George Christensen (politician)

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George Christensen
MP
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Dawson
Assumed office
21 August 2010
Preceded by James Bidgood
Personal details
Born (1978-06-30) 30 June 1978 (age 38)
Mackay, Queensland
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal National (state)
National (federal)
Profession Journalist
Religion Antiochian Orthodox[1]
Website georgechristensen.com.au

George Robert Christensen (born 30 June 1978), an Australian federal politician, is a member of the Australian House of Representatives representing the seat of Dawson in Queensland for the Liberal National Party of Queensland, elected at the 2010 federal election.[2] He has frequently made statements critical of Islam and promoted the re-introduction of capital punishment.

Early years and background[edit]

Christensen was born in Mackay to third-generation cane farmers who originally emigrated from Denmark in 1901. Christensen was schooled in Andergrove, Walkerston and at Mackay State High before completing an undergraduate degree in journalism. He gained practical experience at a community newspaper, The Pioneer News, before founding a successful publishing business producing two other community newspapers, Walkerston & Valley Advertiser and Northern Beaches Advertiser.[3]

In 2004, Christensen was elected to Mackay City Council and in 2008 gained a seat on the amalgamated Mackay Regional Council. He had extensive community involvement and was a director of the Mackay Regional Housing Company and Vice-President of Mackay Regional Council for Social Development. He was the foundation chair of Walkerston Community Kindergarten Association and former chair of HACC Transport Mackay Inc.

Political career[edit]

Christensen ran as the LNP candidate for the seat of Dawson at the 2010 federal election. On 5 February 2010 the sitting member for Dawson, James Bidgood, announced that he would retire for health reasons after only one term.[4] Based on Australian Electoral Commission results as at close of the tally room count on 21 August 2010, Christensen was leading the two-party-preferred vote by 2.04 points.

Christensen gained national media attention during the election campaign for articles published by Christensen in the 1990s in The Student Advocate, a conservative university newsletter.[5] The newsletter articles contained slurs against Jews, gays and women. Although Christensen claimed that the articles had been taken out of context, he said he was sorry for publishing the comments.[6][7][8]

In the final result at the declaration of the poll, Christensen had achieved a 5.02-point swing on a two-party-preferred basis with a margin of 2.43 points.[2][9]

Member for Dawson[edit]

After the election it was revealed that Christensen failed to resign from his position on the Mackay Regional Council before the election, putting himself at risk of high court action which would not allow him to take office as the member for Dawson.[10][11] Previously, independent Phil Cleary and Liberal Jackie Kelly have been faced with a by-election after failing to resign from public service positions before winning their respective seats. Despite this, several constitutional law experts said it was unlikely any legal challenge against Christensen would be successful because the constitution ban on "officers of profit under the crown" being elected to federal parliament would most likely not apply to local government councillors.[12]

In July 2011, Christensen joined other Liberal National Party MPs in driving the entire Bruce Highway as part of a campaign to highlight problem areas on the road and to secure more funding for the Bruce Highway from the Commonwealth.[13] During the road trip, one of the vehicles in the convoy of MPs hit what Christensen described as a "crater of a pothole" resulting in a tyre blowout.[14]

In June 2011 Christensen drew criticism from fellow MPs for his manner of attack on Labor's shutdown of the live cattle trade to Indonesia. Christensen implied that Indonesia's religion (the dominant Islamic culture) is to blame for the torture of common cattle and that Australian farmers should not receive criticism for Indonesian mistreatment of live cattle exported to the nation.[15]

In September 2012 he accused the National Health and Medical Research Council of demonising the sugar industry due to their recommendation to minimise sugar intake. The strong defence of the sugar industry earned Christensen the title of "sugar plum fairy".[16]

Christensen launched a campaign in October 2012 to persuade the producers of science fiction television series Doctor Who to film the program in Australia in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its first screening on Australian television on 12 January 2015. Two Doctor Who stars have publicly supported Christensen's campaign.[17]

2013–2016: Second term[edit]

In the 2013 Federal Election, Christensen won a second term in office by defeating Labor candidate Bronwyn Taha, adding a further 5.15% to give him a margin of 7.6%.

In February 2013, Christensen was the only federal MP to attend a rally featuring controversial Dutch politician and anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders during his tour of Australia. Christensen said he supported Wilders' view that "people of dual citizenship who act in a way that is contrary to the values of this country and engage in extremist violence should have their citizenship stripped and be deported."[18]

In the wake of the 2012 Sydney anti-Islam film protests in September, Christensen launched a public attack on those taking part in the demonstration, saying those who broke the law, should "jump on the first plane and head back to where you come from because that stuff is just simply not on in this nation."[19] He also called for authorities to investigate the parents of a young boy who held up a sign which read "behead all those who insult the prophet" during the protests and said the child in question should be put in the care of "better people".[20]

In March 2013, Christensen told media that he wanted to see the death penalty introduced for serious crimes including murder involving sexual assault.[21] In May 2011, Christensen refused to back a motion condemning the death penalty and instead told federal parliament he supported the death penalty "for terrorists and for those found guilty of the most heinous of crimes – murder of a child, particularly those involving rape, murder of an elderly person or a person with disabilities, again particularly those involving rape."[22]

In May 2014, Christensen stated on Twitter that those criticising the 2014 federal budget should "do a tour of Asia & live like these locals", featuring a photo of an impoverished backstreet in a non-specified country.[23]

In July 2014, Christensen likened climate change to science fiction in a series of comments comparing contemporary statements about climate change to science fiction movie plotlines.[24] In September 2014, Christensen labeled Greenpeace and other environmentalists as terrorists, stating that they are "gutless green grubs" for opposing the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in his electorate. In a speech to Parliament, Christensen said that "the greatest terrorism threat in North Queensland, I'm sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement".[25]

In November 2014, Christensen claimed in an online opinion piece that Halal certification was "outrageous" and a "religious tax". He also claimed that it is "entirely feasible" to think some halal certifiers could be financing groups such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood.[26][27] In December 2014, Christensen drew criticism after making comments on Twitter labelling the "I'll Ride With You" online solidarity campaign following the Sydney Siege as a "typical lefty (campaign) that falsely portrays Aussies as thugs who endanger Muslims." In another tweet, Christensen went on to state: "As I suspected. The #illridewithyou campaign is proudly brought to us by another #hatingwhitey lefty activist".[28][29] The #illridewithyou hashtag was begun during the Sydney Siege, with thousands of people offering to accompany Muslim women on trains, buses, ferries and planes if they felt vulnerable travelling wearing hijabs and burqas.[30][31] It was inspired by claims about an incident on public transport at the time, which the originator of the claims later admitted she fabricated.[32]

In July 2015, Christensen suggested on his website that Australia should consider corporal punishment for drug traffickers, writing that "It's time to do things differently, and I suggest we take a look at how they address the problem in Singapore. Their use of corporal punishment seems to be a highly effective deterrent."[33][34] In November 2015, Christensen again called for the bringing back of the death penalty.[35]

On 19 July 2015, Christensen stated in a speech at a Reclaim Australia rally in Mackay that it was "foolishly naive to think that" Australia was not "at war with radical Islam".[36]

On 25 February 2016, Christensen renewed calls for the suspension of the Safe Schools Program, an anti-bullying program, with a speech saying elements of the program sounded "a lot like the grooming work that a sexual predator might undertake" .[37] On March 16, after receiving a briefing on a review of the Safe Schools program, Christensen and other conservative MPs declared the review a "stitch-up" with a narrow scope.[38] In a speech later that day, Christensen called for a parliamentary inquiry into the program, linking an alleged "paedophilia advocate" with the foundation of the Safe Schools program.[39]

2016–present: Third term[edit]

Christensen was returned for a third term with a reduced margin[40] in the 2 July 2016 federal election, after being the prime target of social media attention[41] and extensive campaigns against him and the Liberal National Party from the Australian Labor Party,[42][43] the Australian Greens, unions,[44] and political activist group, GetUp!.[45]

In February 2017, Cory Bernardi and George Christensen attracted criticism for speaking at the Q Society of Australia. The event received protests who called the event "racist".[46] Christensen resigned as the Nationals' Chief Whip, effective from 1 March 2017, reasoning being whip is untenable for 'the person that's supposed to be a standard bearer of discipline within the party to be out there talking against some of the Government policies as strenuously as I have been'.[47]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Knott, Matthew (2 December 2016). "Why it's time to take George Christensen seriously". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "The Nationals Parliamentary Team". Archived from the original on 26 August 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "George Christensen". Candidate for Dawson. Liberal National Party of Queensland. 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  4. ^ Walker, Jamie (5 February 2010). "Dawson MP James Bidgood quits for health reasons". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  5. ^ "Abbott defends candidate critical of Jews, gays, women". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Barry, Siobhan; Brown, Sigrid (11 August 2010). "Gay group accepts LNP aspirant's apology". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Welch, Dylan (10 August 2010). "Abbott dismisses candidate's anti-gay, anti-Semitic and anti-female views as 'colourful'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Anderson, John (4 September 2010). "Christensen ready for the challenge". The Townsville Bulletin (Townsville). News Ltd. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  9. ^ "House of Representatives Division First Preferences – Dawson". 2010 federal election. Australian Electoral Commission. 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Mayne, Stephen (30 August 2010). "The power of Wilkie". Crikey. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  11. ^ Mckean, Bruce (28 August 2010). "Mackay to elect replacement". The Daily Mercury (Mackay). APN News & Media. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  12. ^ Schwarten, Evan (26 August 2010). "Constitution OK with councillor MPs". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "MPs put highway to the test". The Daily Mercury (Mackay). APN News & Media. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bruce Hwy wreaks havoc on MP's car". The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton). APN News & Media. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Gordon, Michael and Willingham, Richard (22 June 2011). Blame religion for livestock torture: MP (The Age). Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  16. ^ Dunlevy, Sue (20 September 2012). "MP George Christensen says draft Australian Dietary Guidelines on sugar are misleading". The Herald Sun. News Limited. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  17. ^ Connelly, Claire (17 December 2012). "'Bring Doctor Who to the Whitsundays'". news.com.au. News Limited. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Tips and rumours". Crikey. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Cullen, Simon (18 September 2012). "Australian protesters face deportation if charged". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Ireland, Judith (17 September 2012). "MP suggests removing child protester from parents". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  21. ^ Scott, Steven (14 March 2013). "Mackay-based Nationals MP George Christiansen wants states to introduce death penalty by revoking international conventions". The Courier Mail. News Limited. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  22. ^ "MP refuses to condemn death penalty". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  23. ^ Cox, Lisa (22 May 2014). "Liberal MP George Christensen tells budget complainers to live like impoverished Asians for perspective". The Age. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 9 September 2014. 
  24. ^ Bourke, Latika (9 July 2014). "LNP backbencher George Christensen likens climate change to science fiction film plot". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  25. ^ Bourke, Latika (25 September 2014). "Nationals MP George Christensen calls Green activists 'terrorists'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "Halal products may be funding Islamist extremism, claims Nationals MP". Guardian Australia. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Christensen, George. "Terror in the Tucker Box?". Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  28. ^ "LNP MP George Christensen says #illridewithyou is a left-wing campaign after Sydney hostage drama". Courier Mail. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  29. ^ Bourke, Latika (18 December 2014). "President Obama praises #illridewithyou to Tony Abbott as Liberal MP slams 'hating whitey' campaign". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  30. ^ "Sydney cafe: Australians say to Muslims "I'll ride with you"". BBC News. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  31. ^ Ruppert, Brittany (14 December 2016). "Martin Place siege: #illridewithyou hashtag goes viral". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  32. ^ Ryan, Brighette (18 December 2014). "Backtrack over viral hashtag story". The Australia. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  33. ^ Christensen, George (10 July 2015). "Cane ice dealers". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  34. ^ Healy, Samanatha (11 July 2015). "Drug pusher caning urged". Townsville Bulletin. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  35. ^ "Death sentence for terrorists: Nats MP". 
  36. ^ Hair, Jonathan (19 July 2015). "Reclaim Australia: Federal MP George Christensen tells crowd Australia 'at war with radical Islam'". ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  37. ^ "Safe Schools Program: 25 Feb 2016: House debates (OpenAustralia.org)". www.openaustralia.org.au. Retrieved 2016-07-05. 
  38. ^ Owens, Jared (16 March 2016). "Safe Schools: Coalition MPs label review 'a joke', storm out of briefing". The Australian. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  39. ^ Keany, Francis (16 March 2016). "George Christensen links Safe Schools program to 'paedophilia advocate'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  40. ^ Smith, Emily (5 July 2016). "Seat losing safe reputation". Mackay Daily Mercury. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  41. ^ Hunt, Elle; Evershed, Nick (1 July 2016). "George Christensen the most abused MP on Twitter, election analysis shows". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  42. ^ Smith, Emily (29 June 2016). "George Christensen shrugs off "fat joke"". Mackay Daily Mercury. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  43. ^ Koziol, Michael (29 March 2016). "Election 2016: Labor has George Christensen and Peter Dutton in its sights". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  44. ^ Smith, Emily (17 June 2016). "WATCH: Union roars job loss disapproval on MP's doorstep". Mackay Daily Mercury. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  45. ^ Wallace, Rick (6 July 2016). "Federal election 2016: GetUp! army spurs call for conservative foil". The Australian. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  46. ^ "Push and shove as protesters disrupt secretive Q Society meeting". ABC News. 10 February 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  47. ^ "Queensland LNP MP George Christensen quits as Nationals chief whip". ABC News. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
James Bidgood
Member for Dawson
2010–present
Incumbent