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Standing Orders 22 and 23 - Repeal and Replacement

30 August 2018

That:

standing orders 22 and 23 be repealed and the following new standing order be inserted -

22 Acknowledgment of traditional people, Prayer & Reflection

The Speaker, upon taking the Chair each day, shall read the following statement:

'We acknowledge and pay respect to the Tasmanian Aboriginal People as the traditional and original owners and continuing custodians of this land on which we gather today and acknowledge Elders, past and present.'

following which, the Speaker shall read the following statement:

'I now invite members to join me in reciting the Lord's Prayer or to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Tasmania.'

following which, the Speaker shall recite the following prayers:

'Almighty God, we humbly ask you to grant your blessing upon this Parliament. Lead our deliberations and make them succeed for your glory and the true welfare of the people of Tasmania.'

'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.' 

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I support the motion on behalf of the Greens and acknowledge you have pushed this along, which is most welcome. If you had not done so it may have been before the Standing Orders Committee until Rip Van Winkle woke up.

To remind members who were not in the last parliament, it was the Greens who moved to have the acknowledgement included as a daily part of the Standing Orders. We went through a process of modernising the Standing Orders. Some amendments came through late last year and we thought it was important the parliament pay more than lip service to the First People by only acknowledging country at the start of each session.

It is good to see it come this far. I am very pleased to hear the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal leaders are supporting what the parliament is doing today to modernise the Standing Orders. We stand on Aboriginal land. We stand on land that was the home to the Mouheneener people for tens of thousands of years and we must never forget our solemn duty to continue to work toward reconciliation that is more than the words we say in here each day. It has to be matched with tangible actions: the return of lands, the protection of Aboriginal heritage, and the protection of the Tarkine from off-road vehicle use. I urge all members, when we listen to Madam Speaker acknowledge country and the Aboriginal people of Tasmania each day, that we reflect on that for more than a moment and recognise that Aboriginal Tasmanians have heard many words but they need to see and feel meaningful action as well.

I move to the section of the motion that deals with the Morning Prayer. Members will be aware that the Greens raised the issue of removing the Lord's Prayer from the beginning of each day's session during the Standing Orders debate last year. This is not a new debate. I was looking at an academic paper written by Ian Hunter from Flinders University. He goes through the various instances in which members in a federal or state parliament have raised the issue of the relevance of the Lord's Prayer in a secular country's parliament. This paper points out, and this is in response to something that the Leader of Government Business was saying earlier about when this tradition began -

The tradition of daily prayer in the English parliament is thought to have begun in about 1558, becoming common practice by about 1567.

Until the 1580s, the prayers took no fixed form. It is generally believed that the present form of prayers recited in the Houses of Westminster date from the reign of Charles II (166085).

… as firmly based on Westminster as the Australian parliament was, it was almost inevitable that this aspect of the daily routine would be incorporated into the fledgling Australian parliamentary system.

The process, as each House developed its standing orders, the issue of the daily prayer was referred to each House's Standing Orders Committee for consideration. As Standing Orders are resolutions for the House and not laws, the issue of prayers in parliament in no way contravened section 116 of the Constitution, which says -

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
While there is no question that the majority of Australians identified as Christians when the Australian Federation and the Constitution were formed the report here of a census in 1901, the year of our federation, showed that 96 per cent of Australians identified as Christian. Today, that number is substantially less because we are much more culturally diverse and multi-coloured country than we were in 1901.

In debates about the Lord's Prayer in Australian parliaments, the first salvo was from the then leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Lyn Allison, who moved for the abolition of the prayers in 2006. That was defeated by the joint vote of Labor and the Coalition. In 2008, Harry Jenkins, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, called for a public debate on the relevance of prayers in parliament. Independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, raised it in his inaugural speech, questioning whether a daily acknowledgement to the traditional owners of the land might be more appropriate. Our Standing Orders have covered that well. Muslims Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Incorporated, President, Ikebal Patel, voiced his support of the continuation of the practice but expressed the opinion that the prayer should be non-denominational and should acknowledge the spiritual connection of Australia's Aboriginal people with the land.

We have settled on a very reasonable compromise where we acknowledge, each day, the First People. Those who are of Christian belief are able to recite the Lord's Prayer and the rest of us are given a moment to reflect on our responsibility toward the people of Tasmania.
I draw the House's attention to where the word 'hypocrite' came from. Jesus launched the word 'hypocrite' into all western languages. The word means pretender, and a reading of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus's harshest criticisms, and there are quite a few, were directed not at the so-called sinners but at the Pharisees, those he accused of saying one thing and believing and doing another. This article quotes the Bible -

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites, he says in the Gospel of Matthew. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead. In Mark's Gospel he says, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites as it is written. These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.

Mr Ferguson - Would you like to unpack that a little more? Is there something in that for all of us?


Ms O'CONNOR - That is why I made the point, Mr Ferguson. There is something in all of that for all of us. No, truly, I made the point -


Mr Ferguson - As John Bunyon, the chief of sinners.

Ms O'CONNOR - Who is the chief of sinners?

Mr Ferguson - Me, chief among sinners. That is a humility.

Ms O'CONNOR - I made that point because it is one thing to stand in this place at the start of each day and to recite words that have meaning to some of us, and those words have meaning for those who are not Christian, cultural meaning. We have to live by the words that we say in this place. I urge members to remember where the word 'hypocrite' came from as they reflect each day on their responsibility towards the people of Tasmania.