Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6376

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (15:38): I rise to speak with regard to the dissenting report from the Australian Greens on this matter. The Australian Greens firmly believe that the current practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer, something that's occurred in this place since 1901, is outdated and no longer reflective of Australia's religiously diverse and secular society.

It's understandable that, back in 1901, when 97 per cent of Australians identified as Christian, this parliament would open proceedings with the Lord's Prayer. However, modern Australia is a far more diverse society. As of the last census in 2016 only half of the population identified as Christian. We have a significantly more varied and less religious population today. It no longer relies exclusively on a Christian concept of morality for guidance. Many people in this place consider themselves to be atheists, some are agnostic and some of them are followers of non-Christian faiths, and yet we start each day in this parliament with an entreaty to a Christian God.

We don't think that's appropriate. We think the time has long come to recognise that this is a secular society and that we should give people, everyone in this place, the opportunity of beginning proceedings in a way that they choose fit. In fact, the Catholic Women's League of Australia supported this general view by stating:

However, we also recognise that in an increasingly secular society not all Australian citizens choose to pray. Such an amendment recognizes the diversity in spiritual and religious beliefs and is a positive development. Therefore a space for them to reflect is important too, and provides an opportunity of mindfulness for every person engaged in parliamentary work.

It's clear that the Lord's Prayer is no longer appropriate for the representative body. This is, after all, a representative body. We are here to represent the breadth of views across the Australian community, and when half of the Australian population do not identify as Christian it's important that those views are represented in the way we conduct our business.

It's also not appropriate in a secular society. It's the Greens' strong view that the Australian parliament should uphold secular values and not have those important values undermined at the beginning of each day with something that sends precisely the opposite message. We make it very clear that this is a country where there is separation between church and state. It's a country of many faiths. In fact, it's a country where many people have no faith, and therefore our parliament should reflect that.

Our proposal is a very straightforward one. It's one where we invite people to prayer or reflection, but in silence. Basically, we put forward a proposal where we could use the opening statement that's read at the start of each day in the Legislative Assembly of the ACT. That procedure was adopted back in 1995, and not a moment too soon. To summarise: our recommendation is that as a parliament we no longer begin each day with the Lord's Prayer—something that is inconsistent with a modern multicultural, multifaith democracy—and instead we recommend that the requirement for prayer under standing order 50 be replaced with an invitation to prayer or reflection. That could be done in silence, it would be a much more inclusive gesture and it would reflect the breadth of views right across the Australian community.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.