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Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 411

Mr ABEL (EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Are allegations against The Children of God concerning brainwashing, psychiatric damage to young people, exploitation of young people financially involving sums up to $2,500 and heavy sado-masochistic sexual emphasis in its literature matters within the jurisdiction of a State Parliament rather than the Commonwealth Parliament? Will the AttorneyGeneral indicate whether his Department is investigating the Children of God or whether it is a matter far more appropriately left to State parliamentary inquiries? Would such a parliamentary inquiry at the State level give the Children of God full, fair and ample opportunity to answer the allegations made against them? For the assistance of the Attorney-General I bring to his attention that in New South Wales State Parliament this afternoon my State colleague the honourable member for Gordon, Mr Tim Moore, will move an urgency debate -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member is now giving information. I call the Attorney-General.

Dr Klugman - What portfolio covers the Children of God?

Mr Bryant - I think it would be the Prime Minister.

Mr ELLICOTT (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Attorney-General) - It would be when the Prime Minister comes from our side of politics but I am not sure whether it would be when the Prime Minister comes from the Opposition Party. The subject of religious sects has been raised in the House before and I have answered questions in relation to it. I have expressed concern to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The Commonwealth's area of jurisdiction covering this matter is not wide. It is basically a matter within State jurisdiction and that is why I raised it with the State Attorneys-General. Presumably if the New South Wales Parliament decides to set up an investigating committee the committee ought to have power to investigate both sides of the matter because very serious issues are raised such as the question of religious freedom to which I have referred previously. On the other hand there is the question of the effect these organisations have on young people and on their families. So one would hope that if a committee is set up in a State parliament, as it was in the State of New York in the United States of America, to investigate this sort of matter it will have broad powers. Quite clearly this is a matter that ought to be looked at at the State level. Nevertheless my Department has been looking at the matter and will continue to keep it under review.

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