Page 573 - Week 02 - Thursday, 14 February 2013

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The concept of the separation of church and state is much misunderstood in modern times. I think it is good sometimes to go back to the original words that we have derived this statement from. The concept of separation of church and state is an attempt by a country of goodwill to make sure that legislatures do not pass laws which would advantage one religion over another or force the belief in a certain faith.

Therefore, I believe that this motion is not particularly around the concept of church and state. This motion is about the extreme social progressives of the government imposing their beliefs and their will on those who hold a belief in God. Most Australians have a healthy respect for the valuable role of faith and religious beliefs in the development of our society and in the current life of our nation and our city. Some of the kindest, most self-giving people in our society are in the many and varied congregations, churches and faith-based not-for-profit organisations and charities around the city.

I know it is difficult for those opposite to comprehend what happened on Monday, but I can assure them that it was really quite an open and positive experience, that there were parents, children, elderly all just taking the opportunity to express goodwill towards the Assembly. A number of people afterwards said to me that they felt it was much overdue, that there was an opportunity for faith people to take some time in reflection thinking about those in the Assembly and the work that we do.

According to the advice of the Clerk, obviously this motion may have been, at best, drafted in a lazy fashion and may create other obstacles. It is really not good enough to stand up in this place and say, “X, Y, Z is not the intention of a bill.” A bill is a bill. Once it is made into law then it is interpreted. I have some concerns about how this motion will be interpreted.

Our society owes much to its religious roots. Many of our laws, ethics and values are derived from a religious heritage. I am sure that Mr Corbell comes to this place with his very high level of ethics and his very deep concern for what is right and wrong. That must be in some way derived from our social context which is derived from our religious heritage. I believe that he is attempting in this motion to expel and disrespect that origin from the Assembly and from the activities of the Speaker. He can try and expel God but God will still be there.

In relation to modern parliaments, it might be informative for the Assembly to know that the German Bundestag and the Irish Oireachtas hold fortnightly ceremonies in their parliaments for religious purposes. Sometimes I am totally aware that our freedoms make others uncomfortable. It is a topic of interest at the moment, with bills that are being presented in the federal parliament as well. But, unfortunately, our freedom means that sometimes we have to be allowed to make others uncomfortable. That is not a reason to limit freedom. Why not endorse or run any religious ceremony out of this building and in association with the Assembly?

MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (11.04): Madam Speaker, this motion proposed today by Mr Corbell can be summed up in a few words. It represents religious discrimination, religious intolerance and religious vilification. Mr Corbell, through this motion—

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