Party of religious freedom finds Muslims an anathema


“We want to cut down the Islamic immigration; we don’t want it at all”: Rise Up candidate for Dunkley, Yvonne Gentle

Seat of Dunkley: Candidate Profile

Yvonne Gentle, the Rise Up Australia candidate for Dunkley, is campaigning on a nationalist agenda, advocating an overhaul of the taxation system and an end to Islamic immigration.

Rise Up Australia, founded in 2011, promotes itself on a platform including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It opposes multiculturalism but supports a “multi-ethnic state with one culture”.

Gentle describes the party as conservative, but disputes the right-wing label often applied to it, suggesting it has appeal across the political spectrum.

Certainly Rise Up Australia is not a small-government party. Many of its policies call for government intervention, like eliminating unemployment through employment subsidies and establishing a state-owned bank to assist Australian agriculture.

Despite the party’s commitment to freedom of religion, Rise Up Australia is vehemently anti-Islam. Gentle is unequivocal on the subject: “We want to cut down the Islamic immigration; we don’t want it at all.”

Party leader Daniel Nalliah has called Islam a “death cult” and denounced the religion at several Reclaim Australia rallies in 2015. These rallies were attended by various far-right groups, including the United Patriots Front.

Party stalwarts like Gentle navigate the contradiction between religious freedom and their anti-Islam stance by redefining the religion of Mohammed. “Islam’s not a religion,” said Gentle. “If you really look at what it is, it’s not a religion, it’s a governmental ideology.”

She is also passionate about Rise Up Australia’s tax policy. Understandably so – she wrote it. “I think the current tax system’s just terrible,” she says. “The average wage earner is paying for everything.”

Instead the party proposes to radically reshape Australia’s taxation system by removing all current imposts apart from import taxes, and some export taxes and tariffs.

It would replace them with a 2 per cent debit tax and a 5 per cent tax on goods and consumables.

Rise Up Australia’s tax system would be “fair and easy”, according to Gentle. “Everybody pays tax and it would bring in twice the amount of money than the Budget is bringing in at the moment.”

Rise Up Australia maintains its connection with Reformation Harvest Fire Ministries, formerly known as Catch the Fire Ministries, an evangelical Christian church founded by Daniel Nalliah.

The party was conceived in a meeting at the ministry in 2010, and today its office remains above the church.

But Gentle does not consider herself a devout Christian: “My belief is knowing that I do have a God, and that He’s real, that I can talk to Him, relate to Him and He can relate to me. But, as far as devout goes, I am serious but not religious.”

In between elections Gentle has been active in the party as a branch president and its Victorian State President. In 2016 she took on the paid role of Rise Up Australia’s national secretary, a job she describes as “maintaining the behind-the-scenes work of the party”.

Her running mate, Victorian Senate candidate Rosalie Crestani, is more candid about Gentle’s role in the party. “She is essential to its success. Of course, no one is indispensable but Yvonne comes close.”

Rise Up Australia is unlikely to win a seat this election; its Dunkley candidate received only 0.76 per cent of formal votes cast, and its Victorian Senate candidates only 0.29 per cent of total votes.

But Gentle remains optimistic: “I think a lot of people are going away from the major parties. People are looking for an alternative.”

She also knows that Dunkley is a marginal seat, which gives her supporters’ preferences more impact. Gentle is recommending they back the ruling Coalition, saying: “We believe that the current Government is the best for Australia. We would endeavour to support them .”

Brodie Everest is pursuing a Master of Journalism degree at the University of Melbourne.