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and I think that we are entitled to say that in prayer. That is what this prayer does. It is obviously going out. It seems to me a pity that the youngest parliament in the Commonwealth should be prepared to throw out these traditions. I think that it possibly reflects a little of what people outside would say is an immaturity in our make-up; but that is as may be. I hope that this is something we will view in the course of time as having been a mistake.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training) (11.38): If the prayer is gotten rid of, I think we run the risk once again, as a very young parliament, of being made to look like a joke. This is probably not quite the fluoride debate revisited, but it does have some similarities. Tradition is something that is terribly important.
I want to go through a few of the points Ms Tucker made. She is worried about the power of organised religion and obviously had some not necessarily unpleasant but rather boring experiences with it at school and now wants to change that. Ms Tucker, you might not have liked it at school; but that does not mean that a vast majority of people in Canberra, I think, would not expect this Assembly to continue with a tradition that is longstanding in terms of British parliamentary democracy. We have our traditions. As Mr Cornwell has indicated, only the parliament in Sri Lanka, out of the whole Commonwealth, does not have a prayer. India, which was rent apart with factional strife in 1946-47 during the partition which led to Pakistan being created, with Muslims going one way and Hindus going the other, still ended up with a sizeable minority of non-Hindus. There are still Muslims there and there are other religions there, but India has a prayer.
There are many other examples throughout the Commonwealth of multicultural societies, societies far less tolerant, perhaps, than ours in terms of dealing with people with other religions, where people have died for their religious beliefs or died because of religious intolerance, which still have a prayer. Organised religion, over the centuries, like organised power of any kind, unfettered power where maybe there were no great traditions, has led to much tragedy. It is not just religion that has caused tragedy. The Inquisition was a great example of religious bigotry and intolerance; but, where there was no religion, look at the untold damage that communism and nazism did to the world. Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin were probably the three greatest monsters of the twentieth century. There was no religion except their own. They were God, but there was no religion there. In fact, communism was a godless religion. Our system is not perfect. The system of democracy we have, which goes back to Magna Carta, is by no means perfect. As Winston Churchill said - I paraphrase - it is a pretty awful system, but no-one has come up with anything better.
The prayer at the start of a parliamentary sitting is a tradition. It may be a quaint tradition. It may be something that, in 1995, some people think is totally irrelevant and should not occur; but it is a tradition nevertheless. It acknowledges a superior being. Our little prayer asks us to pray for the true welfare of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I would certainly hope that we all have the true welfare of the people of the Australian Capital Territory at heart. I think the formal words in the prayer are far better than the formal words that Mr Berry has proposed, tradition aside.