A string of Liberal Party members — two of them on the run from the law — are allegedly behind a secretive, far-right “Christian” group created to influence “public policy” inline with an extreme sect of Catholicism.
A NSW parliamentary inquiry has tabled an explosive, 79-page dossier shedding light on the clandestine group — called the “NSW Reformers” — including its use of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and shock jock Alan Jones to recruit members.
The forensic document contains a high level of detail about the little-known group, which Christian Ellis, Jean-Claude Perrottet, and a handful of others in the “far-right” of the NSW Liberal Party allegedly used to stack branches across the state.
Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet, who is secretary of the NSW Young Liberals and brother of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, have been “missing” for several weeks and are currently evading the legal processes of the NSW upper house inquiry.
Ellis was in 2019 appointed a member of the NSW Liberal State Executive, the governing body of the NSW Liberal Party.
The inquiry has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars in a state-wide man hunt for the two men, in attempts to “serve” them and force them to appear and give evidence or be placed in jail.
Earlier this month, senior NSW Liberal Party figure Frits Mare gave sworn evidence to the NSW upper house inquiry that Jean-Claude Perrottet and Ellis had approached him in around 2019 seeking $50,000 for a “branch stack” operation.
Mare said he considered the approach inappropriate and did not give the men any money.
Christian Ellis is appointed president of the Australian Catholic Student Association in 2014. Source: The Catholic Leader
The highly-detailed dossier includes hard evidence about the operations of the secretive group and draws on information from a wide range of sources, including since deleted webpages recovered via web archive site Wayback Machine.
No source is given for the dossier, which was tabled in the NSW upper house inquiry by NSW ALP MP John Graham.
The dossier contains a deleted NSW Reformers webpage says the group was created in 2018 by Ellis to “reform this great state” of NSW, including by having hard-right policies around abortion “reflected in public policy”.
“On starting NSW Reformers, Christian’s intention was to see the NSW Reformers act as a voice within the Liberal Party to work as a united and coordinated Christian voice,” says the deleted webpage.
“For years, we have seen the slow erosion of (Christian) values, which has in turn effected the rights of everyday Australians in areas such as faith, life and speech.
“As such we seek to reform this this great state by adding a Christian voice to it,” it states.
“We seek to reform this this great state by adding a Christian voice to it” – NSW Reformers
The dossier sheds considerable light on the NSW Reformers, including how it has apparently managed to gain a stranglehold on much of the NSW Liberal Party while flying almost entirely under the radar of the broader public.
It reveals that Abbott and Jones were among “over 14 MPs, Ministers, elected officials and special guests” to have addressed NSW Reformer functions over several years.
“Over the years different event booking platforms have been used to manage and book events for the Reformers, such as Eventbrite, Events, and the Nation Builder platform,” the document says.
“Events have been hidden or deleted from platforms and many were privately advertised.
“As as result, it is difficult to obtain a full list of Reformer functions,” it says.
“Events have been hidden or deleted from platforms and many were privately advertised” – Dossier
It is alleged NSW Reformers used events on issues such as abortion to sign up members.
An advertisement for one of the events hosted by the NSW Reformers, part of the 79-page dossier. Source: NSW Parliament
The document details 11 of those events, most of them from late 2019 onwards.
Featured guests included MP Damien Tudehope; MP Tanya Davies; former Attorney-General Greg Smith SC; MP Kevin Connolly; MP Nat Smith; Dallas McInerny of Catholic Schools NSW; and Kieren Jackson, director of the NSW Australian Christian Lobby.
The 79-page dossier questions the extremely limited media coverage regarding the group.
“The NSW Reformers have attracted surprisingly little media attention given the high-profile nature of their key decision makers and their aggressive and coercive tactics,” the dossier states.
“Why would the media turn a blind eye to an operation that used tens of thousands of dollars from elected officials to mass recruit hundreds of members in every corner of NSW for the purpose of replacing or bullying elected officials?”
“The NSW Reformers have attracted surprisingly little media attention” – Dossier
The “most comprehensive coverage” of the Reformers was a Sydney Morning Herald article published over three years ago, in August 2019.
An article in The Guardian making reference to the NSW Reformers was published in January last year.
There appears to have been little to no other media coverage of the group.
The explosive 79-page dossier was tabled by the NSW upper house inquiry last Thursday, but has attracted relatively little media coverage.
According to the document, the NSW Reformers “reached every corner of NSW”.
“The NSW Reformers is an unincorporated group formed with the sole and express purpose of recruiting or stacking branches to the NSW Liberal Party with the goal of installing their own people into council and Parliament, and forcing incumbent councillors and MPs to work with them or face the threat of being replaced by a Reformer,” it states.
The dossier says the initial “three core operators” in the NSW Reformers were Ellis, Jean-Claude Perrottet and Robert Assaf, who formerly worked as an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and as Policy and Communications Officer at Catholic Schools NSW.
Dylan Whitelaw, “Secretary of the Mittagong branch of the NSW Liberals”, and Angus McCaffrey “who now works in the NSW Premier’s office”, also became key members of NSW Reformers, having been considered “up-and-coming talent of the NSW Liberal Party”, it states.
The “first statewide success” of the NSW Reformers “was at the Liberal Party’s State Executive AGM in 2019”.
“As they put their members into branches, they would take executive and delegates positions at that AGM,” the dossier states.
At the 2019 NSW Liberal Party AGM “core reformers” were appointed to six positions, with “a further 9 positions going to people that were influenced or supportive of the Reformers”.
“This was a remarkable feat for what was a select group within one part of what was the smallest faction of the Liberal Party,” it states.
2012 — Ellis starts working for NSW MP Dominic Perrottet
2014 — Ellis appointed President of Australian Catholic Student Association
2018 — Ellis creates NSW Reformers as a “united Christian voice within the Liberal Party”
2019— Around 2019 Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet allegedly seek $50,000 for “branch stack” operation
2019 — One NSW Reformer elected to NSW Liberal State Executive, three others elected to significant positions
2022 — Three NSW Reformers elected to NSW Liberal State Executive, five others elected to significant positions
December 2022 — Inquiry launched into Hills council stacking, NSW Reformers allegedly closely involved
February 2023 — Christian Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet go “missing”, sparking statewide manhunt
That result was “eclipsed” at the 2021 NSW Liberal Party AGM where eight “core reformers” and nine people “influenced by the reformers” were elected. (The 2021 NSW Liberal Party AGM was in fact held in late 2022).
“The success of the Reformers at the 2019 AGM would be eclipsed by their success at the (2021) AGM…where most importantly the Reformers now made up 50 per cent of the Right-Wing faction’s total State Executive members,” the dossier states.
NSW Premier Perrottet has repeatedly refused to comment about NSW Reformers and the actions of the group.
The dossier claims the “primary decision makers” of the NSW Reformers are Dominic Perrottet, his brother Charles Perrottet and MP Damien Tudehope.
“The primary decision makers of the NSW Reformers are an equally small body consisting of people who had known each other for year(s) through shared community, religion and schooling from the Opus Dei sect of Catholicism,” it says regarding the three men.
Tudehope quit as NSW Finance Minister, but remains an MP, earlier this month after it was revealed he held shares in major toll road operator Transurban.
The upper house inquiry has also been seeking Christian Perrottet to give evidence.
It had been attempting to legally “serve” Christian Perrottet for over a week when he wrote to the inquiry last week refusing to attend.
Christian Perrottet is based in Melbourne and the inquiry does not have the power to force people based out-of-state to attend.
The upper house inquiry was launched in December to investigate claims made by NSW Liberal MP Ray Williams last June .
Williams alleged in NSW Parliament that senior Liberal Party members were “paid significant funds” by a Sydney property developer, Jean Nassif, to get councillors elected to the Hills Shire Council to get developments approved.
Ahead of the December 2021 Hills Shire Council election, mayor Michelle Byrne and six other councillors — all Liberals — lost endorsement from the Liberal Party and were all replaced.
It is alleged the NSW Reformers played a key role in deciding who the replacement candidates would be.
At the 2019 NSW Liberal Party AGM, with the support of the NSW Reformers, Charles Perrottet was appointed Deputy Chair of the NSW Liberal Party’s Local Government Oversight Committee, the dossier states.
It was that committee that allegedly later put forward the names of the new Liberal candidates for the Hills Shire Council.
One of the successful replacement candidates was Virginia Ellis, Christian’s mother.
The NSW upper house inquiry has also been unsuccessfully seeking to “serve” Virginia Ellis, along with Christian Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet.
WE HAVE A SMALL FAVOUR TO ASK: We are entirely funded by you – our readers. Please SUBSCRIBEfor as little as $5 a month to help keep us afloat and delivering stories that you won’t see anywhere else. If you prefer to make a one-off contribution you can do so by CLICKING HERE. Thank you!
Editor The Klaxon
Help us get the truth out from as little as $10/month.
The need for fearless, independent media has never been greater. Journalism is on its knees – and the media landscape is riddled with vested interests. Please consider subscribing for as little as $10 a month to help us keep holding the powerful to account.