Father Dave Smith, the Inner West priest turned professional boxer, has thrown his hat in the ring for federal parliament as the United Australia Party’s (UAP) representative for Grayndler.
Father Smith, also known as the ‘Fighting Father’, is a man of many vocations: he’s a boxer, served as parish priest in Dulwich Hill for 30 years, ran a community boxing gym, authored two books (one titled ‘Christians and Muslims can be friends’), and has spent many years advocating for social justice, disadvantaged youth, refugees, and inter-faith harmony.
Father Smith recently announced his candidacy for the blue ribbon Labor seat of Grayndler as part of the UAP, which has gathered a reputation for its controversial messaging on COVID-19, climate change and the economy.
When asked why he chose to align himself with the UAP, Father Smith told City Hub that it was an “extension” of his advocacy and social justice work.
“I’ve spent my life working with people on the edge. Over the last couple of years with the lockdowns, I’ve seen a lot of people who were on the edge get pushed over the edge – we lost a lot of good people,” he said.
“I really felt like I needed to be a voice for some of those people we’ve lost, and some of those people that have been damaged, so I put my hand up. I heard Craig Kelly speaking out for those people in a way nobody else was, so I put my hand up to represent him in the election. The UAP was looking for candidates, and I was really keen to support what they were doing, as a voice for the voiceless.”
UAP Leader Craig Kelly ‘attracted me to the party’: Father Smith
UAP leader Craig Kelly. Photo: UAP.
The UAP has no climate policy and has not made any proposals to target climate change or research. The party also supports the coal mining industry as a national export, despite its implications for the climate.
“I’m not suggesting that every policy that the party has devised I’m necessarily on board with – what attracted me to the party was Craig Kelly, and the way he was advocating for people I’d seen damaged through government policies,” Father Smith said, when asked about his decision to align himself with a party that has no identifiable climate policy.
“It’s a global issue, not just a local issue. Climate issues need to be addressed more broadly, not by this country alone making a token effort.”
Father Smith also stirred controversy when he challenged Grayndler rival and Labor leader Anthony Albanese to a ‘trial by combat’ on social media, urging Albanese to “sort it out with [him] in the boxing ring rather than the ballot box”.
“Anthony’s an old friend of mine, I’ve got nothing but respect for him – it was a bit tongue in cheek, I just think the party’s on the wrong track,” Father Smith laughed, assuring that the post was in jest and that the two candidates don’t actually have any bad blood between them.
“In days and years past, I’ve suggested I should train him, and that it would be good for him physically and spiritually,” Father Smith said of his long-standing relationship with Albanese.
Labor Party going down ‘the wrong track’
Labor leader Anthony Albanese (pictured) has been the member for Grayndler since 1996. Photo: Facebook.
Father Smith said that he had previously been a Labor member, but had become disillusioned after the party went down “the wrong track”.
“I get the feeling that the Labor and Liberal party are two sides of the same coin now,” he said.
Father Smith has also declared his support for Julian Assange’s mission for transparency, which includes minimisation of “government overreach”.
“Julian’s a friend of mine, and I take his warnings very seriously. I think the infiltration of government surveillance into our lives is potentially disastrous, and it’s again something the UAP has taken a strong stand on,” he said.
When asked what would be next if his candidacy is unsuccessful, Father Smith was confident that he’d continue his fight for those on the margins regardless.
“My ongoing mission is to continue to build community and to try and work with people who are vulnerable. This seemed to be a good opportunity to do that – I’ll just be looking for the next opportunity.”