Figures obtained by The Greens in Senate Estimates reveal that funding to schools run by the controversial Christian sect have increased by 50 per cent under the Rudd Government.
In 2007, EB schools were receiving just over $9 million in funding from the Howard government.
But NSW Greens MP John Kaye says funding for EB schools around Australia has risen to $13.9 million this year.
“[It is] scheduled to go to about 17.2 million by 2012,” he said.
“The Rudd Government did not change the Howard Government’s formula that had an in-built escalation in it.
“This is funding going to the schools that Kevin Rudd referred to as being operated by a cult.”
Education Minister Julia Gillard was unavailable to comment last night, but a statement from her office said recurrent grants funding for EB schools grew by 14 per cent between 2007 and 2008, reflecting increased enrolments at those schools.
It said final 2009 entitlements will not be known until October.
The statement also said the Government has implemented its election commitment to maintain the current funding arrangements for non-government schools and that a Government review of funding arrangements will get underway next year.
Peter Flinn, a former member of the Exclusive Brethren, says he is disturbed by the increase in funding, but not surprised.
He wrote a letter on behalf of 30 ex-members of the EB asking Mr Rudd to establish an inquiry into the brethren.
“They have been the recipients of great generosity from various governments over the years and we’re quite concerned about that,” he said.
“It’s out of all proportion to the number of students. But they are very good at negotiating and lobbying governments.”
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A look at the cult:
Based on more than two years of research, this comprehensive study uncovers the lesser-known facts behind one of history’s most enigmatic and influential Christian sects.
Documenting their emergence onto the Australian political stage in 2004, this investigation shows how the Exclusive Brethren made their presence known through enormous contributions to conservative campaigns, assiduously lobbying politicians and maintaining a close relationship with the prime minister—all without casting a vote themselves.
This examination delves deeper into the group’s past, revealing the Brethren’s 19th-century origins in the United Kingdom, their fractious history, their extraordinary use of scripture to control members and dissidents, and their lucrative business and financial arrangements. Numerous questions are explored, such as What exactly was their interest in politics? Why did their activism suddenly blossom almost simultaneously across the world? and How did a group whose values are detached from those of most Australians infiltrate the highest office in the land?
A fascinating tale of power exercised across several continents, this is also a moving story of damaged lives, broken families, and anger that stretches back decades.
Michael Bachelard is a journalist for The Sunday Age and a former reporter for The Australian. He is a recipient of a Jefferson Fellowship in journalism and a Quill award for best news report in print. He is the author of The Great Land Grab.