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From: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/HansArt.nsf/8030b900e51e8fcdca256cfd000dcf1c/ca256d11000bd3aa4a256451002ea163%21OpenDocument

About this Item
Speakers Cochran Mr PeterPhillips Mr Ronald
Business Private Members Statements

Mr COCHRAN (Monaro) [5.30]: I raise a matter on behalf of Bernie and Linda Cabone, constituents of mine of Queanbeyan, which has arisen as a result of their experience with an organisation called the Christian City Church, which moved into the Canberra region some years ago. Under the leadership of Pastor Paul Whittaker the church approached its parishioners to construct a new church in Canberra, calling on the parishioners to raise $1.2 million for that purpose. The parishioners borrowed the $1.2 million from the State Bank using their family homes as security.

Bernie and Linda Cabone, who are average working people in my electorate – they are certainly not wealthy – offered their home as security, as did other members of the parish, as well as contributing $17,000 in cash, a considerable sum that they could ill afford. They had a very strong commitment to the church and, having pledged the security of their home, the contribution of the cash demonstrated their absolute dedication and conviction that the church would be of benefit to the parish and its parishioners.

Needless to say, the church went broke and the parishioners were left with the debt. Pastor Paul Whittaker flew the coup and moved to Sydney. The church disowned the debt, leaving the parishioners to deal with it. Pastor Whittaker should be found and called upon to explain what happened. The church has changed its name, very conveniently, and is now known as the Capital Christian Church, administered by Pastor Carl Cremer, who should also be called upon to explain why the church changed its name and why Pastor Whittaker was not called on to accept responsibility for the debt.

The debt of the church now stands at $2.4 million, but is in the name of the original church and is, therefore, the responsibility of its former parishioners. It might seem confusing to honourable members of this House, but to my constituents Bernie and Linda Cabone it is an absolute catastrophe. The security on their house to safeguard the debt was in the vicinity of $80,000. The State Bank has foreclosed on that debt, but it has been generous
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enough to reduce to debt to $60,000. Obviously the Cabones do not have that money. They are able to raise about $20,000, but they intend to use that money to fight a legal battle.

The behaviour on behalf of the church is totally unethical and immoral. I question the morality of the church, Pastor Paul Whittaker and all who were involved in the administration of the church. I call on the Minister for Police to assist me in referring this matter to the appropriate authorities for a thorough investigation to establish, first, how a church could con a bank into providing the security of people’s homes – an absolutely extraordinary state of affairs. Bernie and Linda Cabone freely admit that they made an error in judgment. They are Christian enough not to want to criticise the church, but they are very hurt and offended because they have been deserted and have been left with what could be a personal disaster.

One can only wonder what sort of people would become involved in such a ploy: people dedicated to a cause, with Christian values being deserted so as to leave them with personal tragedy. I call on the Minister for Police to assist me in raising this matter with the appropriate authorities, to have it fully investigated and to undertake whatever steps are necessary to restore to the Cabone family the security of their home.

Mr PHILLIPS (Miranda – Minister for Health) [5.35]: I thank the honourable member for Monaro for bringing this very important issue to the attention of the House. On the facts it seems to be a very sad case of a minority Christian church taking advantage of the religious dedication of a group of people who have a commitment to their God and to their Christ, by getting them to commit themselves to a huge debt. It is a sad indictment of any church that would walk away and leave its parishioners with such a debt. I hope there is a legal way in which the Government can pursue this particular organisation to expose it for what it has done and to do something about the debt. It is an issue of grave concern.

I assure the honourable member for Monaro that I will have no hesitation in drawing this matter to the attention of the Minister to ensure that an investigation is undertaken so that consideration can be given to what action can be taken.