Former PM Scott Morrison’s chief ally in the Coalition, Alex Hawke posted the following on Facebook:
“From day one the Albanese Labor Government has launched a major culture war to remove the Lords Prayer from being read in our parliament. For over 120 years a prayer has started every single day of Australia’s parliament. Given we are a majority Christian country and that ,regardless [sic] of your beliefs, our culture has been seasoned by christian 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?”1
An article on this topic appeared in Murdoch’s budgie-cage liner, The Australian, under the heading “Atheist senate chief wants Lord’s Prayer gone”. I don’t know what this article said as I refuse to pay for Murdoch tripe. The strap line said “New Senate president Sue Lines says she does not want to say the prayer, which has been read at the start of each sitting day since 1901.”
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states that: “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 of public trust under the Commonwealth”. While there is no legislation enforcing the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer before each sitting day, there is a ‘practice’ of doing so. This makes in ‘not justiciable’ (i.e. is not capable of being decided by legal principles or by a court of justice). However, if it was covered by legislation, it would be justiciable and likely invalid. Legal precedent has shown that Standing Orders of Parliament are actual laws and this is consistent with the use of the terminology in Section 116 of “any law”2. So reciting the Lord’s Prayer can be removed from parliament and any attempt to enforce its reintroduction would likely be invalid.
Hawke talking about culture wars1 is a hoot, as that has been one of the main tactics of the former government, to try to wedge the Labor Party over some perceived slight against who they like to refer to as the quiet Australians. Culture wars have been part of the strategy of the Coalition ever since John Howard preferred the white blindfold history of Australia to what he referred to as the black armband view. His attitude was that Australian history began in 1788 and it was all heroic struggles against the elements in a harsh continent3. This has led to a constant refrain from the conservatives over the ‘Marxism’ of the school curriculum4.
Culture wars were most prominently manifest in the same-sex marriage ‘debate’, whether there should be an apology to the stolen generation, whether climate change exists, and whether Aboriginals should have land rights, or whether it is acceptable to racially discriminate5. Indeed, there have even been fake culture wars such as the ‘war on christmas’6,7, the ‘nanny state’ and sundry other minor skirmishes. The most recent of these culture war skirmishes was the Katherine Deves affair. She was Morrison’s pick to run for the seat of Warringah, and her views on transgender people were repugnant8. Morrison apparently though that would garner him votes in places other than Warringah.
Hawke’s assertion that “we are a majority Christian country”1 is, if you go by the results of the 2021 census, a lie. In that census, 43.9% of the population identified as Christian9. People like Hawke have never let the facts get in the way of their story; lying is their stock in trade. Indeed, Hawke may have been even wider of the mark than he thought. There is evidence that the people with no religion actually outnumber those with any sort of religion, not just the Christian variety9.
Hawke further states that our “culture has been seasoned by Christian values”1. This is true, and as if to demonstrate it, several churches have now had to apologise for the numerous crimes perpetrated in the name of Christianity, whether it be the sexual abuse of children, the taking of children from their families, or the general mistreatment of Aboriginals10-12.
Following this came Hawke’s most egregious lie. He maintained that those Christian values includes “helping others, compassion to the vulnerable and fairness”1. The former government acted as if its value system was the antithesis of these. For Hawke to say that the removal of the Lord’s Prayer will remove these values from the Parliament is laughable. It is symptomatic of the current Liberal Party that they assert what matters is such performative piety, rather than how they behave.
What I would like to see removed from parliament is the hypocrisy that allows Christians like Hawke to endlessly profess their piety, and claim to be followers of Jesus, when their ethos is one of corruption, bigotry, lying, pork barrelling, petulance, shirking of responsibility, stealing of credit from the creditable, blaming the blameless, and hatred of expertise. Now can be added boundless hypocrisy to this list of appalling behaviours.