Who is Bill Rizopoulos?
A strange figure haunts the Western Metro Liberals. He is wild man full of frenetic energy, foul language and a bizarre religious mission. Bill Rizopoulos styles himself as a political evangelist where every rule may be broken and every strained tear may be shed for the glory of one.
Bill, or “Billy Riz”, or “Ninja”, is not shy about his life and draws out his story and purpose with readiness to anyone who will listen and take him seriously.
Born 5 October 1978 in Athens, Greece, Bill came to Australia as a child and grew up on the gritty streets of Western Melbourne, attuned to violence and petty criminality. His family ran a worn down tyre fitting garage near the bland walls and graffitied fences somewhere on Sydney Road, Coburg. The building from another era with covered windows, weeds in the cracking concrete and heavy paintwork crumbled in the urban decay. This is still Rizopoulos’ home turf.
New Australians with lazy toothpicks hanging from their mouths sauntered about. The dingy tearoom had crinkled porno magazines, 1980s hits blaring from a dusty radio and big bullies with too much hair in all the wrong places. Little Billy would one day take over the family business.
His mother attended the Greek Orthodox church, and with a smattering of extra Greek school on weekends, Bill grasped the basics of Christianity and speaks Greek fluently. During VCE Bill got into multimedia and after he finished, he bought his first real video camera and made some money helping people with the Y2K bug. However, it was not until he was attempting university with his own second hand car (complete with doof-doof speakers) that Bill attended a meeting run by the PlanetShakers church. The music was good, the crowds exciting and his purpose became clear.
That evening, we are led to believe, at the call of the American-style preacher’s message, Bill Rizopoulos proudly walked through the darkened auditorium down to the front and gave his life over to Jesus. Through the glaring lights and darkened haze, Bill felt a new direction for his life. Little Billy was physically misshapen, but he felt he was called to be a communicator.
We are further led to believe that through PlanetShakers he became firmly involved with their young adults meetings and dreamed of becoming an international youth pastor with an influential media ministry. He felt for those Western suburbs high school drop outs, the first generation of new Australians and the problems with drugs, poverty and violence on the streets. There had been a kind of Greek and Yugo romper stomper subculture in the back of Footscray and Bill was a bit of a freak for those garage metal bands though he has moved to the mellow style of Teramaze.
Then Bill saw the rise of the Family First Party. Christians could make a difference in politics. Twenty-something year old Bill thought that was part of his destiny too, and imagined a white shirt youth wing. Besides this was the talk of missions, that is, overseas evangelism, where Bill coveted influence and leadership.
Bill attended religious political meetings like Catch the Fire and Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) events where he interacted with people like Peter Kentley, Dan Flynn and Neil Angus. One thing led to another, and Bill’s connection with Kentley along with his interest in the “Left Behind” style message led to his involvement with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), a Christian ministry working with Jewish people preparing for the coming end times. Bill eventually became the Australian spokesperson for the ICEJ, and in these circles he found increased prestige.
Since the Rizopoulos tyre centre was a cash in hand business which did not require day to day supervision, Rizopoulos could afford to spend time looking and listening to different Christian materials, and take opportunities to attend prayer functions and other Christian events. He could even claim his activities as business expenses.
Bill could therefore engage with ideas from different churches, articulate his brand of religious messaging and even discuss prophecies and the latest developments with his fellow attendees at these events. Of course, not many Christians saw the world like Bill did, and sometimes Bill was arguing (he loves the thrill of conflict) with other Christians some fairly unpopular and contentious positions.
In order to better connect and fit in with his new Liberal Party membership (he joined in 2016), Bill eventually shifted to a “happening” Baptist church rather than the more “gushy” PlanetShakers and Tim Hall evangelistic meetings where people had less time for politics. Bill knew he needed to broaden his appeal and connect to people who wanted to do more than just sing songs about “taking the land”.
When Bill joined the Party in 2016 he did so under his nickname Billy Rizo. Of course the AEC had no records of this name so in 2017 the Party database was amended with his proper surname and an address in Strathmore.
Since school Bill had striven to gain a Bachelor of Arts. His interest in multimedia was serious and he imagined making video documentaries about Christianity and politics. Eventually Bill had set up a front for himself called “Essential Media” which was nothing more than just a gmail account and a crate of video camera cables in his boot. Bill’s vainglorious attempt to name himself as the owner of said entity was complete show dressing. But Bill’s real operation was something remarkably more sinister. Bill liked to argue, to forcefully state his point of view and disregard all opposition. Social media was an ideal place for this, and Bill had cultivated some experience in the online space, particularly by creating false facebook profiles and then proceeding to have conversations and debates against Christians with them. Strangely, Bill’s false characters would take on positions against his own, and Bill would then play out arguments between them, or use these characters to comment negatively on other Christian activists’ profiles in order to generate activity. He also used this method to generate content around Donald Trump’s win much like how foreign actors allegedly used facebook profiles to generate commentary and political messaging.
In 2017, through a sub-faction of the Liberal Party, Bill came into contact with the likes of Marijke Rancie, Moria Deeming and other attractive women who were campaigning against Safe Schools, abortion, euthanasia, etc. Bill shared the same views on these issues, though Bill wanted to take a more Golden Dawn rather than Tea Party approach. Nevertheless, while Bill had a level of charisma in recruiting certain people, he lacked the discipline to fit into any sustainable organisational movement.
This meant that while Bill could not find a place in the broader Party, he found a place in the orbit of Karina Okotel and her narrow band of disenfranchised Party members. He even became an “advisor” for Marijke Rancie during a difficult period in her life. He was also involved in secretive prayer meetings and camps at Belgrave Heights run by Grant Hutchinson where young people from churches were groomed to join the Young Liberals.
In 2018 Bill had found another place to assert himself, running Gino Potenza’s campaign for the State seat of Essendon. The candidate, Potenza, was an easy-going lawyer from Western Melbourne who would likely be seen in the High Court lazily talking about the “gist” of the Constitution. Bill actively turned up to the workplaces of accountants and businessmen and confronted them for financial contributions as if he was working for the mob.
Many questions have been raised about the 2018 campaign, including a strange invoice for an unlisted company called “Precision Printing”, for which the Liberal Party paid $6000, with no evidence of any printing other than potentially just a few sample copies as allegedly in the possession of Rizopoulos.
However, after the same period, the memberships of many dozens of “uninformed” people have been paid for in the Maribyrnong FEC. Observers have noted strong direct parallels between the high amount of new members in that FEC and the model used by Labor MP Adem Somyurek who likewise used the proceeds from false printing invoices to pay for members to the join the ALP as part of his branch stacking operation.
These “recruits” are predominately students, pensioners and/or unemployed, thus qualifying for discounted membership rates. Party members in Essendon SEC have stated they believe that in many instances Bill is giving the recruits cash to pay their Liberal Party membership fees.
When asked by local Liberals about various social media accounts, changing email accounts, aliases and addresses, Rizopoulos becomes angry. What further does not accord with church-going behaviour is not merely that Bill gets angry, but the ferocity of his anger. Witnesses can attest that Bill has on occasions snapped, become violent with the most uncouth language flowing from his mouth. This ongoing pattern of behaviour is highly inconsistent with Bill’s story of his faith or indeed the persona of a Christian minister he portrays himself as.
What is further unusual is that Bill’s claims for having some sort of Christian ministry are not substantiated by other Christian ministers. Those that know Bill actually describe a man with mental issues who has glaring unchristian tendencies.
It is a tell-tale sign that the type of person which Bill may have recruited into the Liberal Party is either a marginalised person, possibly a new immigrant to Australia or otherwise not what would usually be termed as informed of political matters. Yet this disparate grouping has been visible at Liberal Party meetings in the Western metro which has earned the name of the ”Rizopoulos Faction”.
The epicentre of Bill’s activities is his grandiosely titled “operations centre”, a room at the back of the tyre garage where he takes calls from Karina Okotel planning out their factional activities in support of Robert Clark and Bernie Finn.
One of their publicised branch stacking exercises was to ingratiate themselves in with the African community, so as to fill Maribyrnong FEC with numbers who would be exploited to vote for them or candidates approved by Bernie Finn and Robert Clark. Bill has helped organise these multicultural recruitment events with Mike Horner (a Scott Ryan staffer) tasked to “managing” Bill so that he does not say or do anything out of place. Robert Clark has also attended one of these branch stacking meetings which has been organised under the name of an unregistered (i.e. false) entity called the Australian African Association whose headquarters is actually just an hotel suite in Collins St, Melbourne.
Following a large-scale branch stacking exercise during 2019 (50+ in Maribyrnong and 40 in Essendon, including 20 in August alone) Bill “took over” Essendon SEC at the 2019 AGM. Bill’s stacking conveniently went unnoticed by Robert Clark’s Liberal Party Secretariat at the time. A subsequent letter from the Essendon SEC Chairman to the Secretariat, noting the stacking and expressing concern, went unacknowledged and unanswered. When the issue of stacking was raised at the Maribyrnong FEC AGM, Bill responded that it had all been approved by State President Robert Clark.
In 2020 Bill’s branch stacking moved up a notch, with Bill’s mother bringing in people from the Greek Orthodox church. This resulted in a large percentage of people not living in the Maribyrnong electorate, yet it is extraordinary that Robert Clark and his Secretariat have not launched any investigation into this industrial level branch stacking.
In some ways, Bill’s recruiting method is far beyond anything done by other Party members, in that Rizopoulos presents his views under a vague title of a conservative movement with religious overtones never seen before within Party meetings. At such addresses, Bill gives a kind of sermon, prays and makes an emotive call for people to respond and join the Liberal Party. He further encourages those who do respond to come and attend his future meetings.
At one such meeting some of the attendees objected to Bill’s call for joining the Liberal Party, saying that they would rather speak about important issues that were not being addressed by the Party, specifically, the Gay Conversion Therapy Bill. Things were getting out of hand in the meeting. Fortunately for Rizopoulos, Karina Okotel’s brother Joshua Bonney was in attendance, and he quickly hosed down their frustrations and redirected their expectations.
While Bill uses his religious approach, he has very practical political ambitions. The fact that members who initially joined in Essendon SEC are now being warehoused to other surrounding State electorates indicates that Bill’s operation is being used to ensure passage into the Upper House after Bernie Finn’s retirement. In 2011 Bill had a profound “experience” when he was standing in the Victorian Upper House. Bernie Finn was there, it seemed an ordinary day at Parliament. The younger and more respectful Bill “felt” as if he was drawn to this place, the crimson carpet and exalted ceiling, it left him with a very deep impression. In this grand scheme for a seat in the other place, Bill might one day discover that he is being used by Karina Okotel’s more immediate ambitions in relation to her and Bernie Finn’s succession plan.
Yet Rizopoulos sees himself as a master political strategist. During the 2018 state election campaign, Bill not only officially ran the Liberal Party’s campaign, but also ran the campaigns for six other non-Liberal candidates. Bill called this “undercover ops”. During the 2018 state and 2019 federal elections, Bill would wear black and hand out how to vote cards for other non-Liberal candidates at polling booths.
Strangely, Bill believes that public opinion can be swayed through social media and that elections can be won on social media. He has even told Liberal Party members that he helped Donald Trump get elected through using facebook in his Coburg “operations centre”.
Party members report that Bill spent thousands of dollars on facebook advertising for the Liberal Party’s 2018 and 2019 election campaigns, where his posts were “indecipherable” and “bizarre”. Unfortunately unsuspecting people like candidate Christine Stow were hoodwinked by Bill’s claims at the time and Party funds were paid to Rizopoulos’ media business.
Christian leaders stay clear of Bill Rizopoulos. One person provided a written statement as backed up by other witnesses, “Reports have recently emerged of some quite extraordinary and very worrying behaviour by Bill Rizopoulos, including acting out, tantrums, abuse and very offensive language, at gatherings and events. He appears to have a very dark side. This is in marked contrast to the image Bill likes to portray himself as, as he does the rounds [in] numerous churches of all denominations.” A number of political figures have concurred that Bill is “dangerous” and has “a screw loose”.
Bill continues to be supported by factional allies within the Liberal Party, particularly Karina Okotel and Robert Clark.