|Flip-flopping: John Key According to politics writer Nicky Hager, Exclusive Brethren 'Elect Vessel" Bruce Hales visited Wellington incognito recently. Why?
Was it just a fraternal church visit with Exclusive Brethren sect members on this side of the Tasman? No known National Party figures were seen meeting with Hales, which may indicate that the Opposition has finally learnt its lesson, and is unwilling to countenance the same bungles that cost Brash and John Howard their aspirations for government.
Unfortunately for the Opposition though, the Australian federal election indicated that the Exclusive Brethren are still unvarnished political extremists, as evidenced by their New Zealand demands for repeal of civil unions and recriminalisation of sex work. It is far from uncertain that Key isn't trying to have it both ways, though- witness his rapid flip-flop over his earlier advocacy of inclusive adoption reform- compensating for his vote against Gordon Copeland's same-sex marriage ban bill in December 2005, no doubt.
One trusts that Key remembers the lessons of 1987, 1996 and 2005 - which is that as far as New Zealand's general public goes, wholesale social conservative extremism loses centre-right votes if indulged excessively. If National is seen to be too close to the Exclusive Brethren and the rest of the Christian Right, there will be an electoral backlash. Or is it the case that the Maxim Institute and Family First are in the drivers' seat for the Christian Right now? Watch this space.
UPDATE 30 AUGUST 2008
In both News Corporation's Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age, new accusations have surfaced about Exclusive Brethren activities in Australia. Unsurprisingly, these have popped up in the Labour-aligned New Zealand blog, The Standard.
In Canberra's High Court, three young Indian women are about to file a writ that alleges that the right-wing, antigay sect was involved in fraud and kidnapping.
They claim that they are 'on the run' from the sect, and also claim to have evidence related to money laundering, bribery and police corruption in India itself, and immigration fraud in New Zealand (!!!) After filing a writ of mandamus against the Exclusive Brethren in the High Court, the women are expected to disclose their identities. More information about this case will be filed as it comes to hand.
It does raise some interesting questions about the notoriety, ineptitude and reputation of this sect if these allegations bear fruit. Observers of the Christian Right will be watching with keen interest.
Nicky Hager's The Hollow Men book about the inner workings of NZ's National Party is now a film at the NZ International Film Festival. Watch the trailer below. Craig Young - 28th July 2008