In this article you can access:
- Video and downloadable video of MP Andrew Wilkie’s speech.
- Transcript of Wilkie’s sppech.
- Phil Dooley’s private email to Hillsong and Hillsong’s media statement.
- Hillsong Board member, Stephen Crouch, message to Hillsong.
- Phil Dooley’s Sunday ‘sermon’ responding to the actions of Hillsong employee, MP Wilkie and media.
- All the available documents published by the Australian Parliament House.
Under parliamentary privilege, Australian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, launched shocking allegations against the already financially troubled Hillsong mega-church. Andrew Wilkie did not mince words.
Mr WILKIE (Clark) (12:35): Last year a whistleblower provided me with financial records and board papers that show that Hillsong is breaking numerous laws in Australia and around the world relating to fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. For example, this document shows how, in 2021, four members of the Houston family and their friends enjoyed a three-day luxury retreat in Cancun, Mexico, using $150,000 of church money. These other documents show former leader Brian Houston treating private jets like Ubers—again, all with church money. For example, in one three-month period, Brian Houston’s trips cost $55,000, $52,000, $30,000, $22,000 and $20,000. Meanwhile, the new head of Hillsong, Phil Dooley, has told church followers he only flies economy, but these documents show him clocking up $58,000 in business-class flights for him and his daughter to Guatemala, $42,000 in business-class flights to Mexico and $32,000 in business-class flights from Cape Town to Sydney via the US.
Hillsong followers believe that the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor, but these documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian—for example, a $6,500 Cartier watch for Bobbie Houston, $2,500 in Louis Vuitton luggage, a $2,500 watch for Phil Dooley, two watches worth $15,000 for Joel and Julia A’Bell, shopping sprees for designer clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue and even $16,000 for custom skateboards. Then there are the cash gifts—for instance, $15,000 for Darren Kitto’s 50th birthday, $36,000 for Gary Clarke’s 30th anniversary and $4,300 for his 60th birthday, plus up to $30,000 to board members, some of whom allegedly helped cover up the sexual abuse carried out by Frank Houston, Brian Houston’s father. There are also the curious payments of $10,000 each to Paul de Jong and Chris Hodges, the external pastors who investigated allegations of Brian Houston’s 2019 sexual misconduct in a Sydney hotel room involving a female parishioner.
The documents also show church donations being used to pay more than a million dollars a year in royalties to Hillsong musicians like Joel Houston, who’s Brian Houston’s son. Moreover, the documents show a $15.7 million loan from Hillsong—very unlikely ever to be repaid—which funded the purchase of Festival Hall in Melbourne. At face value this appears unremarkable, except that this is a commercial venture run by Hillsong’s Community Venues company and is ineligible to benefit from tax-deductible church donations. All of this is in the context of the documents also revealing that Hillsong earns $80 million more in Australian annual income than it reports publicly.
The criminality isn’t limited to Australia, as evidenced by these further documents which show how honorariums are used to disguise income and avoid tax. For example, US pastor Joyce Meyer enjoyed honorariums of $160,000, $133,000, $100,000 and $32,000, and US pastor TD Jakes received $71,000 and $120,000, with a staggering $77,000 worth of airfares to and from Australia thrown in. In return, Mr Houston goes to America and receives—you guessed it—his own eye-watering honorariums. Moreover, sending millions of dollars of Australian charitable donations overseas is illegal in some circumstances. The documents also show disgraced former head of Hillsong New York Carl Lentz being paid a salary of $220,000, most of it tax-free, and tens of thousands of dollars of church donations to run the New York church’s celebrity greenroom to cover catering and the cost of gifts for visiting celebrities. The documents show that Hillsong Australia guaranteed a $5½ million loan for Hillsong London to purchase the former Hippodrome nightclub, all from tax-exempt Australian income at a time when London was experiencing serious financial trouble.
I’ve verified that these documents are genuine. I’m shocked that, when offered to the ATO, ASIC and ACNC last year under whistleblower legislation, not one of those agencies acted. That is a failure of regulatory oversight every bit as alarming as Hillsong’s criminality. To remedy this, I now seek leave to table the evidence provided to me by the whistleblower.
Source: Hansard – Federation Chamber 9/03/2023 Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au) (Accessed March 11, 2023.)
PHIL DOOLEY EMAIL
The email released reads,
Dear Church, You may have seen media reports today of claims made in parliament by Andrew Wilkie MP under parliamentary privilege. You can view the statement we are sending to media in response here.
[Released on March 09, 2023]
HILLSONG MEDIA STATEMENT
The Hillsong media statement reads,
Hillsong Church statement -Re: claims in Parliament by Andrew Wilkie MP
Hillsong Church has been open and transparent with our congregation about past governance failures, and over the past twelve months we have engaged independent, professional assistance to overhaul our governance and accountability procedures.
Hillsong is a different church now than we were twelve months ago, and we are under new pastoral and board leadership. We are working hard to set a course for the future that ensures our structures are accountable, transparent, and honouring to God. Anything less has the potential to hinder our primary focus, which is to be a community of believers focused on the life-changing power of Jesus, driven to bring hope to the world around us.
The claims made in Federal Parliament by Mr Andrew Wilkie are out of context and relate to untested allegations made by an employee in an ongoing legal case. These allegations, made under parliamentary privilege, are in many respects wrong and it is disappointing he made no effort to contact us first. If he did so we would have answered his questions and provided him with financial records to address his concerns.
Hillsong has sought independent legal and accounting advice on these matters since the employee involved in the legal case made these claims, and we believe that we have complied with all legal and compliance requirements. We have filed our defence and will provide evidence at the appropriate time. We cannot do so at this stage due to the ongoing legal case. Mr Wilkie would be aware that we are unable to speak publicly about matters before a court. We are fully cooperating with regulatory authorities as part of their enquiries.
The figures quoted for flights for our global senior Pastor Phil Dooley have been misrepresented, as part of these fares are being paid by him personally and a large portion was reimbursed by a church Pastor Phil visited that is unrelated to Hillsong. Hillsong is a global church and it is the role of our global senior pastor to visit Hillsong churches around the world.
The past year has been a year of significant transition for Hillsong. Transitions are difficult, uncertain, and sometimes painful. However with new leadership, opportunities, and fresh vision we are focused on being a church that loves people and impacts the world.
[Published on March 09, 2023]
STEPHEN CROUCH MESSAGE
PHIL DOOLEY’S SUNDAY MORNING ‘SERMON’ (UNEDITED)
THE WILKIE LEAKS
This is the Australian Government website with the relevant documents:
Documents presented by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP on 9 March 2023
Mr Wilkie, by leave, presented the following documents in the Federation Chamber on Thursday 9 March 2023.
Whistleblower disclosure—Hillsong Church Australia Group—Introductory and summary documents .
Whistleblower disclosure—Hillsong Church Australia Group—Where all the money really goes .
Whistleblower disclosure—Hillsong Church Australia Group—Hillsong Australia’s payments overseas and overseas activities.
Whistleblower disclosure—Hillsong Church Australia Group—Bank statements .
The image clarity of these electronic documents reflects the image clarity of the original paper documents as tabled. Every effort has been made to digitise these documents to the highest possible standard.
Queries about these documents may be emailed to email@example.com.
Source: Documents presented by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP on 9 March 2023, Parliament of Australia, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Chamber_documents/Tabled_Papers/Documents_presented_by_Mr_Wilkie_on_9_March_2023, Accessed March 17, 2023.
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