An outspoken opponent of marriage equality, homosexuality and abortion is one of the favourites for LNP preselection for the blue-ribbon federal seat of Groom on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
- David van Gend is among the frontrunners for LNP preselection in Groom
- He’s been endorsed by Senator Matt Canavan, columnist Miranda Devine and Sky News host Rowan Dean
- Acting LNP president Cynthia Hardy says “seven fine candidates” have been vetted
One of seven candidates will be chosen in a vote on Sunday for the electorate based around the city of Toowoomba following last month’s resignation of sitting MP John McVeigh.
The ABC understands local GP David van Gend, Toowoomba councillor Rebecca Vonhoff and former Wellcamp Airport manager Sara Hales are among the frontrunners.
LNP sources have said Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former cabinet minister and long-term Groom MP Ian Macfarlane are backing Cr Vonhoff.
Among those vouching for Dr van Gend are Senator Matt Canavan, conservative columnist Miranda Devine and Sky News host Rowan Dean.
The Toowoomba GP, who is president of the Australian Marriage Forum, is an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage, publishing a book in 2016 titled Stealing From A Child: The Injustice Of Marriage Equality.
“Australians are being asked to accept a breathtakingly subversive redefinition of marriage, parenting, family and gender, with consequences for core liberties and our children’s education, yet when we raise concerns we are called bigots,” it stated.
“In response, this book respectfully demolishes the edifice of error, injustice and moral coercion that is built around marriage equality.
“It is a manifesto in defence of society’s inviolable foundation — father, mother, child.”
In 2015, Dr van Gend’s medical practice was vandalised after he took out $20,000 worth of TV advertisements against marriage equality during Mardi Gras.
The words “Van Gend bigot”, along with an encircled A — a symbol for anarchists — were spray-painted on the side of the building in the following months.
Senator Canavan said he could not comment on the preselection but gave a glowing endorsement of Dr van Gend’s character.
“I can’t stand people who want to crucify others for comments taken out of context,” Senator Canavan said.
“It would be much better if we all tried to understand others rather than rush to judgment based on a small percentage of someone’s total contributions.”
As a regular contributor in far-right publication The Spectator, Dr van Gend has recently attacked the Black Lives Matter movement, describing it as “Marxist” and “demoralising slander of our culture”.
He has also disputed climate change, made anti-transgender comments and came under fire in 2017 for calling homosexuality “a disordered form of behaviour”.
His supporters, however, are steadfast.
“David van Gend is a compassionate Toowoomba GP and faithful Catholic,” Devine tweeted.
“He does not advocate gay conversion therapy. Such a lie.”
Acting LNP president Cynthia Hardy refused to be drawn on the matter.
“Members of our party generally select the right person to represent our seats and that’s what will happen,” she said.
“All the candidates have been vetted.
“We’ve got seven fine candidates and our membership — we’ve got nearly 600 members living in the Groom electorate — they’ll make their decision on Sunday, and any one of those seven would represent Groom very well.”
Dr van Gend declined to comment.
Bryce Camm, Garth Hamilton, Daniel Cassidy and Andrew Meara are also contesting the preselection.
A by-election for the seat will be held on November 28.
Labor is yet to announce its candidate.