George Christensen (politician)

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George Christensen
MP
Chief Whip of the National Party
In office
30 August 2016 – 28 February 2017
Deputy Michelle Landry
Preceded by Mark Coulton
Succeeded by Damian Drum
Deputy Whip of the National Party
In office
17 October 2013 – 30 August 2016
Chief Whip Mark Coulton
Preceded by Paul Neville
Succeeded by Michelle Landry
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Dawson
Assumed office
21 August 2010
Preceded by James Bidgood
Personal details
Born George Robert Christensen
(1978-06-30) 30 June 1978 (age 39)
Mackay, Queensland, Australia
Political party National (federal)
Liberal National (state)
Other political
affiliations
Coalition
Residence Mackay, Queensland, Australia
Education Mackay State High School
Alma mater Central Queensland University (B.Comm. in Journalism)
Occupation Newspaper publishing
company executive
(Walkerston & Valley)
Profession Journalist
Politician
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. He is the eldest son to two disability pensioners. He joined the Young Nationals at the age of 15.[3] Christensen was schooled in Andergrove, Walkerston and at Mackay State High before completing an undergraduate communications degree in journalism at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton in 2000.[4] As a university student, Christensen was editor of The Student Advocate, a conservative university newsletter, and spent six months work experience at a community newspaper, The Pioneer News.[5][6]

When he was 21 years old, Christensen briefly attended a seminary in Melbourne with the intention to become a Catholic priest. However, when his father "pointedly objected," Christensen gave it up. Later, in 2014, he converted to worship in the Antiochian Orthodox Church.[4][7]

From 2001-2004 Christensen worked as an electorate officer and press secretary for federal Nationals MP De-Anne Kelly.[3][5]

In 2005 Christensen founded a publishing business with Nicole Ratliff, his girlfriend of the time, to produce two community newspapers Walkerston & Valley Advertiser and Northern Beaches Advertiser.[8][5] The business folded in 2013.[9]

Political career (local council)[edit]

In 2004, Christensen was elected to Mackay City Council as a councillor,[5] and in 2008 gained a seat on the amalgamated Mackay Regional Council. He 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 (federal)[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.[10] Christensen won the seat with a 5.02-point swing on a two-party-preferred vote with a margin of 2.43 points.[2][11]

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.[12] 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.[13][14][15]

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.[16][17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

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".[22]

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.[23]

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."[24]

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."[25] 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".[26]

In March 2013, Christensen told media that he wanted to see the death penalty introduced for serious crimes including murder involving sexual assault.[27] 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."[28]

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.[29]

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.[30] 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".[31]

In September 2014, Christensen called for a ban on the wearing of the burqa.[32][33] 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.[34][35] 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".[36][37] 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.[38][39] It was inspired by claims about an incident on public transport at the time, which the originator of the claims later confessed on Facebook that she had "editorialised."[40]

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."[41][42] In November 2015, Christensen again called for the bringing back of the death penalty.[43]

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".[44]

In February 2016, Christensen announced the launch of a new website, authorised by his office, to "fight the war on radical Islam." He called for writers and researchers to help him, without pay. As of July 2017 the website appears reads "Website coming soon" with a masthead depicting a sword, and crosshairs over a person holding a gun.[45][46]

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."[47] 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.[48] 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.[49]

2016–present: Third term[edit]

Christensen was returned for a third term in the 2 July 2016 federal election, with a reduced margin when there was a 4.51% swing against him towards the Labor Party candidate Frank Gilbert.[50]

Christensen publicly encouraged Americans to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 US elections, "Days before the election, Christensen issued a plea on Facebook for Americans to "do the rest of the free world a favour" and vote for Trump.[4]

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".[51] Christensen resigned as the Nationals' Chief Whip, effective from 1 March 2017, reasoning that 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'.[52]

A poll conducted by ReachTel in February 2017 revealed that, given the opportunity, Dawson constituents were equally likely to vote for One Nation as they were for the LNP - taking 30% versus 30.4% of first preference votes.[53] One Nation has not run a candidate in the division of Dawson since Christensen won the seat, however, Christensen voiced his concern in 2016 that he would quite possibly lose his seat if One Nation placed a candidate against him. Christensen voted for One Nation in the 1998 Queensland election.[4]

Christensen repeatedly threatened to resign from the LNP, and in February 2017 wrote a "letter of demand" to the Prime Minister in relation to inaction by the Federal Government to resolve a sugar industry dispute affecting his electorate.[54] His father Ian Christensen wrote on social media "My Dad and George’s Grandad, Tony Christensen, farmed the land (and) grew sugarcane for many decades ... If (Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull and the others in Cabinet think this is (an) idle threat from George I suggest they have a quick rethink and come down on the Aussie farmers’ side.”[55] Christensen later apologised to Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce for his resignation threat.[56]

In 2017, Christensen's trip to Malaysia as a "medical tourist" for stomach reduction surgery led to criticism from the Australian Medical Association, "We have a world-class system here in Australia. Why would anyone, much less a federal MP, go overseas to have a procedure they can safely have here? Isn't it the government's job to support our own health system?"[57] While some doctors spoke of Christensen's bravery in speaking publicly about his struggle with weight, there was criticism about the Federal Government's failure to appreciate the "gravity of obesity as a public health problem and commit to meaningful policy and action." Christensen is a vocal supporter of the sugar industry and has rejected policies such as a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages aimed to reduce obesity. In noting a link between low-incomes and obesity, doctors stressed the importance of improving the public health system: "Unfortunately, a lot of our population are not in a position to seek measures like weight loss surgery because they simply can’t afford it and our public hospitals are not providing it in anywhere near the numbers required."[58]

It was noted in the media that Christensen chose to have his surgery in an Islamic country despite previously aligning himself with anti-Islamic causes.[59]

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. ^ a b "ABOUT GEORGE | GEORGE CHRISTENSEN". www.georgechristensen.com.au. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  4. ^ a b c d Knott, Matthew (2016-12-02). "Why it's time to take George Christensen seriously". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  5. ^ a b c d "By George! The controversies of an Australian government MP". Topics. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  6. ^ "George Christensen". LinkedIn. 
  7. ^ Robertson, Joshua (2016-09-25). "George Christensen on poverty, priesthood and a flirtation with One Nation". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  8. ^ "George Christensen". Candidate for Dawson. Liberal National Party of Queensland. 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "Community publication shuts doors". Mackay Daily Mercury. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  10. ^ Walker, Jamie (5 February 2010). "Dawson MP James Bidgood quits for health reasons". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  11. ^ "House of Representatives Division First Preferences – Dawson". 2010 federal election. Australian Electoral Commission. 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  12. ^ "Abbott defends candidate critical of Jews, gays, women". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  13. ^ Barry, Siobhan; Brown, Sigrid (11 August 2010). "Gay group accepts LNP aspirant's apology". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Anderson, John (4 September 2010). "Christensen ready for the challenge". The Townsville Bulletin (Townsville). News Ltd. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  16. ^ Mayne, Stephen (30 August 2010). "The power of Wilkie". Crikey. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  17. ^ Mckean, Bruce (28 August 2010). "Mackay to elect replacement". The Daily Mercury (Mackay). APN News & Media. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  18. ^ Schwarten, Evan (26 August 2010). "Constitution OK with councillor MPs". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  19. ^ "MPs put highway to the test". The Daily Mercury (Mackay). APN News & Media. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Bruce Hwy wreaks havoc on MP's car". The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton). APN News & Media. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  21. ^ Gordon, Michael and Willingham, Richard (22 June 2011). Blame religion for livestock torture: MP (The Age). Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Connelly, Claire (17 December 2012). "'Bring Doctor Who to the Whitsundays'". news.com.au. News Limited. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "Tips and rumours". Crikey. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  25. ^ Cullen, Simon (18 September 2012). "Australian protesters face deportation if charged". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  26. ^ Ireland, Judith (17 September 2012). "MP suggests removing child protester from parents". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ "MP refuses to condemn death penalty". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ 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. 
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ "Liberal backbencher backs Lambie's call to ban burka". ABC News. 2014-09-23. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  33. ^ Aston, Heath; Bourke, Latika (2014-09-23). "Coalition splits on Muslim relations as National MP George Christensen adds voice to calls for burqa ban". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  34. ^ "Halal products may be funding Islamist extremism, claims Nationals MP". Guardian Australia. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  35. ^ Christensen, George. "Terror in the Tucker Box?". Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  36. ^ "LNP MP George Christensen says #illridewithyou is a left-wing campaign after Sydney hostage drama". Courier Mail. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ "Sydney cafe: Australians say to Muslims "I'll ride with you"". BBC News. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  39. ^ Ruppert, Brittany (14 December 2016). "Martin Place siege: #illridewithyou hashtag goes viral". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  40. ^ Ryan, Brighette (18 December 2014). "Backtrack over viral hashtag story". The Australia. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  41. ^ Christensen, George (10 July 2015). "Cane ice dealers". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  42. ^ Healy, Samanatha (11 July 2015). "Drug pusher caning urged". Townsville Bulletin. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  43. ^ "Death sentence for terrorists: Nats MP". 
  44. ^ 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. 
  45. ^ Butler, Josh (2016-02-23). "Government MP George Christensen Declares 'War On Radical Islam'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-07. 
  46. ^ Safi, Michael (2016-02-22). "George Christensen seeks contributors to new 'war on radical Islam' website". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-07. 
  47. ^ "Safe Schools Program: 25 Feb 2016: House debates (OpenAustralia.org)". www.openaustralia.org.au. Retrieved 2016-07-05. 
  48. ^ Owens, Jared (16 March 2016). "Safe Schools: Coalition MPs label review ‘a joke’, storm out of briefing". The Australian. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  49. ^ Keany, Francis (16 March 2016). "George Christensen links Safe Schools program to 'paedophilia advocate'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  50. ^ Smith, Emily (5 July 2016). "Seat losing safe reputation". Mackay Daily Mercury. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  51. ^ "Push and shove as protesters disrupt secretive Q Society meeting". ABC News. 10 February 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  52. ^ "Queensland LNP MP George Christensen quits as Nationals chief whip". ABC News. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  53. ^ "One Nation threatens LNP amid calls for conservative Coalition". ABC News. 2017-02-27. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  54. ^ "Controversial Christensen reportedly contemplating resignation". ABC News. 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2017-06-07. 
  55. ^ Killoran, Mathew (Feb 13, 2017). "Father of rebel MP George Christensen says his son would leave LNP if sugar dispute not resolved". www.couriermail.com.au. Retrieved 2017-06-07. 
  56. ^ Connors, Matthew (February 20, 2017). "George Christensen apologises to Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and says he plans to stick with Coalition". www.couriermail.com.au. Retrieved 2017-06-07. 
  57. ^ "George Christensen's Asian lapband draws ire of AMA .. and electorate". Financial Review. 2017-05-03. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  58. ^ "Good on you, George. Now help others". 2017-05-05. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  59. ^ "'Anti-halal' Australian MP sought weight loss surgery in Muslim-majority Malaysia". asiancorrespondent.com. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 

External links[edit]

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