Monday, October 01, 2007

AEC Must Reopen Exclusive Brethren Investigation

Anthony Albanese Doorstop Interview

Parliament House - 22nd August 2007 ALP Website

ALBANESE: The Prime Minister has had yet another secret meeting with the Exclusive Brethren sect. This is an organisation that is currently under investigation for donating $370,000 for the Liberal Party election campaigning in 2004.

In particular, this group campaigned in the electorate of Bennelong. They took out full page advertisements in the local paper ‘The Weekly Times’. The address used for the authoriser of those ads is actually one of the Exclusive Brethren schools.

Exclusive Brethren schools currently receive some $42 million in Federal Government recurrent funding. That’s without funding for capital works and other programs conducted by the Federal Government.

It is of real concern that this sect can get a meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia without notice and with no agenda. We are particularly concerned to find out whether the current election campaign coming up later this year was discussed.

The Exclusive Brethren are a sect that is out of touch with mainstream Australian family values. Exclusive Brethren don’t believe in voting but do believe in interfering in election campaigns. They have a history of not only covert funding, but also of engaging in personal attacks and smears against non extreme right wing conservative candidates. It’s a real concern that the Prime Minister is continuing to have this direct association with the Exclusive Brethren sect and that it only comes to light because of leaks around this meeting.

The people engaged in the meeting include Mark Mackenzie as a company adviser and funder of some of these advertisements. Stephen Hales was there, he’s the brother of Bruce Hales the leader of the Exclusive Brethren sect, who is known as the “Elect Vessel” and also as the “Minister of the Lord in the Recovery”. We know that Exclusive Brethren engaged in electoral advertising not just in the electorate of Bennelong, but also in Victoria and South Australia.

It’s a real concern that the Government has amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act to ensure that media outlets don’t need to file media returns at future elections because in some of those returns they indicated that these advertisements took place at the behest of the Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

ALBANESE: We’re talking about $370,000 being spent on an election campaign that we know of. The group that doesn’t believe in voting but believes it has the right to interfere in election campaigns. We know that John Howard is under real pressure in the electorate of Bennelong due to the campaign of Maxine McKew. It would be very interesting to see whether the Exclusive Brethren, as a result of this meeting, are once again engaged in spending tens of thousands of dollars trying to influence voters in the lead up to that campaign.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

ALBANESE: Here in NSW we’ve seen Alex Hawke preselected for the electorate of Mitchell. We’ve seen Michael Towke preselected for the electorate of Cook. We’ve seen a complete assault on the NSW Liberal Party both in terms of state preselections and federal preselections. At the last round we saw Senator John Tierney replaced by Connie Fierravanti-Wells. We’ve seen the rise of extreme right wing views within the Liberal Party centred around David Clarke and people who are prepared to do anything to destroy people who disagree with them even within the Liberal Party, just ask John Brogden.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

ALBANESE: I think Australians would be worried that there’s this secretive sect that engages in practices which I regard as being anti Australian and anti Family. That doesn’t vote in elections, yet which donates hundreds of thousands of dollars in favour of Liberal candidates and specifically in favour of the Prime Minister during election campaigns.

I know that when it comes to the Prime Minister there's a lot of very serious business people around this nation as well as serious community organisations who can’t just drop in and get access with to the Prime Minister, at no notice and with no agenda. The idea that the Prime Minister has meetings with organisations let alone a sect such as this without an agenda being approved in advance is quite frankly beyond belief, not credible. As is the idea that John Howard and the Liberal Party didn’t know about the Exclusive Brethren campaign in the 2004 election.

It is important that John Howard and the Liberal Party come clean about exactly what the Exclusive Brethren have in store for this 2007 campaign. We want to see a genuine democratic vote between Maxine McKew, who we regard as an outstanding candidate in Bennelong, and an increasingly a desperate Prime Minister, who is prepared to associate with sect organisations such as the Exclusive Brethren in order to hold on to his seat.


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