The Australian, 23 Feb 1973, p9

A happy apostle of the New Faith

Ian Moffitt talks to Australia's leading Scientologist

AUSTRALIA'S Scientology leader is not a tall, mute figure in a black suit, some ice-cold evangelist of evil. "I am very mischievous," he confesses.

He has bounded downstairs, hand out, smiling, a slender young man with long fair hair and a long moustache, shattering one's glacial image of him. Shortish, genial.

"Monty Python's on at 5 past 10 tonight," he says. "I love Auntie Jack too. But Callan" - he shakes his head slowly in admiration - "Callan is tremendous. Absolutely fantastic."

The Reverend Michael Graham, president of the (Scientology) Church of the New Faith, is 31, married - and on a brief visit to Sydney from Perth. "I'm here to consolidate and expand," he explains.

He chats about TV programmes (Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner series really stunned him, and he loves Marty Feldman) to show that he is human too, just like everyone else. He even plays tricks on his executives.

But he is just ending "a very long battle," he adds, to gain approval for Scientology, which has been under severe attack for years around the globe. He thought of it, flying from Perth this week.

"There was a guy in front of me reading a book called Where Eagles Dare," he recalls. "Every now and again I sneaked a look at it over his shoulder: they had to battle nazi oppression and so on.

"Well, we've had to weather police raids in Perth, but we've come out of this very, very well. We've had a series of wins and it's been a very exciting, and finally, rewarding, existence."

A reward for Scientology is a red-alert for its critics but its battle to strike root in Australia's flinty soil seems to be succeeding - for right or wrong. The Federal Government has proclaimed the church a recognised denomination under section 26 of the Commonwealth's Marriages Act.

This means, say the Scientologists, that a Victorian ban against Scientology is now null and void; Western Australia is about to repeal its ban and South Australia eventually will follow suit.

Mr. Graham leafs lovingly through a copy of the Scientology marriage service: the work of L. Ron Hubbard, a former American science fiction writer who founded this "applied religious philosophy."

Mind blower

"It blows my mind every time I do this service," he confides. "It's wonderfully aesthetic and a very nice occasion. I wear a black suit, clerical collar, and a cross of sterling silver around my neck.

"I've performed five or six so far, always with a civil ceremony beforehand, but" - he laughs suddenly - "the next one will be the real thing."

Today he is wearing a black open-neck sports shirt: he could be a trendy record salesman. A bachelor of science, trained as a zoologist, he now heads "a conservative 20,000" Scientology followers in Australia.

"I had this phone call from Lionel Murphy (the Attorney-General) in Canberra," he explains. "Ring, ring, ring: he seems to be a man who likes getting things done, ringing up or sending telegrams instead of letters.

"I was delighted when he gave me the news. He must have a very considerable sense of personal justice ..."

Mr Graham is not an "ivory tower churchman." In fact, he has been building "a great big garage" for two and a half months in his yard at Leederville, Perth. He is a vintage car enthusiast.

He is working on a 1933 Ford roadster and a 1928 De Soto, goes spear and line fishing and keeps tropical fish. But Scientology is his main streamlined interest; its dynamo whirrs inexorably beneath his surface cheer.

Hardly vintage class (Hubbard spread the word in the fifties), it seems, to the outsider, to be an amalgam of the moon and Madison Avenue, a graft of the Cross with the Cape Kennedy computer-banks. Its enemies brand it as dangerous.

Space-age and business ethos reverberate from its terminology, though it claims Buddhism as a source. The Church's spiritual counsellors are "auditors," who rate potential members at "grade zero release" when they pass the initial steps in a personal-communications course.

Clear top

They then rise through different grades, overcoming personal blockages and confessing their sins on the way, till they reach the state of Clear (which too Mr Graham about five years).

"It's quite a state, I tell you," declares Mr Graham. "It's a state of being completely at peace with oneself and one's fellows. And," he says, smiling again, "it's the ability to have one's emotions always under control.

"We have no image-facsimile of an old man in the sky and we don't have this big bit about sacrifices and supplication and pleas for pity and mercy."

What about the Church's controversial E-meter, an "electronic response indicator" used to determine responses in the journey through "pre-clear grades" and "relief release" and "overts and withholds"? Will it be all right now to use that?

"I consider that the Government's decision supports the U.S. ruling that it is a bona fide religious instrument," Mr Graham says. "And it confirms that counselling is equal to confessions in the Roman Catholic Church."

He prefers to promote Scientology, not himself, he says, but he is very, very happy: he has a very good marriage and greatly enjoys life, though he is not happy merely to "dilettante around, doing nothing."

The Church has enough funds to do what it wants to do, he says, and he believes that it will go on from strength to strength.