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Brash should follow Australian example on Brethren

20 September 2006

Brash should follow Australian example on Brethren

News of Exclusive Brethren political activity over the past week is a worrying sign that New Zealand has become just another battleground for the far-right’s global agenda, Labour strategist Pete Hodgson said today.

“In just the past week, the Exclusive Brethren have featured prominently in the campaigns of centre-right parties in both the Swedish and Victorian general elections. In Victoria, National Party leader Peter Ryan has publicly refused to accept Brethren support due to the sect’s track record in New Zealand” Pete Hodgson said.

“In New Zealand, we understand that the Exclusive Brethren have been hiring private detectives as part of a smear campaign. We also strongly suspect Exclusive Brethren involvement in a systematic letter writing campaign to newspapers attacking Helen Clark and the Labour government.

“New Zealanders have prided ourselves on our open and intimate political process for over 150 years. We are a small democracy and have always resisted overseas interference in our politics.

“The National Party’s acceptance of support from the Brethren and the Party’s sudden shift to secret, big money finance are worrying signs that they are no longer committed to the openness and independence of our political process.

“The Brethren are now active throughout the developed world, popping up in the final weeks of election campaigns with huge injections of cash in Northern Europe, North America and Australia.

“I am very pleased that Victorian National Party Leader Peter Ryan has refused Brethren support as a result of the Church’s behaviour in New Zealand. He obviously believes that secret, big money smear campaigns have no place in his Party.

“It’s a shame that New Zealand’s National Party leader Don Brash doesn’t feel the same. Dr Brash has never condemned the secretive, misleading tactics of the Brethren in the 2005 campaign and has publicly welcomed their support.

“What’s worse is that Brash’s endorsement of Brethren methods are only one aspect of the National Party’s adoption of far-right campaign tactics being used in other parts of the world. The Party’s sudden shift to big money finance funnelled through trusts presents a huge challenge to the intent of New Zealand electoral law.

“Labour will work with other parties in Parliament on reforms of campaign laws to ensure the continued integrity of our political process.

“In the mean time, Don Brash and the National Party need to take a lesson from their Victorian counterparts and end their wink and nod partnership with the Exclusive Brethren Church.”

ENDS

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