Sunday, 18 May 2008

Kevin Rudd needs to lift his game

A question for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:

Why is an extremist cult, whose activities break up families, given a wide berth by the Australian Government?


Prior to the November 2007 election Mr Rudd described the Exclusive Brethren as an "extremist cult" whose activities "break up families" and called for investigations by police, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Electoral Commission and Austrac, the anti-money-laundering agency into the Brethren's activities.

So, Mr Rudd, what's changed? Why are there no inquiries?

Today
The Age reports PM Kevin Rudd has rejected the pleas of former members of the Exclusive Brethren for a broad-ranging inquiry into the sect, saying such an investigation would "unreasonably interfere" with their right "to practise their faith freely and openly.

Former members of the Brethren seized on the comments and, in February,
wrote to Mr Rudd asking for an inquiry, particularly into its "disproportionately high taxpayer funding of Brethren schools, dishonest political campaigning, their charitable status in relation to rate and tax exemptions, and their well-known intimidatory tactics during traumatic Family Court cases".


The letter was written by former Brethren member Peter Flinn and signed by 33 others. Attached were 13 stories outlining the misery inflicted by practices of the sect, including the doctrine of separation, which keeps lapsed members from contacting their families.

Mr Rudd's chief-of-staff David Epstein wrote in reply last week that the Prime Minister "does not resile from the views he expressed last year," and that he "remains concerned about the reported imposition of doctrines that weaken family bonds" and "prevent children accessing online learning tools".

Mr Epstein also added that religious observance "should not be regarded as a shield behind which breaches of the law can be hidden", and urged anyone with details of criminal behaviour within the Brethren to tell police.

However, he wrote, on religious freedom grounds, the Prime Minister would not be instituting an inquiry.

Mr Rudd's stance suggests the Government also will vote against a motion by Greens Senator Bob Brown calling for an inquiry into the sect, its tax concessions, public funding, and practices that may harm children or families.

Senator Brown tabled notice of the new motion, his third proposed inquiry into the Brethren, in the Senate on Thursday.

Senator Brown described Mr Rudd's position as "appalling", saying his priority "should be the welfare of children and families, and the taxpayers' money that is going to this organisation".

But Mr Flinn told The Sunday Age the Exclusive Brethren could take no comfort from Mr Rudd's response: "Whilst Mr Rudd did not give a specific commitment to an inquiry, he acknowledged the 'moving personal accounts'."

Mr Flinn also pointed out that Mr Rudd reiterated his Government's commitment to "enhancing transparency in the Australian electoral system, with reforms recently announced relating to the disclosure and sources of donations".

"We have no desire to interfere with the fundamental right of any religious group to freely and openly practise its beliefs. We just want to highlight other equally fundamental human rights, such as access to family who remain Brethren members, a right callously denied by the Brethren," Mr Flinn said.

The Exclusive Brethren is a wealthy Christian-based group that practises a radical doctrine of separation from the world. Its leaders became very close to former Prime Minister John Howard over many years of lobbying and political activism, and, in 2004, they poured $370,000 into his re-election campaign.

Under Mr Howard, Brethren schools enjoyed similar funding to schools for disabled and Aboriginal students, even though, by their own admission, Exclusive Brethren members are in the top echelon of income earners. Mr Rudd has continued the funding arrangements, worth $50 million over the next four years.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr Rudd described the Exclusive Brethren as an "extremist cult" whose activities "break up families"

Exclusive Brethren is a wealthy Christian-based group that practises a radical doctrine of separation from the world. Its leaders became very close to former Prime Minister John Howard over many years of lobbying and political activism, and, in 2004, they poured $370,000 into his re-election campaign. Under Mr Howard, Brethren schools enjoyed similar funding to schools for disabled and Aboriginal students, even though, by their own admission, Exclusive Brethren members are in the top echelon of income earners. Mr Rudd has continued the funding arrangements, worth $50 million over the next four years.

It seems that if you are liers and nasty ,governments are going to look after you ...And make the abuse easier .

Oz said...

At first I though, WTF? I offer the contention that Rudd got it right. While Australia does not have a constitution that explicitly states the church and state must be separated, going after the Brethren with governmental powers could be seen as an attack on religious freedom. And this is the correct view. The Brethren, no matter how despicable of a cult they are, should have their religious freedom. Rudd, by asking for any wrong doing by the Brethren to be directed to the police or other authorities, has made the right decision.

Otherwise you would have the government using their powers against a relgion. Which in a secular state, is as worrisome as a government favouring a religion (ala Howard and the Brethren).

And nice pic of Yamba btw. Brings back memories as I grew up in Grafton and visited Yamba often when much younger.

ozatheist said...

I think I'll have to agree with the other Oz. When I read this in the paper, my first thought was to blog about it and complain how Rudd seems to have backed down from his former stance. On reflection, whilst the Exclusive Brethren need to be taken down, it's not up to the government to do that.

Though all powers of the police, tax office, electoral office, etc need to be brought to power to ensure no illegal activity is being carried out by the EB.

The government also needs to review the funding to the schools, but it needs to do this to ALL private schools.

Anonymous said...

Well i disagree with oz and oz

The thing is there are many many things that are not nesasarily illegal .But which need inquiries into incase things need to be changed .
How else can society progress ? without it many many previous barbarick practices that used to be quite legal would still exsist .And we would still be stuck in the dark ages .

Religious freedom yes .But not at the cost of humanity and progress .

Religious freedom does not,allow for the right to disallow this basic human right .

And if the reglious still believe that it does , then its well overdue that they are reminded it doesnt .

Who cares what they might think !.Children can be taught new behaviours , even if they may deside to stamp their feet in protest .