Candidates weigh in on Universal Medicine
IN LIGHT of "esoteric healer" Serge Benhayon's failed defamation case against blogger and former client Esther Rockett, some ongoing concerns about Mr Benhayon's business, Universal Medicine, have continued to circulate.
The Northern Star has asked all candidates for the state seat of Lismore to respond to these concerns, including whether government agency responses have been sufficient and whether investigations need further transparency.
We have also asked them what they will do, if elected, to ensure residents are protected from any group or business offering misleading or potentially harmful health services.
In the civil trial, the jury found Mr Benhayon was "the leader of a socially harmful cult" and UM was found to engage in "misleading conduct in promoting the healing services it offers".
David Taylor of Sustainable Australia, did not respond questions put to the other candidates.
Greg Bennett, independent
SITTING Lismore councillor and independent candidate Greg Bennett said he would like to see NSW Police and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission consider whether action should be taken against UM or Serge Benhayon.
"I would think those two groups would be interested in what's going on," Mr Bennett said.
Mr Bennett said "any person would be concerned" that a group which a jury found to be a "socially harmful cult" was continuing to operate in the Lismore electorate.
"It's up to the MPs to get involved, to make sure … the bureaucrats are doing their job," he said.
When asked what he would do if elected, Mr Bennett noted MPs often meet with local police and said it would be worth raising concerns about the group in that context.
Paul Collits, Australian Conservatives
AS A relative newcomer to the Northern Rivers, Mr Collits said the court case and surrounding issues were not familiar to him.
Mr Collits said it would be "unwise" for politicians or candidates to weigh in "especially without full information".
He said as the findings were in a civil - not criminal - case, some claims "would need to be tested further ... to establish the full truth of the matter".
Mr Collits said MPs should "listen carefully to all their constituents concerns".
Sue Higginson, The Greens
GREENS candidate Sue Higginson said she would like to see "stronger action" against the "harmful activities" of UM.
"It's the sign of a broken system when a woman has to be dragged through the courts in order for the truth about Universal Medicine and its association with government agencies to come to light," Ms Higginson said.
Ms Higginson said she supported NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard's directive that the department have no further dealing with UM.
She was "deeply concerned" UM may still influence children and youth, the elderly and vulnerable people.
"Children and young people should not be inappropriately referred to their services as has happened in several cases," she said.
Janelle Saffin, Labor
LABOR candidate Janelle Saffin reaffirmed calls to a "comprehensive inquiry" which would assess which government and related agencies UM "managed to infiltrate".
Ms Saffin said she was "deeply concerned" about UM's ongoing operations within the region, particularly in relation to associations with children, including those under government care.
"Kids are kids and we've got an absolute, fundamental duty to protect them," she said.
"My biggest concern is the lack of action around children."
Alison Waters, Animal Justice Party
ANIMAL Justice Party candidate Alison Waters said her party "does not have a formal position" on the matter, but held her own concerns.
"I have personal concerns about the conduct of UM," she said.
Austin Curtin, Nationals
NATIONALS candidate Austin Curtin said he hadn't had any "representations" about UM from anyone apart from the media.
When asked if he believed processes surrounding privacy laws should be more transparent he said "given the court case referenced one individual and practitioner, I take at face value the decision from other agencies about other individuals' privacy and respect those decisions."
"However, if elected I'll make it a matter of priority to get a proper and full briefing on this group ... and make a proper decision about a course of action on the facts," he said.