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Canberra Times . . Page.. 191 ..

On the matter of eradicating the prayer, Mr Speaker, I heard a great deal of argument about the notion of eradicating a tradition. If the recommendation had been about eradicating the prayer, there may have been some logic behind those arguments; but that was never the case. That is not what was recommended by the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure and that is not what is in the report. In fact, the appropriate standing order will still be set so that the daily program still has the word “Prayer” at the very beginning, just as when we look at our daily program now it has the word “Prayer”. The very first word on the daily program is “Prayer”. The very first word on the daily program will remain “Prayer”; but it will also take into account some tolerance and recognise that other people have a different view, because it will say “Prayer or reflection” and will allow people to pray or reflect in their own way. It is about tolerance, Mr Speaker.

Mr Humphries, in particular, talked about the eradication of a tradition. I saw reported in the Canberra Times this morning the tradition of saying the litany for the British Parliament at Westminster in St Stephen’s Church, next to the parliament, where the Clerk would begin to say the litany and the members would give the response. If we really wanted to get the tradition going, we would follow that. I do not know that the Clerk would be very happy about running through a litany; nor, I imagine, would most members be happy to go with that particular tradition. I may have misjudged the Clerk, of course; he may well be very happy to do that.

Mr Osborne: I will do it.

MR MOORE: Mr Osborne offers to take over and do it on his behalf anyway, so we certainly could have a litany here. For those of us who remember, I can picture Mr Humphries repeating his “Pray for us, pray for us, pray for us”, but not concentrating. He has indicated that it is quite okay for people to have their minds elsewhere when they are praying. We must wonder what Mr Humphries's mind does during prayer.

Mr Humphries: You will never know, Michael.

MR MOORE: Quite right, we will never know; but no doubt somebody, somewhere, does know what is going on in Mr Humphries's mind, even if he does not.

Mr Humphries: God does.

MR MOORE: The interjection is “God does”. I could not think who it was.

One other point that illustrates the weakness of Mr Humphries's argument is his notion that we take a holiday at Christmas and at Easter. When I made a note, I wrote Christmas as “X-m-a-s”; and perhaps that also reflects my difference of opinion. Mr Humphries, that is exactly how the tradition developed. Christmas and Easter were both pagan festivals that became part of the general tradition of Christianity, developed as part of a Christian festival, and appropriately so, and Christians celebrate that time. But those of us who are not Christian, and I put myself in that category, have lots of reason to celebrate at that time, the same as we celebrate Easter. Some of us are even quite happy to celebrate the birth of somebody we see as a particularly significant philosopher, namely, Christ; but that does not mean that I wish to force that view on you.

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