Police to quiz Brethren sect

The Courier-Mail, Australia/May 25, 2007

Electoral officials have referred a $10 company set up by an Exclusive Brethren member to the Australian Federal Police for investigation.

Australian Electoral Commission funding and disclosure director Kevin Bodel said he sent a brief of information about Willmac Enterprises to the AFP on Tuesday.

The AEC has been investigating $370,000 of pro-Liberal and anti-Greens advertisements and leaflets in Tasmania, South Australia and Prime Minister John Howard's Sydney seat of Bennelong before the 2004 election.

Mr Bodel was tight-lipped about his concerns about Willmac.

"It doesn't relate to the expenditure disclosure lodged by Willmac after the last election," Mr Bodel told a Senate estimates committee hearing.

"That third-party disclosure of electoral expenditure is correct. That probably is about as far as I can go," he said.

"We pursued a line of inquiry and reached a point where we believed it would be better handled by the AFP, and at that point we referred the matter on, having collected a degree of evidence."

Mr Bodel said Willmac was established a week before the October 2004 election and dissolved last year.

Australian Electoral Commissioner Ian Campbell took a series of questions from Australian Greens senator Bob Brown on notice, saying he did not want to compromise any police investigation.

Melbourne's The Age newspaper reported yesterday that Willmac was set up by Mark Mackenzie, a member of the reclusive sect.

But Exclusive Brethren spokesman Tony McCorkell said the church organisation was not a stakeholder in Willmac, therefore would not be involved in any AFP organisation.

The newspaper said Willmac spent 10 times more on leaflets, advertisements and direct mail than Right to Life ($30,555) and outlaid more than the Wilderness Society ($229,073).

Authorisations for some of the election material was linked to the Exclusive Brethren, it said.

A spokesman for Mr Mackenzie told the newspaper Willmac's funds came from "business earnings, not donations, but from income generated through business activity".

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