Call for agency watch on cults

The Advertiser, Australia/April 15, 2011

A "cult-busting" agency must be set up to investigate groups who exploit "vulnerable individuals".

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon will today call for a dedicated government agency to be set up to "monitor and control the activities of cults in Australia".

He will also call for law reform to protect "vulnerable individuals from cult activities", and for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate protections.

Mr Xenophon said the "cult watchdog" would be based on French agency MIVILUDES, which was established a decade ago.

"MIVILUDES has received bipartisan support, and has provided assistance and support to those affected by cults," Mr Xenophon said. "There is evidence that cult-like behaviour in France has been significantly curtailed by the existence of such a watchdog."

"These organisations, which invariably receive tax-free status, offer books, courses, seminars and other so-called educational programs, often at enormous cost, with questionable value or benefits," he said.

The Government has expressed doubts over its constitutional powers to introduce a watchdog body.

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