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Aust: Howard has explaining on Exclusive Brethren

Howard has explaining to do on Exclusive Brethren - Brown

The Prime Minister has a lot more to explain to the electorate about his association with the elders of the Exclusive Brethren sect, Greens Leader Bob Brown said in Hobart today.

"Last November the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet responded to an FOI request (see attached) that there was no record of prime ministerial meetings with the sect elders. However on Friday, to a Greens' question from October last year, the Prime Minister revealed he has met with the elders.

"The question now is where, when and what transpired," Senator Brown said.

It took 11 months to extract this answer.

"Mr Howard has thrown up a murky smokescreen over his government's relationship with this shadowy group which has spent huge amounts of money promoting the Coalition's cause.

"A starting question is why this wealthy sect has been able to exclude unions from 30 of its workplaces under Howard's industrial relations legislation. The other questions include the sect's tax exemption status and its prohibition on children attending universities," Senator Brown said.

Mr Howard recently attacked other radical groups for their 'un-Australian' behaviour. The Exclusive Brethren sect excludes married women from workplaces altogether and single women are forbidden from any job where they have authority over men.

"Muslim children in Australia are not prohibited from their basic right to a university education. Apparently this Prime Minister think this radical Christian sect is beyond public admonition," Senator Brown said.

"Far from admonition, he backs them to the hilt: "I have to say that strikes me as what you might call an unorthodox Christian...it strikes me as a little unusual, but that is their right and should be respected." Prime Minister John Howard, ABC Radio Wednesday 27 September.

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