I was invited to speak on Vision Radio about the future of the Christian Democratic Party.
Interview with Neil Johnson, Vision Christian Radio
Transcript 15 December 2021
Neil Johnson: Well, there have been some very testing things that have happened this past year and some focus today on what looked like a positive development in the Christian Democratic Party in New South Wales and somehow went pear shaped. We might be optimistic that all is not lost but a court battle threatens the viability of the Christian Democratic Party. You might recall there was a move to parachute in Lyle Shelton to the Upper House seat held by the Reverend Fred Nile. He's held that seat for the past 40 years. Well, there's been a battle that's been going on between factions who appear to be seeking control of the party. Let's get some insights into developments. Lyle Shelton remains Director of Campaigns and Communication for the Christian Democratic Party and is holding out hope for resolution in the CDP, in the hope that it can be revived as a significant political force. He's joining us for his perceptions. Lyle, welcome back to 2020.
Lyle Shelton: Thanks very much, Neil.
Neil Johnson: Lyle, I guess it's never comfortable when you're sort of airing some of the laundry that's been happening, but there's been some court appearances and issues around solvency and some factional battles and such things that have been going on. What can you give us as an update?
Lyle Shelton: Yeah, look, this has been obviously a really bad period for the Christian Democratic Party, which has done so much good work over forty years in the New South Wales Parliament, and has had a presence in other parts of the country in terms of campaigning But sadly Neil and it's, it's disappointing that this even happens in Christian organisations amongst believers, but there are a couple of factions, interest groups within the party, both predate my joining the party in April/May, of this year, but their long-running dispute, which as I say pre-dates me, and I'm not part of either faction, but they've been fighting in court for a very long time. They've continued their litigation. The party was placed in a receivership, not because the party was insolvent, but it would be if they kept fighting in the courts. And the receiver was trying to hold an election to elect a new board so that a new footing for the governance of the party could be established, but sadly litigation has again, broken out, and the two, both of these two factions have gone to court to try and I guess, have the court determine a way for that vote to occur. But what that's done is delayed the ability of the party to then get out of receivership and to have a new board elected. And sadly, this is going to continue into the new year. And really the costs are mounting. And now you've got a judge starting to ask questions about whether the party will be solvent and viable going forward.
Neil Johnson: And there's been another court session this week, dealing with this. Any thoughts about what's the step that goes beyond here?
Lyle Shelton: Well, it does come down to this question of solvency. And as I said earlier you know, there's no doubt in my mind, prior to this recent outbreak of litigation that occurred in November when the party was on a pathway to getting out of it, the receiver had a plan in my view, that was a good plan others disagreed, but these two factions both went to court and now this week, Justice Black in the New South Wales Supreme Court has said he wants to have a hearing in February to determine whether or not the party can exist into the future. And really that is because of the ongoing litigation. Unfortunately that has brought it to this point. As I say, I think the party could easily have been out of receivership by now had another course of action been taken. That's my view. Others will disagree. But sadly it's spilling into next year because these two factions can't agree on the rules for the board election. It's a complicated sort of process, but it's a question over what branches are eligible to send delegates to an AGM to elect a new board. And these two factions can't agree on what are the valid branches and that's come to an impasse in the courts which has dragged on. And now that's led to questions about the party's solvency. Now I think, you know, as you said in your introduction, there's a glimmer of hope. That's why I've been hanging on. The receiver has kept all staff employed during this period because it's been his view that these are decisions that should be made by the new board. And you know, that's, his words, he's said that in open court. That's all quite public. And so as a result of that, I've remained employed. And I have put my hand up to lead the party if that's what the members of the party would like. But it's certainly in a terrible state, and if it is to come out, this current mess, and there's no way to gild the lily, it's a mess, then it's gonna take quite a rebuild. But I do think it's possible. I do hold out some hope, but we'll just have to see how this next hearing in February goes before yet another judge, Justice William. It's been listed before the New South Wales Supreme Court, on about the tenth of February.
Neil Johnson: Of course when there is a huge mess, a fresh new start, maybe the best way to move forward, but to do that, there's a court battle to be fought in the interim. But bitter disputes, as we, as Christians know, Lyle sometimes these happen and you just find yourself in the middle of one right now, not of your making. I imagine for you Lyle, this has been a real roller coaster this year because things looked very, very positive middle of the year and began to deteriorate when some of these disputes began to emerge.
Lyle Shelton: Yeah, that's right. I was very privileged to be approached out of the blue by Reverend Fred Nile in about March of this year. And he was, he said he wanted to retire from the parliament. He wanted to see the CDP continuing to the future. And he invited me to replace him in the New South Wales Parliament, as routinely occurs when Upper House members retire, the party can select a replacement to serve out their term. And also he wanted me to lead the CDP into the future. And I moved down here in May, and started working for the party ahead of the transition and saw terrific enthusiasm that we had a wonderful response from Christians who really showed that they supported the CDP. They want a Christian voice in parliament. They want strong Christian voices, not just in New South Wales, but nationally. And the CDP was well-placed to do that. And so we saw an upsurge in in support an upsurge in donations and a great wave of enthusiasm. But then things as you said, went in a different directions about midyear and Reverend Nile changed his mind , for reasons I'm not totally sure, I haven't been allowed to meet with him, and that's a source of grief to myself and my wife. It's very perplexing. And in the midst of all that you overlay that with the factional fighting and it's just been quite a very disappointing grievous period. But look we're very much trusting God. And it has been a long process. It's tested our endurance, but we've just felt to hang in there just to see whether or not something might be resurrected. And that will take a miracle. And now, now it's dragging into the new year. So, you know, there's a lot to think about and pray about over the Christmas break as to whether this is going to be sustainable long-term. But as you said, you know, I think there is potentially a glimmer, and I'm certainly open to continuing to hang in, to see whether there's an opportunity to you know, if the members of the party would like, and, you know, it's a democratic party, they would have to support someone like myself, if they would like me to be part of a leadership going forward. Well, I'm certainly open and available to that, but we've got to get through the ongoing legal wrangling to get clear air.
Neil Johnson: There's battles on so many dimensions, and short of a miracle listeners will appreciate that the CDP won't have the same sort of voice as it would have without this dispute when it comes to a federal election. So, certainly there is a prayer point, people to be on their knees and for an adequate resolution, not only adequate, but a resolution that can see the CDP, go to whole new levels. No doubt it's something that happens in your prayer time too, Lyle, the expectation that God's going to do something amazing?
Lyle Shelton: Yeah, very much so. And I've been incredibly blessed to have some terrific people who have been praying for me and with me and my wife and really praying for this whole situation. There's even a friend who rings me at five o'clock every morning. He just really felt God had called him to stand with me in this battle. And so we've been praying every morning at 5 over the phone for the last several months. We're really asking God for a miracle and we'd certainly be grateful for the prayers for all your listeners, because I've got no doubt that now more than ever, we need Christian voices in our parliaments. And it's great to have advocacy groups like ACL and others, absolutely essential and necessary, but I think the missing or important, it hasn't been completely missing, but a part of the battlefield that needs extra work is this issue of putting Christians into parliament through the mechanism of a Christian political party. And of course the CDP has done that and has the track record, but of course you know, it's been on the decline in recent years. But there's an opportunity for it to be revived. And there's no doubt in my mind, I've seen the evidence that the Christian community is keen to support such a vehicle. And that, that was certainly evidenced by the wave of support that I experienced when Reverend Fred Nile announced his succession plan. So I've got no doubt, if we can get through these current difficulties that this is something which is desperately needed in our current political environment. And I'd love to see it be given the clear air it needs to do that. The federal election's probably going to be difficult now because of the timing. But it just means that it's really important that we are able to focus on retaining the CDP seat in the New South Wales Parliament. Perhaps contesting, some other state elections around the nation, as well as they come due.
Neil Johnson: Well, when we talk insolvency, that means the expenses, the liabilities of the party would be outweighing, the revenues and the assets of the party and none of the listeners, undoubtedly we'll be wanting to see insolvency happen because that technically could spell the end of the Christian Democratic Party. But we'll need to have a miracle here and your encouragement, Lyle for listeners to be on their knees and to be prayerful about how this might be resolved and how they might be a relaunch of something that is a positive influence in Australian political culture. Certainly, as you say, with the runs on the board, forty years of Reverend Fred Nile in that Upper House seat in New South Wales, who has a tremendous reputation, there are all sorts of things that need to be resolved as those factions are battling in the courts. Hope we can keep up to date and bring some updates as we come into the new year, but Lyle Shelton, if I point listeners to your blog site, Lyle Shelton, for ways they can keep up with the developments that are happening with the CDP. Let me give lyleshelton.com.au. And before it can be all sorts of new things and positive moves for the future some issues have to be resolved. Lyle Shelton, thank you so much for your update today on 20Twenty.
Lyle Shelton: Thanks very much, Neil.