Melbourne Lord Mayor denies Scientology support
ABC Radio - 'PM'
January 31, 2011
Source | Audio
MARK COLVIN: Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has been forced to defend his role at the opening of a new Church of Scientology building over the weekend.
The Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and the Independent Senator Nick Xenophon have both condemned his attendance at the event.
But councillor Doyle says he was just there as a favour to his friend, the celebrity Scientologist Kate Ceberano.
Samantha Donovan reports.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Church of Scientology opened a multi-million dollar facility in Melbourne over the weekend, saying it marked a new era for the Scientology religion in Australia.
Police kept an eye on about 50 protesters.
The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, gave a speech. But he's told Fairfax Radio's Neil Mitchell that shouldn't be seen as a sign of approval of the movement.
ROBERT DOYLE: I wouldn't think so. I mean...
NEIL MITCHELL: Well you're Lord Mayor. I mean, sure...
ROBERT DOYLE: I am but does that mean that everywhere I go and everything I do the imprimatur of the City of Melbourne is there? I mean...
NEIL MITCHELL: C'mon. You've turned up in the Lord Mayoral limo, you've been introduced as the Lord Mayor and you've got up and given a speech. They haven't done that because they like the colour of your hair.
ROBERT DOYLE: No but they've done that because I was asked by a particular friend. In no way was this any affirmation or support for the religion or the church.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Councillor Doyle is a former Victorian Liberal opposition leader.
The Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu doesn't believe that his former parliamentary colleague should have been at the opening.
TED BAILLIEU: I think, like many Victorians, I've read stories and met people over the years that have left me with the view that that organisation's past record is not one that I want to express support for and I know a number of Scientologists and I respect them as individuals. I've met many who have had bad experiences. I guess that's informed my judgement.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has been campaigning for an end to the Church of Scientology's tax-free status.
He also thinks Robert Doyle should have thought twice before attending the opening.
NICK XENOPHON: I'll be writing to Robert Doyle today and asking him to meet with victims of, former members of the Church of Scientology and hopefully he see the other side of the coin.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Church of Scientology issued a six page press release over the weekend saying the Lord Mayor had opened the new facility, along with the church's US-based ecclesiastical leader and Kate Ceberano.
The release says the Lord Mayor praised the church's "active role in community life" and hoped the new centre would see "benefits flow in partnerships, community connection and goodwill".
But Cr Doyle isn't happy with that wording.
ROBERT DOYLE: Well that's not what I said. They may have put that in the press release. I actually said I was there, I congratulated them on the restoration of an historic building. To be honest I don't know enough about what it does.
I mean, I heard one of the stories from Father Bob who is an Aboriginal elder from Uluru and he praised them for sending teachers to his people in the Northern Territory, but beyond that, no, I wouldn't know what their community work was.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The former Victorian planning minister Justin Madden is the local MP and was also at the opening of the new facility.
According to the Scientology press release he's even more enthusiastic than the Lord Mayor about the church. He commends it for its literacy and drug education initiatives and is quoted as saying:
JUSTIN MADDEN QUOTED IN PRESS RELEASE: Unselfishly, you work to provide ways and means to uplift our society. You have set the standard for the community with your restoration of this building and with your social programs. An example I will point to for others to follow. Your new church is as Melbourne as Melbourne gets.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Mr Madden declined to speak on-air but told PM he attended the opening of the new Scientology Church as he would the opening of any other church or community facility in his electorate, and he stood by the quote in the press release saying it was taken from his speech.
MARK COLVIN: Samantha Donovan.
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