robert Knox, a former party treasurer who started the litigation which has brought the Party down, has been vindicated in the court finding seeking Fred Nile and other officers do not hold their offices.

Receiver appointed for improper purpose says Judge

Justice Black notes that the Party’s receiver Schon Condon was appointed “for an improper purpose if it was directed to terminate the proceedings brought by Mr Knox in this court” but records “it is not necessary to determine that question”. That’s because his orders to wind up the Party quickly make it irrelevant.

In Black’s judgement, he is critical of the CDP using a receiver to attempt an election to resolve the Knox litigation. “The voluntary administration regime is directed to the position of an association that is insolvent or likely to become insolvent, and does not provide the means for controllers of an association to conduct annual meetings or elect new boards….”

A significant part of the dispute has revolved around which party branches are valid and which members can vote to elect branch delegates. Rather than a snap election, these disputes have dragged on since May 2021, with frequent, costly hearings before the NSW Supreme courts.

If the “Nile party” – the erstwhile party officials, Knox, and an intervenor in the dispute Graeme Collins – get their costs paid by the Party along with the receiver, the Party would have very little left. The receivership and litigation by the various factions will have used up all the Party’s resources.

Justice Black has concluded that the court can wind up the Party. But says he “will stay that order for a period to allow yet another opportunity for the parties to resolve their differences or at least agree on the basis on which a meeting of the association could be held to elect officers and resolve the ongoing dispute as to the identity of the electorate branches whose delegates could vote at an Annual State Council meeting.”

The judge makes it clear that “hostilities between the parties” and “a lack of apparent resolution of the internal disputes” support a winding-up order.

Eternity’s soundings concur with the judge’s assessments. The parties seem fixed in their view on which branches can vote – their disagreement persists.

The judge clarifies that unless they can agree on who can vote at a party meeting, there is no future for the Party.

The judge has stayed the winding-up order to March 29, at 4 pm. That’s the deadline to see if the CDP can survive.