|The Melbourne Age has broken another story related to the Exclusive Brethren's interference with Australian federal and state politics, but there's a catch involved.
Age journalist Michael Bachelard reported that the Howard administration was stonewalling federal freedom of information requests for correspondence exchanged between the Exclusive Brethren and Howard, which consisted of four letters; and a fifth, from Howard to the Exclusive Brethren. All of the above took place over a three year period.
The Age has been waiting for Howard's office to release the correspondence since it became aware of Howard's previous meetings with Exclusive Brethren leader Bruce Hales and another Exclusive Brethren figure, currently under police investigation for questionable dealings during the last Australian federal election in 2004. Australian federal Greens leader Bob Brown was incredulous at the Age's information, as he had also requested such correspondence, only to be told it didn't exist.
Originally, the newspaper had made its initial request in September 2006. On September 29, Howard's office asked for clarification. In May 2007, Howard's communication manager, Andrew Kefford, stated that the search was complete, and that there would now need to be an extra month of consultation. In June 2007, the Age paid over $623.60 as costs for the request. However, in September 2007, Kefford said that consultation with the Exclusive Brethren was still ongoing. On October 26, he stated that the matter would be considered over the weekend, but further delayed, until the final announcement that the requested correspondence would now only be available on 12 December - nearly three weeks after the forthcoming federal election.
Freedom of speech requires freedom of information, accountability and transparency to be effective. One hopes that those centre-right New Zealanders who are still defending the Exclusive Brethren's "right" to interfere with our domestic politics watch this and take careful note.
Source: Michael Bachelard - "PM-Brethren Letters Held Until After Poll" Melbourne Age: 19.11.07: http://www.theage.com.au/ Craig Young - 19th November 2007