' . . . when the CityLink tolls were being established in Victoria, the Brethren argued unsuccessfully to then Kennett government minister Rob Maclellan that they should be exempted from paying tolls because, in the words of one witness, 'the e-TAGs or perhaps the toll gantries were instruments of the devil'. -Michael Bachelard, The Agenewspaper Out of nowhere in 2004, this obscure religious sect burst onto the political stage in Australia. Almost unheard of until then, the Exclusive Brethren was suddenly spending up big in election advertising in support of conservative political parties. But its members were shy to the point of paranoia about who they were - preferring, as they said, to 'fly under the radar'. Brethren members assiduously lobbied politicians, but did not vote. And they were very close to then prime minister John Howard. What exactly was their interest in politics? Why did their activism suddenly blossom almost simultaneously across the world, from Canada and the United States to Sweden and Australia? And how did a small, fringe group whose values are utterly detached from those of most Australians infiltrate the highest office in the land? Michael Bachelard, formerly an investigative reporter at The Ageand now at The Sunday Age, has been uncovering the facts about this secretive sect for more than two years. The results of his inquiries are the most comprehensive book ever written about the Exclusive Brethren. It's a fascinating story of politics and power. But it's a very human story, too - of damaged lives, that broken families, and of hurt and anger that stretches back decades.
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