9 September 2005
Peter Dunne's Relationship With The Exclusive Brethren
By Kevin List
United Future's Peter Dunne and the Green Party's Jeanette Fitzsimons.
Although the Exclusive Brethren keep away from the secular world for much of the time, last year they lobbied MP's on two separate pieces of legislation - the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill and the Civil Union Bill.
United Future leader Peter Dunne confirmed to Scoop today that Mr Timothy Lough, one of the men behind the anti-Labour and anti-Green Party smear pamphlets, had sought his assistance regarding last years Employment Relations Law Reform Bill.
"There is a very strong Exclusive Brethren community in my electorate – they came to see me and lobbied me on [conscientious objection from unions]. I thought that made perfect sense. I've supported amendments in that regard over the years. That was the last time I spoke to them," explained Mr Dunne.
Mr Lough explained to Scoop the changes the Exclusive Brethren wanted to the Employment Relations Bill regarded extending, 'the conscience provision in the law that was already there for exemption from union access – to apply to companies.'
Mr Lough, who lives in Johnsonville went to see Peter Dunne because he was the local MP and, "a nice chap too."
The amendment to the legislation, which was moved by Mr Dunne, was ultimately unsuccessful when the Green Party joined Labour, the Progressives and the Maori Party in voting against it. The Greens had supported a similar amendment to the Employment Relations Act in 2000 regarding the Exclusive Brethren.
Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton told Scoop how he had also been lobbied by the Exclusive Brethren - this time in 2000 - regarding the Employment Relations Act.
"I was approached by the Exclusive Brethren to agree to an exemption allowing them to discriminate against non-christians in the workplace and I said that would be impossible in New Zealand," he said.
Mr Anderton was scathing regarding parties that would support the Exclusive Brethren getting special exemptions in employment legislation.
"When I pointed out [to the Exclusive Brethren in 2000] that you had to have fair industrial relations and you can't discriminate against people on the grounds of race creed or colour I didn't get half a million dollars thrown at me assisting my election campaign," he said in reference to the Exclusive Brethren pamphlet campaign supporting the National Party, launched a week ago.
When asked if the same group of Brethren that lobbied him on the Employment Relations Bill, lobbied him later in 2004 regarding the Civil Union Bill , Mr Dunne told Scoop.
"I think they probably did but I really can't remember."
Mr Dunne explained that because he had moved the amendment proposing the Exclusive Brethren's workplaces and schools be exempt from unions it was easier to recall.
Mr Dunne also denied introducing either Mr Lough, or any of the Exclusive Brethren that he had assisted with the Employment Relations Bill, to any National Party MP's.
For his part Mr Lough explained that he had only met National's leader Dr Brash twice in his life, once a year ago and once last week in Masterton.
Mr Lough was adamant that when he met Dr Brash in Masterton last weekend he had not mentioned the anti-Green Party pamphlet drop that was occurring throughout the country that day, funded by the Exclusive Brethren.
"I shook his hand and said 'we are praying for you, Don'", said Mr Lough.
Mr Lough told Scoop that he had not attended the 20 minute meeting attended by other Exclusive Brethren with Dr Brash where the plan for delivering pamphlets attacking the current Government was discussed.
The media scrutiny that Mr Lough and his fellow Exclusive Brethren members had been under was affecting family life according to Mr Lough.
"I'm just one of these chaps that tries to do all [I] can for the country," he said.