|At a time when New Zealand is debating the merits or otherwise of the Electoral Finance Bill, the Exclusive Brethren have dramatically resurfaced in the context of the current Australian federal election.
According to Michael Bachelard of the Melbourne Age, ABC Network's Four Corners broadcast a report last night (15 October) that alleged that the Exclusive Brethren lied about its source of funding for advertising during the previous Australian federal election in 2004. Brethren elder and parliamentary lobbyist Warwick John deposited an estimated $340,000 in the coffers of Willmac Enterprises, a Brethren-owned company, despite not being employed as a director or executive member of the organisation.
At the time, this money was not declared to the Australian Electoral Commission, and Johns' dealings are now under police investigation. As well as the above, 4 Corners found six major cash deposits from Warwick John had occurred in 2004, consisting of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Two Liberal backbenchers also provided Johns with access to Parliament.
Although erstwhile Prime Minister Howard has denied irregularities, Exclusive Brethren lobbyists have met with him as recently as August 8. By contrast, mainline Uniting Church and Australian National Council of Churches leader Dean Drayton has been unable to meet with the Prime Minister's office over issues like WorkChoices and asylum seekers.
One wonders what our National Party, the Maxim Institute, the Kill the Bill Campaign front group and other social conservative opponents of the Electoral Finance Bill here will have to say about this. Nevertheless, it does remind New Zealand's LGBT communities that our conflict with the Christian Right over democratic accountability and transparency is not over, and we should not relax our guard. Craig Young - 16th October 2007