Branko Miletic writes:

It seems Crikey is missing the
whole Hillsong money and Indigenous communities saga that is playing
out here in the aspirational western Sydney seat of Greenway.

For
the second time in six months, the Baulkham Hills-based Hillsong Church
has been stung by a federal government inquiry into its alleged misuse
of funds earmarked for local Indigenous communities. Last month,
federal justice minister Chris Ellison was forced to withdraw $414,000
destined for the church after complaints were received from the local
Riverstone Aboriginal Community Association (RACA), when the
fundamentalist happy clappers so beloved of our treasurer Peter
Costello, could not explain what they were actually going to do with
the money.

Now,
Liberal Eric Abetz, speaking on behalf of
Employment Minister Kevin Andrews, said more was spent on
“administration than on service delivery, including one grant of
$965,421 to administer $280,000 in loans”. According to local state ALP
sitting member John Aquilina, Hillsong has received more than
“$600,000 in taxpayers’ money to run so-called enterprise hubs for
Indigenous people in Redfern and Mount Druitt …but not a single
Indigenous person has moved to full time employment”, he said.

Aquilina
has gone on record saying “that taxpayer dollars for the disadvantaged
had been squandered by Hillsong on administration.” A report in the
local Blacktown City Sun newspaper (7 March) claims Hillsong spent
“most of a $1.2 million Indigenous development grant on employing and
providing offices for its own church staff.”

Adding insult to
injury, a Hillsong spokeswoman brazenly accused the media of a beat-up
over the allegations, even though the local papers were quoting
directly out of Hansard.

Now I realise this is not on the same
scale as the AWB-Cole “Wheatgate” inquiry, but in many ways this is
even more appalling. It’s bad enough that religious bodies like
Hillsong get tax breaks, it’s worse when they receive exclusive
patronage from our political elite, but it’s downright disgusting when
they go and kick Aboriginal people in the teeth and then have the hide
to claim it’s all part of a big conspiracy.

What part of the Ten
Commandments don’t they know over at Baulkham Hills??…”thou shalt not
steal” may be a good start or why don’t we give Psalm 23 a go…”The Lord
is my shepherd, I shall not want…”!

In the future maybe it
would be a good idea for religious institutions such as Hillsong to
stick to the Gospel of John rather than to the Gospel of the Public
Trough. In my mind, no religious institution, regardless of its
denomination, has any right whatsoever in dipping their sticky fingers
into the public purse.

Peter Fray

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