Crikey can exclusively reveal that the secretive Christian sect, the Exclusive Brethren, has gone to great lengths to obtain parliamentary lobbying status for two of its leading Sydney members.
Warwick John of Copeland Road, Engadine, in Sydney’s south, and David Walter Stewart, who gives his address as an Engadine Post Office box number, have become official parliamentary lobbyists representing the so-called Christian Lobby Group.
With their official credentials issued just before the NSW state election in March, John and Stewart can patrol the corridors of the NSW Parliament in Macquarie Street merely by flashing their official passes. Their keen interest in meeting ministers, shadow ministers and MPs in the privacy of their parliamentary offices is bizarre when you consider that the fundamentalist sect bans its flock from voting in elections!
The parliamentary democracy-worshipping MPs who signed and sponsored the lobbyist passes for the non-voting Exclusive Brethren were Upper House MPs, the Rev Fred Nile and the Rev Gordon Moyes, of the Christian Democrats, and David Clarke, an Opus Dei supporting Catholic and leader of the NSW Liberal Party’s hard right, pro-Howard faction.
John declared on his application form that the purpose of his special pass was to “lobby for Christian rights” whatever they are. Normally, lobbyist passes are authorised by parliament’s presiding officers who, at that time, were Speaker John Aquilina and Legislative Council President Meredith Burgmann. Because parliament was in recess pending the March 24 election, it is unclear whether they co-signed authority for the passes or it was processed by the clerks, Russell Grove (Legislative Assembly) and Lynn Lovelock (Legislative Council).
As comprehensively demonstrated in Monday night’s Four Corners, the Exclusive Brethren has interfered in state and federal elections in NSW, South Australia and Tasmania and overseas in New Zealand and the United States supplying campaign cash and advertising support to right-wing conservative and anti-Green forces.
The exposure of Fred Nile as an ally of the Exclusive Brethren will do little to shame the Iemma Government. This week it was revealed that Premier Iemma successfully solicited the services of Nile to act as chairman of a limited, restrictive upper house committee inquiry into the Royal North Shore Hospital scandal thereby escaping Opposition demands for a wider investigation into the maladministration of the hospital system, doctor and nursing shortages and chronic under-funding by Treasury.
Watching Labor rely on the likes of Nile, whose reprehensible re-election platform was a religiously bigoted 10-year ban on Moslem immigration, is sickbag-reaching stuff. Iemma, MP for Lakemba, is living down to the catchcry of his mentor Graham Richardson – “Whatever It Takes”.