NEW South Wales and Victoria seem to have very different ideas of medical, moral and social evils. Time and time again this has been demonstrated - in book censorship, the licensing laws and now - to show as wide a gulf as possible - in the attitude to scientology.
While police were raiding the Scientology Centre in Spring Street, Melbourne, the other day, following the Bill outlawing the organisation, and confiscating files and handing them over to the Attorney-General's Department, the NSW Government preserved a magnificent calm and did nothing whatsoever.
Just why Victoria should get itself into such a state and NSW contain itself with such detachment remains a puzzle. After all, the report issued by the Victorian board of inquiry came to the sober conclusion, after studying the evidence of more than 150 witnesses over some 160 days, that the practice of scientology was evil and a serious threat to the community, medically, morally and socially.
That seems plain enough, yet for some peculiar reason scientology doesn't seem to have gained any grip here - that is, if we go by government spokesmen, who talk of any proposed legislation against it as being equivalent of using a steam-hammer to break a walnut, or words to that effect. One begins to wonder why this is so, whether scientology is better organised in Victoria or whether there is greater scepticism in NSW.
But against this official, or semi-official, opinion we have the opinion of Mr Martin Bentley, distribution secretary in NSW for the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International, who one would have thought content to let sleeping dogs lie.
One the contrary, "Scientology is booming in NSW," he says. Moreover one would imagine that there was little, if any, connection between scientology, the black art as practised in Victoria and the wipe-open-to-inspection religion that, according to Mr Bentley, has a mailing list of 1,700 odd at its headquarters in Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills.
"We don't deal in any way with psychology, psychiatry, healing hypnotism, or any of the things we are accused of," says Mr Bentley flatly. Then, for pity's sake, what are the dozens of people willing to pay £35 for 80 hours of "training" at the Surry Hills centre learning? And what exactly goes on at the other "booming" centres at Crow's Nest, Cremorne, Roseville, Gosford and Wollongong?
In other words, who is fooling who? It's an ancient bromide to assert you can fool some of the people most of the time. But in this case of Victoria versus New South Wales, one government or the other is having the wool pulled over its eyes.