The mystery man behind Morrison’s Tokyo speech

Morrison, who could earn a steady post-political income from the Pentecostal speaker’s circuit, used his first speech since losing the election to urge churchgoers not to trust in governments.

“We trust in Him. We don’t trust in governments. We don’t trust in United Nations, thank goodness,” Morrison told Margaret Court’s Perth’s Victory Life Centre in July.

ANU professor John Warhurst said the link between conservative politics and religion was well-established.

Scott Morrison delivers a sermon at Victory Life Centre in Perth, urging churchgoers to trust in God, not government.

“The link between money and politics, and the long history of the connection between right-wing religion and right-wing politics, fits into a decades-long relationship,” he said.

Morrison has not said publicly if he is being paid to appear at the forum. His office has been contacted for comment. On Monday, he said that he had already accepted the invitation “to address an international event to be held in Tokyo,” before the Labor government had advised the sitting schedule for the remainder of 2022.

Thursday’s forum follows growing scrutiny on the reach of religious groups in Japanese politics after the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. His assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, had blamed the Unification Church for “destroying his family and driving it into bankruptcy” after his mother donated more than $1 million to the church. Abe had appeared at the church as a paid speaker in September.

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The Unification Church is one of dozens of religious sects in Japan which flourished in the 1990s as Japan’s economy struggled while digital marketing exploded. World Mate, which has no link to the Unification Church, relies on Handa’s dogma which preaches individual salvation and “the law of happiness”.

“Good luck comes to you from the stars of the universe,” Handa wrote in one of his recent books. “The stars also have a spirit world, from which power is sent. I will teach you how to get it, a secret that you can own the lucky power from the stars.”

Handa, also known as Toshu Fukami or Toto Ami, rarely gives interviews but often gives out millions of dollars in donations – bestowing at least eight honorary degrees on him from universities around the world including Oxford and Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. He was never formally trained as a musician but once conducted a performance he bankrolled at Royal Albert Hall in London.

In his spare time, Handa runs exhibitions of his calligraphy. He picked up ballet at the age of 42. Handa, who was contacted for comment, has previously said he keeps his self-promotional and religious activities separate, maintaining that his management consultancies, publishing groups and Handa Watch World (a chain of watch stores) fund his interests.

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But his prolific achievements also mask a more controversial past. In 1994, Handa’s sect – then known as Powerful Cosmo Mate – was referred to prosecutors over allegations it had failed to declare about $50 million in income. In October of that year, Handa settled two sexual harassment suits brought by female followers out of court.

He also faced two civil lawsuits over claims he had extracted donation money in return for claimed healing. Handa told the Financial Review in 1998 that the tax dispute was “because of the long-term recession” in Japan and the government never proved any wrongdoing. He blamed the sexual assault claims and civil lawsuits on a disgruntled former employee.

The claims did little to damage his philanthropic reach – by 2012 he was funding the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, now in its 10th year. Handa, reportedly referred to by some in the art scene as “Mr Mysterious” had become one of Australia’s largest art benefactors. He told The Australian in 2012 that he had “a lifeline of 20,000 years,” but little enthusiasm for politics.

“Politicians, they are very boring persons,” he said.

On Thursday, he will be surrounded by them on a stage at the Hilton in Tokyo.

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