Australia Treasurer downplays meeting with Exclusive Brethren

Treasurer Peter Costello today admitted meeting the Exclusive Brethren many times but said it was “no crime”.

Mr Costello’s admissions come amid revelations Prime Minister John Howard privately met senior members of the religious sect, including a man under police scrutiny for his spending on Mr Howard’s 2004 election campaign.

Fairfax today reported that two weeks ago in his parliamentary office, Mr Howard met Mark Mackenzie, a Sydney pump salesman whose company, Willmac, allegedly channelled $270,000 into advertising for the 2004 election in support of Mr Howard.

Exclusive Brethren

Many of the Exclusive Brethren movement’s teachings and practices are abusive to such an extent that this movement can rightly be labeled as an abusive church, and possibly even as a cult of Christianity

As its political smear campaigns demonstrate, hypocrisy is a hallmark of the Exclusive Brethren – members of which are not allowed to vote

The Australian Electoral Commission later investigated the Willmac money, while an Australian Federal Police investigation is continuing.

Mr Costello downplayed the significance of the meetings.

“There’s nothing wrong with meeting the Exclusive Brethren, they’re Australian citizens just like anybody else,” he said on Southern Cross radio.

“Over the years, I’ve had many meetings with the Exclusive Brethren, just as I have with people from other churches.

“This is no crime. In fact, the crime would be if a member of parliament refused to meet with somebody on the basis of their religious convictions.

The sect’s world leader, Bruce D. Hales, his brother Stephen and another elder, Warwick John, also attended the August 8 meeting, a sect spokesman told Fairfax.

The spokesman denied the group asked for Mr Howard’s help on the police probe or offered the PM assistance in his battle to retain his Sydney seat, Bennelong, against star Labor candidate Maxine McKew.

The spokesman said the elders assured Mr Howard they were praying for him, and that Willmac and Bennelong were not discussed.

Stephen Hales ran the Brethren’s pro-Howard campaign in Bennelong in 2004, the report said.

It is not the first time the Exclusive Brethren have been accused of meddleing in national politics.

A private detective in New Zealand claimed last year that he was hired by the Exclusive Brethren to dig dirt on Labour MPs including Prime Minister Helen Clark, and her husband.

Miss Clark said at the time that she had been told the Exclusive Brethren religious sect had hired a private detective to follow the couple.

“The Brethren stand condemned for this activity and frankly if the National Party does not now renounce any support either now or in the future from the Brethren then its credibility goes down the gurgler with them,” she said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 22, 2007.
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