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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 May 1995) . . Page.. 101 ..

In other words, the current prayer that we use is exclusive; it excludes some people. The report continues:

The majority of the Committee (with Mr Cornwell and Mr Hird opposing) considered that standing orders 74 and 30 could be amended to mirror this spiritual diversity. The amendment to standing order 74 would be the addition of the words “or reflection” after “Prayer”.

Standing order 74 sets out the order of business and the first thing it lists is prayer. It would now read “Prayer or reflection”, which would allow people in that diverse spiritual range to take that time to reflect. The report goes on to say:

This amendment would then be included in the form of the Prayer read by the Speaker at the commencement of each sitting and included in standing order 30.

Today the Speaker read from standing order 30 the prayer that is currently used, which is as follows:

Almighty God, we humbly ask You to grant Your blessing upon this Assembly. Direct and prosper our deliberations to the advancement of Your glory, and the true welfare of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. Amen.

Of course, we would expect that some people would continue silently to say that prayer. Instead of those words, the Speaker would say:

Members, at the beginning of this sitting of the Assembly, I would ask you to stand in silence and reflect on our responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Mr Speaker, I think that the two controversial items that we have to deal with are Tuesday night sittings and the prayer. My perception of the proposed amendment to the prayer is that it reflects the much more tolerant society that we have now - a society that is growing and growing in tolerance. I remember my own upbringing, Mr Speaker, in Catholic schools. We were, indeed, intolerant of the public school kids, and they were intolerant of us. I think that is something that is rapidly changing in our society. There is a growing tolerance. It is not just a growing tolerance of people of one religion to another; there is a growing tolerance and recognition of the spiritual diversity of people in our society, and the fact that some people simply think in a slightly different way. One way of dealing with that, Mr Speaker, is to allow everybody in this Assembly to pray or reflect in their own way. The purpose here is to have a much more inclusive notion rather than the prayer that we have, which excludes some people's spirituality, some people's understanding.

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