Are the Exclusive Brethren trying once again to help the Howard Government? Suggestions have emerged that the shadowy religious sect is once again seeking to influence the federal election campaign.

Labor candidate for the seat of Wentworth, George Newhouse, told a forum for gay Sydneysiders earlier this month the Brethren are actively campaigning against him. He has since told the Sydney Star Observer and the Wentworth Courier newspapers that he believes a “Keep Australia Christian” leaflet distributed in the electorate is being put out by the Brethren.

The leaflet is pretty extreme – and distributed without any official authorisation.

At the bottom is a statement “we are not a political party, we don’t even vote, but we feel it is important that you know all the facts about the upcoming election.” But who is “we”? There is no sign.

The Federal Police are presently investigating the funding of election advertisements placed by Brethren figures before the 2004 federal election. John Howard and Peter Costello have met Brethren leaders, and some of them have been given access to Parliament House as a political lobbyists. Meanwhile there has been a raft of media investigations into the sect’s role in elections here and overseas, culminating in the ABC Four Corners effort on Monday, with its revelations of cash filled envelopes being carried around the world.

And now this – if it is a Brethren publication, and we can’t be sure.

The leaflet claims that only the Howard Government can maintain Christian values, and describes ALP policies on abortion as “decriminalising the slaughter of thousands of innocent babies every year”. It says the ALP will “turn a blind eye to immigration from non-Christian countries” and so on and so forth. The layout of the leaflet is reminiscent of some of the Brethren placed advertisements in 2004.

Newhouse’s staff said last night that they had put the matter in the hands of Labor’s national secretariat, but were not sure whether a complaint had been made to the Australian Electoral Commission.