Senator Nick Xenophon:
Xenophon calls for anti-cult laws
The Sydney Morning Herald
May 24, 2010
Australia should introduce anti-cult legislation similar to laws operating in France, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says.
The South Australian senator has written to the federal and SA attorneys-general asking them to put the issue of cult law reform on the agenda of the next standing committee of the nation's law officers.
His calls for reform come one week after SA police raided 12 properties involved with the doomsday cult Agape Ministries, seizing explosives, guns and ammunition.
"What's occurred in South Australia in recent days ... indicates an urgent need for us to look at adopting French-style laws that will actually provide protection for individuals that have been caught up in these cults," Senator Xenophon told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Cults had become more sophisticated and more dangerous, the Senator said."
"There is a lack of protection for individuals caught up in these cults."
The French laws, which have been in operation for nearly 10 years, allow judges to dissolve cults if their leaders are involved in criminal activity.
They also can ban cults from advertising, and from recruiting near schools, hospitals and retirement homes.
The laws also include a new offence called "mental manipulation" defined as exercising, within a group whose activities are aimed at creating or exploiting psychological dependence, heavy and repeated pressure on a person, or using techniques likely to alter an individuals judgement so as to induce them to behave in a way that is prejudicial to their interests.
The offence carries a fine of more than $100,000.
The French laws attracted criticism when they were introduced with many opponents calling them undemocratic.
Senator Xenophon does not agree, saying there was nothing democratic about people being caught up in cults.
"The fact is people's liberty is being taken away," he said, adding some had lost their life savings and had their lives destroyed.
"What would be undemocratic is not to act."
© 2010 AAP
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