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Synopsis

Out of nowhere in 2004, an obscure religious sect burst onto the political stage in Australia. Almost unheard of until then, the Exclusive Brethren was suddenly spending up big in election advertising in support of conservative political parties. But its members were shy to the point of paranoia about who they were — preferring, as they said, to ‘fly under the radar’. Brethren members assiduously lobbied politicians, but did not vote. And they were very close to the-then prime minister John Howard.

What exactly was their interest in politics? Why did their activism suddenly blossom almost simultaneously across the world, from Canada and the United States to Sweden and Australia? And how did a small, fringe group, whose values are utterly detached from those of most Australians infiltrate the highest office in the land?

Michael Bachelard uncovered the facts about this secretive sect for more than two years while working as an investigative reporter at The Age. The result of his inquiries is the most comprehensive book ever written about the Exclusive Brethren. It details their origins in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century, their fractious history, their extraordinary use of scripture to control members and dissidents, and their lucrative business and financial arrangements. It’s a fascinating story of influence and power exercised across several continents. But it’s a very human story, too — of damaged lives, of broken families, and of hurt and anger that stretches back decades.

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