Macquarie Weekly’s Justin Smith, recently interviewed Brett Sengstock, a victim of Hillsong’s founder Frank Houston. Brett joined Justin to discuss the ‘gossip’ about Hillsong senior leader, Brian Houston, being invited to the White House by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. From the outset, Justin Smith strongly stated:
“Now Brian Houston, in my opinion, should not be the head of a church, in fact I wouldn’t even have him running a school tuckshop. His father, Frank Houston, was a dreadful, sanctamonious, low, bible-thumping paedophile and the best thing that Frank Houston ever did for this world was to die in 2004.”
As a presenter and executive producer, Justin Smith has been on air in Melbourne and Sydney radio for the last 20 years. He’s won various awards for his work, including an ACRA for his national broadcast from the Afghanistan War. Justin is also a regular newspaper columnist and guest on Seven’s Sunrise.
Justin Smith’s interview with Brett Sengstock – victim of paedophile Frank Houston.
Audio transcribed below:
Justin Smith: “So I mentioned the good bit before, of the Morrison trip. Now – here’s the bad bit of the trip to the United States. Scott Morrison has made a mistake this weekend politically, and I think, morally. And it’s a mistake I think he keeps making. It is his friendship with Brian Houston, the pastor and the head of Hillsong Church, and it’s a problem that he’s been making for quite a while. And now it’s made international news, when the Prime Minister tried to get Houston into the White House and the White House vetoed Houston getting in there. That is the report coming out of the very credible ‘Wall Street Journal’ in the United States. Now Brian Houston, in my opinion, should not be the head of a church, in fact I wouldn’t even have him running a school tuckshop. His father, Frank Houston, was a dreadful, sanctamonious, low, bible thumping paedophile and the best thing that Frank Houston ever did for this world was to die in 2004.
I wrote an article in the ‘News Corp’ paper around a month ago, after the Prime Minister was attending a Hillsong conference and sharing the stage with Brian Houston, something I think just should not be happening. Because Houston Jnr, Brian Houston, was slapped around and deservedly so, by the Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse – for the way that Brian Houston had handled his father and the victims. Houston, as the head of their church at the time, did not go to the police after learning about this abuse. And they did what they could, in that church, to make sure that it did not get out. Did Frank Houston go to jail? Was he taken away in handcuffs for abusing, reportedly, nine children, did that happen? No! It didn’t happen – they pensioned him off, pensioned off Frank Houston.
It was disgusting, awful. They just did what the churches, particularly what Catholic churches had been doing for years, they protected themselves, they protected the church and they kept their mouths shut.
Now we have been thumping the Catholics, we’ve been particularly thumping George Pell. And George Pell was convicted of his very own child rape charges. Before that we were going hammer and tongs after the Catholic church and George Pell over the way they had covered up child sex abuses. We should be doing exactly the same thing to Brian Houston, exactly the same thing. I contacted the New South Wales Police about this case when I was writing this article and they told me they were still investigating Brian Houston, and the church, over the way they had handled this.
So, have look at this, Brian Houston was censured by the Royal Commission, he is being investigated by the New South Wales Police, and yet the Prime Minister stands on stage next to this person. And again, according to the Wall Street Journal, he put Houston on the guest list to come to the White House. But the White House rejected it. Good on the White House! That’s incredibly nice work from the Trump people. The Trump people don’t always get particularly good press but they should be getting good press about this because they knocked him back. All they would have had done, was to ‘google’ Brian Houston’s name to know what had gone on here.
Brian Houston sent out a statement via Twitter today and he said this, and I’m quoting:
‘I’ve had no invitation to the White House and I’ve had no discussion with the Prime Minister or anyone else.”
He also says:
“Hillsong church received no inquiry from any party as to my details or availability.As far as I’m concerned this is a baseless rumour and totally false news.”
Now that doesn’t quite fly with me, that does not make the story untrue. The Prime Minister could have put Houston’s name on the list and there would be no reason if the White House were going to reject him – that they would make contact with Houston at all. All this could have happened without Houston’s knowledge. And personally, I would believe that it did. But then the Prime Minister was asked about it and he did himself absolutely no favours because he refused to deny it. This is what he said, in answer to questions about the ‘invitation’, at the Press Conference:
“….I don’t comment on gossip….It’s all gossip… I don’t comment on gossip on stories about other stories…..It means it’s gossip….It means it’s gossip….I think I’ve answered the question”
Wow! That was extraordinary. Now he used a great word there, he picked a ripper. Whoever was working with the, whoever had the ‘primeministerial’ thesaurus this weekend did a ripping job – because the word “gossip” was absolutely perfect. Because gossip is not a lie, gossip is not necessarily the truth! Gossip means you are talking about other people. So he was not saying that the story was untrue, he was just saying he does not comment on gossip. The Prime Minister could have easily said, “Look, it’s just rubbish, it is absolutely not true, don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know where the story came from, it’s just not true.” Did he do that? No, he didn’t do that. He said that he doesn’t comment on gossip.
Now we have seen the Prime Minister resort to this kind of talk when he doesn’t want to give a full answer. And if I had to bet, if I had to bet, and in my opinion, if I was pressed, that the story seems to be absolutely true. The Prime Minister has described Houston as a mentor. He gives him incredible support, so it is not hard to believe, not hard to believe at all, when you look at the other people that he had invited to this ‘do’. It is not hard to believe that he had asked him go to the White House, or not ask him, but put him on the list. And then that list gets reviewed by White House staff, they’ve looked at it and I don’t know why they have vetoed it, I really don’t know. But as I said, all they would need to do would be to go and ‘google’, look at Brian Houston’s name, found out what was said at the Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse and just put a big red stamp saying ‘eject’ over the top of his file. But he wanted him to go to the White House, I mean, this is just a disgrace. I really hate that my Prime Minister, that the Prime Minister of my country, stands next to this man. And I’m amazed, absolutely amazed, that Houston has the gall to stand up and preach Christianity and morality.
So today I was contacted by one of the victims of Frank Houston. He himself was trying to get his head around the news of Houston going to the White House. Now his story was told by ’60 Minutes’ about 10 months ago, it is a terrible story of abuse at the hands of Frank Houston – we won’t go through that detail tonight but I did want to hear what he thought about this and he is on the line.”
Justin: Brett Sengstock, I thank you very much for your time – hello Brett.
Brett: Good evening Justin – how are you?
Justin: I’m alright, I thank you very much for sitting through that. I want to ask you, you’ve been through a hell of a lot, at the hands of the Houstons. What did you think of Brian Houston being invited to the White House?
Brett: Ah, when I first saw the footage at the Hillsong church, I was actually quite staggered, I was blinking, thinking this can’t be correct. And I just think it’s a slap in the face to survivors who attended the Royal Commission in 2014, a slap in the face to the Australian law that we all have to abide by. And it makes Mr Morrison’s national apology completely a charade and invalid.
Justin: Wow! This, this friendship that Brian Houston has with the Prime Minister is not a new thing. I mean, that must be disappointing to you – I mean, because this is not up for debate, what Brian Houston had done has been talked about many times in the Royal Commission, what his father has done is completely out in the open now, this is not ‘new’ news. And the Prime Minister must know it and yet that friendship continues, that support continues.
Brett: I have no explanation for it, aah it’s just gobsmacking, I don’t understand what the connection is there, I don’t understand with the George Pell case and John Howard and Tony Abbott all being involved in this, or all being Liberals. It does make your mind tend to wander with ‘conspiracy theories’.
Justin: Ok, yes. Brian Houston, my big concern is that he has a great deal of power in this country, the Hillsong church is incredibly powerful. I don’t believe that he’s a fit person to lead that church, what do you think?
Brett: I totally agree with that, I think, in his standing with what’s taken place in the past, with myself and other victims who are too frightened to come forward, I cannot understand how much power he commands, the people he rubs elbows with, just leaves my mouth hanging open. And as a survivor myself, I just can’t understand how someone with this background can have this input, and this sort of ‘strength’ in this country. I’m sorry Justin, I’ve had repeated bouts of chemotherapy and my brain is still very foggy so I’m sorry, I do apologise.
Justin: Don’t you dare apologise to me. Brett, thank you very much for talking to me. And so people have an understanding of this, I want to go through the whole story, I don’t want to make you tell the whole story but you were seven years old when you were first abused by Frank Houston – what does that do to a life? How does that change your life?
Brett: It destroys it. There are many other abuse victims but for myself, it has effect on your every day life, relationships, your sexuality, your satisfaction with living. As I’ve said before, he may as well have murdered me at that age because what he’s done, he’s put a life sentence on me and and I still bear the scars of this today. And it just continues on and basically there’s no redress for me and I just have to put up with it. And I see Brian Houston on stage, asking for more money, or appearing at different venues. And I just think, well, ‘it’s all water off a duck’s back’ for him but for me, I live and I struggle every day.
Justin: And do you think Brian Houston has got one inkling? I mean, it’s a very difficult thong to know what’s in a man’s heart but do you think he’s just got one inkling of the damage that has been caused by, by not only his father, and he does not have to answer to his father’s actions, that’s not his job. But he does need to answer to his own actions and the way that his church has handled this. Do you think he’s got an idea of how much damage was caused?
Brett: No – I think that he lives another life that the average person doesn’t. I think he has no idea of what myself and others have gone through, and what I did with his father, being brutalised at seven years of age. You look at any child on the street and you think, “what’s taken place to that, that could take place to a child of seven years of age and not think that it’s going to damage their lives, you’re totally wrong. It is, it is heinous, it’s disgraceful, it’s disgusting, and as far as Mr Houston goes, there has been no compassion whatsoever. Absolutely nothing.
Justin: What message would you give to the Prime Minister, his friend?
Brett: You’re known by who your friends are, Mr Morrison. If you’re hanging around with someone like that, then people are going to look at you with a lot of disdain, to think that you would relish this gentleman’s company. I think it’s a disgrace, just terrible.
Justin: Brett, thank you for reaching out to me today, and thanks for having a chat to me tonight, I appreciate it mate, thank you.
Brett: Thank you very much.
Justin: That is Brett Sengstock, whose story was told by ’60 Minutes’, 10 months ago. I urge you to have a look at that episode from 10 months ago, it’s pretty easy to find, it is sitting on YouTube, you will find it pretty quickly and I would be very keen, very keen to hear your thoughts on people like Brian Houston – after you see it.
Source:Justin Smith, ‘Macquarie Weekly’ podcast, Radio 3AW Melbourne, https://www.3aw.com.au/podcast/brett-sengstock-victim-of-frank-houston/,. Premiered September 23, 2019. (Accessed September 29, 2019.)
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