MEDIA mogul Rupert Murdoch may be a villain to some on Fleet Street. But when he slammed the Church of Scientology as a ''weird cult'', he became a hero to anti-cult activists fighting Scientology's status in Australia as a tax-exempt religion.
Mr Murdoch was the most ''significant figure'' to have come out against Scientology, said Nick Xenophon, the independent South Australian senator who has championed the fight against Scientology in Australia.
He ''wholeheartedly congratulated'' News Ltd's chairman for his comments.
''For every high profile Scientology bust up like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes [which prompted Mr Murdoch's comments on Twitter] there are hundreds of unreported cases where people's lives are ruined because they've tried to break away from Scientology.
''To have someone as powerful as Rupert Murdoch take on Scientology would give some comfort to the people whose lives have been ruined by it and are trying to escape it, '' he said.
Senator Xenophon said he hoped the government's new Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, which is being established, would apply a test to Scientology and other religions to check that they weren't doing more harm than good.
Former cult member David Ayliffe, who is secretary of the Victorian branch of the Cult Information and Family Support group, said Australia should follow France and outlaw Scientology as a religion. The Australian High Court ruled in 1983 that Scientology was a religion and, as such, was entitled to tax exempt status.
The 2011 Census data reveals just 2163 Australians call themselves Scientologists. By contrast, there are 65,000 self-described Jedi Faith Masters.