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All other States in this Commonwealth of Australia and the Federal Parliament itself, Madam Deputy Speaker, have a prayer. Why should we wish to be different? The situation elsewhere in the Commonwealth is also the same, with one exception. Every other Commonwealth parliament has a prayer, with one exception, and that is in Ceylon, or Sri Lanka as it is known now. Prayers precede the day's sitting in other Commonwealth parliaments, with the exception of Ceylon, which is now, I repeat, Sri Lanka, where there is too great a diversity of religious belief among the members. They are not arguing that they should not have a prayer. What they are saying is that they find it too difficult to put together one that is going to meet the religious diversity that exists in that tragically strife-torn country at the moment. It is not that they do not want a prayer. I repeat that it is just too difficult for them to put it together.
Let me ask you this question: If in every other parliament in Australia, including the Federal Parliament, and every other Commonwealth country, with the exception of Sri Lanka, there is a prayer, do you imagine for one moment that the only people in those parliaments are Christians? That would be a nonsense. There is, of course, a diversity of spirituality right across the Commonwealth and right across this country in terms of our parliamentarians. That does not stop them having a prayer at the beginning of each day's sitting. Therefore, I would suggest to you that the question of people's spirituality as an argument for changing what we have now simply does not hold up.
I believe, further, that we represent this community, and the majority of this community, even though they may not be churchgoers, still go to a church for weddings, for christenings, and for funerals. They still go along in times of public celebration, I suppose. They still attend churches in times of deep concern in the community. I would suggest that because they do not go to church every Sunday it does not mean that this is not a God-fearing community. Again, why should we not reflect that in this place? I would suggest, further, to all members that most people out there in the community, whether they attend a church or not, would certainly require divine guidance for their elected members in this Assembly. I do not say that in a critical sense. I certainly do not say it in a flippant sense. I believe that most people out there would seek some divine guidance for the decisions and the deliberations that take place here. I would suggest to you that that is what the current prayer does. I do not think for a moment, Madam Deputy Speaker, that we are offending anybody by continuing this prayer. If people feel strongly about it, they do not have to attend. If people would like to make their own reflection while the prayer is being read out, again that is an option that they can enjoy. I would suggest to you that we should not change the existing situation, because I, for one, can see no reason why that should be the case.
MS TUCKER (11.24): I think this discussion is interesting. When this matter was first raised in the Administration and Procedure Committee, the first proposal was that the prayer was seen not to be necessary at all. I did suggest that we could have, instead, prayer or reflection in silence. I keep hearing that this could happen anyway; that we can do what we like while this prayer is being said. Personally, I find it easier to reflect in silence.