George Robert Christensen (born 30 June 1978) is an Australian politician who has been a member of the House of Representatives since the 2010 federal election, representing the Division of Dawson. He is a member of the Liberal National Party of Queensland, and sits with the National Party in federal parliament. He is known for his social conservatism and for his criticism of Islam.
Christensen in 2017
|Chief Whip of the National Party|
30 August 2016 – 28 February 2017
|Preceded by||Mark Coulton|
|Succeeded by||Damian Drum|
|Deputy Whip of the National Party|
17 October 2013 – 30 August 2016
|Chief Whip||Mark Coulton|
|Preceded by||Paul Neville|
|Succeeded by||Michelle Landry|
|Member of the Australian Parliament|
|Assumed office |
21 August 2010
|Preceded by||James Bidgood|
George Robert Christensen
30 June 1978
Mackay, Queensland, Australia
|Political party||National (federal)|
Liberal National (state)
|Residence||Mackay, Queensland, Australia|
|Education||Mackay State High School|
|Alma mater||Central Queensland University (B.Comm. in Journalism)|
(Walkerston & Valley)
Early years and backgroundEdit
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. 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. 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.
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 chose not to pursue it. Later, in 2014, he converted to worship in the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
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. The business folded in 2013.
In 2004, Christensen was elected to Mackay City Council as a councillor, 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.
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. Christensen won the seat with a 5.02-point swing on a two-party-preferred vote with a margin of 2.43 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. 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.
Member for DawsonEdit
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. Previously, independent Phil Cleary and Liberal Jackie Kelly had 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
2013–2016: Second termEdit
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."
In the wake of the 2012 Sydney anti-Islam film protests in September, Christensen criticised 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." 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".
In March 2013, Christensen told media that he wanted to see the death penalty introduced for serious crimes including murder involving sexual assault. 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."
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.
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. 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".
In September 2014, Christensen called for a ban on the wearing of the burqa. 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. 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". 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. 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."
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." In November 2015, Christensen again called for the bringing back of the death penalty.
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.
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." On 16 March, 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. 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.
2016–present: Third termEdit
Christensen publicly encouraged Americans to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 US election. 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.
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". 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'.
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. 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.
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. 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.” Christensen later apologised to Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce for his resignation threat.
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?" 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."
On 20 September 2017, Christensen moved a motion to ban the burqa at the National Party's annual conference in Canberra. The motion was voted down 51 votes to 55, with Christensen saying he would continue to advocate for the policy.
Christensen has attracted criticism for being in the Philippines for more days than he was in Parliament House for two years in a row, taking 28 trips there over four years. The AFP investigated Christensen's travel there and cash transfers, finding no evidence of wrongdoing. Christensen has been criticised for using taxpayer funds for domestic flights which connect with his Manila flights for these visits, and has referred himself to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority to prove that this was within the rules.
Christensen was returned for a fourth term at the 2019 federal election, with a increased margin when there was a 11.43% swing towards him.
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