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And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

I commend the motion to the house. I believe that it is a motion premised in tolerance; premised in the belief that we should, as members, regardless of our convictions, be able to stand together in solemness and seriousness at the commencement of each day's work and say, “We are here not for our own glory, not for our own promotion, but to advance the cause of the people of the ACT”. This proposal of Mr Berry's allows us to do that together, regardless of our convictions, in a solemn and serious way. I believe that it is a vast improvement on what we have. I commend the motion to the house.

MR BERRY (12.11), in reply: Madam Deputy Speaker, one thing that history tells us is that a major part of life in the days that have gone has been centred around intolerance. Today's debate is a debate which is a further step on the way to tolerance. I see that much weight is put on the requests by some of our clergy that a prayer be included; but may I say that the information that was circulated to them was a copy of one of the paragraphs from the report where the word “prayer” was omitted from the motion which was proposed to this Assembly. I apologise to them for that oversight because I think it was never our intention that “prayer” should be excluded. In fact, somebody mentioned earlier in the debate that the word “reflection” provided scope for prayer, but it really needed to be said to satisfy those who might have been sceptical about the motion in the first place. Its inclusion, I think, should satisfy maybe not all of them, but at least those who want allowance for a prayer to occur. There was every intention that some sort of prayer could be conducted by members in their deliberations in this place.

There is one other thing I would like to mention. Mr Humphries tried, I think unsuccessfully, to recraft some of the comments that I made in the course of this debate. He did say something which I found bordering on the offensive, and that was that you could stay outside if you did not like what was going on in here. I do not think that is an appropriate thing to say. It is not something I would ask people to do in relation to the proceedings in this place. It is not something you can ask people to do. It is wrong to ask people to do that. It is much better, in my view, to present a formula which provides for everybody, without any possibility of exclusion, and that is what this change to the standing orders sets out to do.

My colleague Mr Whitecross eloquently put the case for this extension of tolerance. I think it is a shame in some ways that we could not look at this change as a reasonable one. What is proposed still recognises the Christianity of the Westminster system because it still invites prayer in whatever way you choose. It also provides for non-Christians, or non-religious people, or people without a god, to reflect on the way that they might deal with matters. That is appropriate. At one time people who might have been identified to be without a god may well have been tarred and feathered. We passed that, thankfully, a long time ago. We can bear that in mind as we move towards further change in the way that we deal with our spirituality and the way that our spirituality might reflect our duty to the people of the community that we were elected to represent.

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