Mar 1, 2007

Questions without notice (3) – Exclusive Brethren

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE (3) – Exclusive Brethren

1 March 2007

Mr ALBANESE (2.41 p.m.)—My question is again to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Exclusive Brethren directly supported his re-election in the seat of Bennelong at the last federal election?

Mr Costello interjecting—

The SPEAKER—Order! The Treasurer! The member for Grayndler will start his question again.

Mr ALBANESE—My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Exclusive Brethren directly supported his reelection in the seat of Bennelong at the last federal election? Can the Prime Minister confirm this support included an extensive letterboxing campaign and attacks on other candidates at public meetings?

Mr HOWARD—So the Exclusive Brethren equals Brian Burke! That is an interesting and fascinating question! To start with, the Exclusive Brethren do not vote. That is the first thing I say. The second thing is that, if they letterbox in my favour, good on them; they show great taste. And let me also make it clear—

Mr Albanese interjecting—

The SPEAKER—Order! The member for Grayndler has asked his question!

Mr HOWARD—that like any other group—

Mr Swan—What were they doing then?

The SPEAKER—The member for Lilley is warned!

Mr HOWARD—in the Australian community—

Mr Bevis—They do fund political candidates, though!

The SPEAKER—The member for Brisbane is warned!

Mr HOWARD—the Exclusive Brethren are entitled to express their views, and I make it clear that my door is open to any lawful organisation and to any group of people who have not been convicted of crimes. Let us take it back to where the Treasurer put it: what we are talking about is the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition supping with somebody who was under a ban by Dr Geoff Gallup and who had been convicted of a crime. To my knowledge, as a group, the Exclusive Brethren have not been convicted of a crime. Individuals may have—like individual people who are members of a church may have been or individual atheists may have been—but, as a group, they are a lawful organisation. If the member for Grayndler thinks that by this line of questioning he is going to intimidate me out of meeting lawful organisations he is wrong, and I encourage all—

Mrs Irwin interjecting—

The SPEAKER—The member for Fowler is warned!

Mr HOWARD—the good people of Bennelong, whatever their faith or no faith may be, to vote Liberal.