Exclusive Brethren/Australian Federal Election, 2007

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In early August 2007 Australian Prime Minster John Howard met with "with the most senior leaders" of the Exclusive Brethren in his parliamentary office.

One of those at the meeting, Michael Bachelard reported in The Age, "was Sydney pump salesman Mark Mackenzie, whose former company, Willmac, funneled $370,000 into pro-Howard advertising at the last election." (Willmac's spending in the election campaign was investigated by the Australian Electoral Commission. They later referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police "for a criminal investigation, which is continuing." Others at the meeting included Bruce D. Hales, his brother Stephen Hales and elder Warwick John.[1]

A spokesman for the Exclusive Brethren denied that they had requested Howard's help on the AFP investigation or support for his campaign in his own electorate. "There was absolutely no dialogue concerning Willmac, just as there was no discussion about … Bennelong," he said.[2] "This was a last-minute opportunity that presented itself. There was no agenda or pre-arranged discussion topics, simply an opportunity to greet Prime Minister Howard. These mysterious campaign plans being suggested are wild speculation and the reality is they aren't there," the spokesman told Bachelard.

Howard was subsequently asked whether he had "met with members of the Exclusive Brethren and have they offered any financial or in kind support?". In response Howard confirmed that he had met with the Exclusive Brethren, which he defended. "The Exclusive Brethren is a legal, legitimate organisation. I meet them from time to time ... They're Australian citizens, it's a lawful organisation and as Prime Minister I have met an enormous number of organisations. It's my job and I find it quite astonishing that people think it's odd I have met representatives of a lawful organisation." [3]

As to the matter of whether the Exclusive Brethren had offered financial support, Howard offered only a cautious and heavily qualified response. "As to matters relating to financial support, they're things that you should talk to them, should talk to the Liberal Party organisation about. I don't handle in a direct sense, any fundraising matters related to the Liberal Party, they're handled by the organisation," he said. [4]

Hiring PR Help

In October 2007, Michael Bachelard reported in The Age that Bob Lawrence from the PR firm Jackson Wells Morris was representing the controversial religious sect, the Exclusive Brethren. In a statement issued to the paper, JWM wrote that the PR firm "has provided advice to the Brethren on how to deal with some of the issues they face and to engage with a hostile media. In recent years, sections of the media have subjected the Brethren to unwarranted scrutiny bordering on harassment. It has been a witch- hunt. If the Brethren had been given a fair hearing they would be much better understood, like any other church or religious organisation." [5]

Other SourceWatch Resources


  1. Michael Bachelard, "Brethren meet PM in his office", The Age, August 22, 2007.
  2. Michael Bachelard, "Brethren meet PM in his office", The Age, August 22, 2007.
  3. John Howard, "Transcript of the Prime Minister's Doorstop Interview Epping", August 22, 2007.
  4. John Howard, "Transcript of the Prime Minister's Doorstop Interview Epping", August 22, 2007.
  5. Michael Bachelard, Two MPs sponsor Brethren lobbyists", The Age, October 15, 2007.

External links

Media Releases and Interview with Politicians on the Exclusive Brtehren, 2007 election

Media Articles