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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3436

Senator WATSON(10.50) —Mr President, on behalf of the Federal Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, I would like to take this formal opportunity to publicly thank you and Madam Speaker for allowing the use of facilities at Parliament House, in particular the dining room, for the historic national prayer breakfast held on 15 September this year. This was the first ever function of this kind held in Australia and it was an occasion which proved to be a resounding success and one which we hope will become an annual event.

The program opened with a welcome gathering organised by the combined Canberra churches at the Lakeside International Hotel on Sunday evening and attended by over 700 people from congregations throughout the Australian Capital Territory. The following morning a total of 384 guests were present at the breakfast held in the parliamentary dining room, the largest number of guests ever to attend a breakfast in Parliament House. I congratulate the dining room staff on their most efficient handling of the arrangements. The function was addressed by the Hon. Kim Beazley, AO, a distinguished former member of the other place, a government Minister and a leader in the Moral Rearmament Movement. Present were guests from every State and Territory in Australia and representatives from a wide range of occupations, including Federal and State parliamentarians, the diplomatic corps, the defence forces, the judiciary and business. Numerous community organisations were represented, including the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship members from various State parliaments.

I believe that the bringing together of people from all walks of life within the precincts of Parliament House when neither chamber is sitting and for a function associated with a parliamentary organisation is an important democratic opportunity to open up to the wider Australian electorate the many facets of life that exist behind the often false picture that the Press so relentlessly portrays of life in this Parliament. I would wish that when the construction of the new Parliament House is completed we shall see the facilities such as the dining rooms used for similar occasions, to bring Australians together.

Three seminar groups followed the breakfast, during which discussions were led by a number of highly regarded and notable speakers, including Sister Veronica Brady, a senior lecturer in English at the University of Western Australia and a former commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Right Reverend Bruce Wilson, Assistant Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, and Mr Mal Garvin, the National Director of Fusion and a national radio broadcaster from Melbourne.

A concluding luncheon was held at the Lakeside International Hotel and here we shared with some of our Pacific neighbours, including Sir Peter Kenilorea, the former Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands. A summary of the whole proceedings was given by the Reverend Gordon Moyes of the Wesley Central Mission. Guests were asked to give their views on the future direction of Australia, and the response that featured most prominently was that politicians were expected to take a lead in community issues and to stand up for Christian values.

Although the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship generally takes a low profile in the life of the Parliament, I would also like to take this opportunity of informing the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) reserved a special place for the President of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, Senator Michael Tate, to welcome Pope John Paul II on behalf of the Fellowship during his recent visit to Parliament House. Mr President, I wish, on behalf of the Fellowship, to extend our thanks to you for your support over many years as President of the Senate and as a member of the Fellowship. We pray that you and your wife will have a safe journey to your prestigious new posting. May you and your wife enjoy good health and Christ's blessing on your work. I seek leave to table the proceedings of the first national prayer breakfast.

Leave granted.

Senator WATSON —I table the document.