I think I understand politics works this way. The party with the most votes gets to govern. If they don't have the majority of votes but are close, they then play nicely with others in order to get to govern on our behalf, Australian voters.
So far, that's how it's working out in practice.
Now shift that line of thinking to the way our government runs. The President of the Senate Sue Lines said last week she did not want to start the day with the Lord's Prayer. Summary? We are too diverse for that stuff. Others on the Labor side, including senators Katy Gallagher and Penny Wong, said the Senate will continue to recite the Lord's Prayer at the start of the day's work.
That's not the only tradition out of step with Australia. On Wednesday, Nationals MP Pat Conaghan wasted Parliament's time by complaining new Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather, wasn't wearing a tie.
Sadly for me, results of the census don't reveal much about what we wear. But a quick scan of the streets of any CBD show us the reality. The tie is dead unless you are off to a funeral, the other place you might find prayers.
But the census can tell us about our spiritual lives. And as it revealed earlier this year, Australians are losing their religion, particularly if it's Christianity. Nowhere is it clearer than in the ACT. Christians across their narrow church account for 38 per cent compared to the rest of the population - 44 per cent hold secular beliefs, other spiritual beliefs or no religious affiliation and the other 18 per cent include people like me, who put a religion down for cultural reasons. Weird, I know, but it's a thing.
President of the Rationalist Society of Australia Meredith Doig says Parliament should ensure it treats religious beliefs and non-religious beliefs equally, privileging no particular religion.
"It means freedom of religion must be balanced by freedom from religion for the 40 per cent [and more in the ACT] of Australians who chose no religion in the census," says Doig. As she puts it, the practice of reciting Christian prayers to open the chambers each day is demonstrably not reflective of Australian society.
In 2018, a Senate committee said there was "no momentum for change" but years earlier, according to Marion Maddox's 2001 book For God and Country: Religious Dynamics in Australian Federal Politics, when senator Michael Beahan retired as president of the Senate in 1996, he said: "I believe the prayers in our standing orders are an archaic and anachronistic form of words that really should be changed."
Katy Gallagher, who is not a religious person, said last week: "To be honest, I don't mind the prayer. I think it is part of the Senate tradition. My view is how you run the chamber relies on a collegiate discussion across the chamber and there is a clear view that the Lord's Prayer is to stay."
But does that reflect the wishes of the people who voted for them?
The Lord's Prayer, otherwise known as the Our Father, is a distinctly Christian prayer used across a variety of genres: Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Uniting and more. But that's its entire constituency and it's shrinking dramatically. What that means is every sitting day in Parliament begins with words which don't represent all of us.
If I'm thinking about decoding Katy Gallagher's words, here's my quick translation - in the Senate there is not a hope in hell of changing the standing orders without a huge fight. But if Gallagher was prepared to go into battle, David Pocock would be at her side. The independent senator says his position is that "a minute of contemplative silence and reflection may be a more appropriate and inclusive way to start the day".
And you'd think that it would be a cinch in the House of Representatives where surely across the chamber there would be broad consensus that hey ho, the Lord's Prayer has got to go.
Except you'd have ideologgerheads, such as Alex Hawke, spewing division. Check out his LinkedIn page if you want to get a taste. "Given we are a majority Christian country and that, regardless of your beliefs, our culture has been seasoned by [C]hristian values such as helping others, compassion to the vulnerable and fairness, how will Albanese and Labor removing these values from our Parliament make us stronger?"
Genuinely, has he not read the census data? And if he has, evidence doesn't bother him. Which we knew already from his time in office. Plus please give me some evidence of his Christian values.
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Changing standing orders is a process. Both chambers have committees which deal with procedures. Those committees have inquiries and issue reports. In both houses, Liberals and Nationals are in the minority. But then, of course, you have to get motions passed to make changes to standing orders. Gallagher and Wong have clearly done the numbers and decided it's not worth the mayhem.
Liberal, Labor and the Nationals all have diehard religious types across both chambers much as you might imagine it's just conservatives on one side of the house and Senate. I know we've been battling for quotas for women but maybe we also need quotas for those of us with no religion or other religions, representative of the actual electorate.
But here's what's happening instead. In both the upper and lower houses are a band of resisters. They hang around outside until the religious bit's over and then go in. Labor's Tim Watts has already revealed his decision not to attend prayers.
On Monday, in the Senate Mehreen Faruqi asked: "How can we continue to open our daily business with the Lord's Prayer?" She tells me that she often goes to the chamber just a little later after prayers. And please tell me we've got some Liberals and Nationals in step with the rest of Australia.
Instead, how lovely would it be if they were all in their respective chambers at once, having a useful moment of reflection, such as in the ACT Assembly.
If we are desperate for some remnant of Christianity, go with my favourite remnant of a fabulous Catholic tradition. Turn to each other and say "peace be with you. And also with you".
And absolutely mean it.
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