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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6376

Senator LINES (Western AustraliaDeputy President and Chair of Committees) (15:36): Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President Kitching, for taking the chair to allow me to present this report. I present the Senate Procedure Committee's second report of 2018 Proposal to replace the parliamentary prayer. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

On 27 June 2018, the Senate referred to the committee a proposal to amend standing order 50 to replace the traditional parliamentary prayer with an invitation to prayer or reflection. The committee received approximately 820 submissions, the vast majority of which did not support replacing the prayer. The tenor of those submissions is recorded in the report, and the committee thanks all of those who contributed their views. Essentially the same matter was referred to the committee in 1997. On that occasion the committee reported:

It is clear that many senators who join in the prayer regard its retention as important, but among those who do not join in the prayer there does not appear to be a strong view that its proposed abolition is a significant question which should occupy the time of the Senate.

The submissions made on this occasion and the views of the committee members and their colleagues suggest the opinions are not significantly different in 2018 than they were during the 1997 inquiry. Those in favour of the prayer strongly favour its retention, whilst those opposed are less vocal and less concerned to see it changed. The committee does not consider on the evidence before it and after its own deliberations that there is momentum for change. The committee therefore does not recommend that the amendments proposed in the reference should be adopted.

The committee considered, without making any recommendation, whether an invitation to a personal prayer or reflection could be inserted alongside the current prayer. The committee also noted the practice in other jurisdictions of the chair inviting other members to read the prayer. The committee draws those options to the attention of senators. I commend the report to the Senate.