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I submit, however, that the responses that we have obtained, following advice to the various religions and groups out there in the community, simply do not bear out this argument. The question of spirituality is not covered only for those who do not have any, I would submit, under our current prayer. For example, I quote from a joint response by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Uniting Church in the ACT:

We believe that the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly should continue to include Prayer at the commencement of each sitting. We suggest that the present requirement could be improved by the provision of a brief period of silent reflection prior to a spoken prayer.

The Salvation Army said this:

Our land is steeped in Judaic Christian tradition, and the vast majority of Australians certainly believe in God. I would also add that the prayer, as already enshrined in standing orders, certainly is not offensive to both our Muslim and Jewish friends.

The Church of Saint Andrew said:

The prayer is addressed to “Almighty God”, which is a form of address that would be acceptable to all major religions.

Perhaps importantly, in view of Mr Berry's comments, the Ethnic Communities Council of the ACT has sent this letter to me. It has been circulated to members, but I will read it out in full. It says:

The Ethnic Communities Council of the ACT fully supports the Assembly's practice of offering a prayer to God before proceeding with Assembly business. In a multicultural society everyone should be entitled to practise their customs, traditions and beliefs. Those members who believe in God should have the right to offer a prayer, as has been the tradition of the Assembly. Those few who do not believe in God should be tolerant by remaining silent; offer a silent prayer of their own; or by abstaining from the Assembly for the duration of the prayer. Let not one or two persons exercising their own rights take away the rights of others.

Those were the local responses. I would suggest, therefore, that there is majority support out there in the community for a prayer to begin the deliberations of this house each day. I repeat that there is no criticism of the wording of the prayer in its reference to Almighty God. We are talking - the churches and the various organisations would seem to back this up - simply of a superior being. We are not talking about a Christian God. That would be rightly offensive to some other people in the community. We are simply talking about a God, and a powerful one; hence the word “Almighty”.

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