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Dunne's church service shunned by majority

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury will not attend a church service organised by Vicki Dunne.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury will not attend a church service organised by Vicki Dunne. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Balance-of-power MLA Shane Rattenbury says Canberra Liberal Vicki Dunne is taking the role of Speaker backwards with her plans for a Christian commencement service for the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The Greens minister and former speaker said Mrs Dunne was reverting to old parliamentary practices with the service, which will mark the beginning of the new Assembly year despite not having the support of most MLAs.

The ceremony has proved controversial, with Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and now Mr Rattenbury making it clear that they will not attend it.

But Mrs Dunne, who told the Assembly in November that she would be "a modern Speaker", said on Wednesday that the February 11 ceremony was an "innovation" for the territory.

Mr Rattenbury echoed the criticism of Ms Gallagher and said he did not support ''institutionalising a religious ceremony into the proceedings of the Assembly".

Mr Rattenbury, who supported Mrs Dunne's election to the Speaker's chair, said the service did not align with the Liberals MLA's plans to be a modern Speaker.

"This is not a modernising of the Speaker's role," he said.

"This is quite the contrary.

"This is quite contrary to the approach the Assembly has taken.

"She's certainly reverting to an older style or older practice of parliaments that the Assembly has previously eschewed."

But Mrs Dunne dismissed Mr Rattenbury's criticism.

She also sent a letter to MLAs on Wednesday reminding them of the official order of preference in speeches, which dictates that the Speaker is the fifth dignitary to be acknowledged, ahead of ACT government ministers.

The Speaker said on Wednesday that the ceremony was an "innovation" because it had never been tried by the Assembly.

"My response is that the Assembly has never reached out to the community through faith," she said.

"I see the Speaker's role as reaching out to the community through all stations and connecting to the community.

"We have gone quite out of our

way to make sure this is open to all religious groups."

Mrs Dunne also said that she had not insisted that the Chief Minister, Mr Rattenbury or any other MLAs attend and whether they participated or not was "a matter for them".

"The thing I'm concerned about is that there seems to be a move by the Labor Party to prevent their members from participating," she said.

"The impression I have is that caucus has been instructed not to go."

Ms Gallagher said Labor MLAs had not been instructed not to attend. "From my understanding of the meeting we had with Labor Party members, no one indicated that they were going, but I certainly haven't told people that they can't go," she said.

"If an individual Labor member wanted to attend the service that's a different thing to having the Assembly authorise this service and create that formal link that, once established, would be almost impossible to break."



  • Was Ms Dunne elected on the basis of her religion? I think not. Keep religion out of politics. Look what happened to Paul Osborne when he went all religious! We don't want christian soldiers marching on to war at least in this Territory.

    The Eagle
    Date and time
    January 24, 2013, 8:17AM
    • She wants to be a modern Speaker - by creating unnecessary rituals that promote her role and by instituting practices that are out-of-date anyway? There's no innovation here sadly.

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 8:36AM
      • Exactly. Church and state do not mix. Otherwise, Tea Party.

        Date and time
        January 24, 2013, 9:56AM
        • If you believe church and state should be separated, why is it that in all state, territory and federal parliaments they start each day with the Lord's Prayer? And they all pray 'thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'? Surely this is mixing church with state as they look to the Bible for guidance and laws that complement heaven and earth? Forgive us our trespasses and we forgive them who trespass against us, again setting laws mixing the word of God with state laws, rules and regulations.

          Tony of Kureelpa
          Date and time
          January 24, 2013, 1:14PM
        • Tony, those traditions will probably die out soon enough. There is enough community support to ensure that happens and separation between Church and State is a must. It is discriminatory to suggest that Christian beliefs are an integral or necessary part of governing a State or Territory or Country. Ethics and the maintenance of a civil and fair community will do and for that purpose and those beliefs are not unique to any religion. This is a multi-cultural society and the beliefs of the people vary between a range of different religious faiths, agnostics and atheists. All have equal voting rights and that should be reflected in process as well. Certainly feel free to attend any Church you wish to, if you wish to, but there is absolutely no need to impose on the majority.

          Date and time
          January 24, 2013, 2:21PM
      • If Ms Dunne and the Canberra Catholics, er Liberals, are looking for a relevant role for religious mumbo jumbo perhaps they'll be able to find a gig bookending the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse.

        Date and time
        January 24, 2013, 10:34AM
        • If Ms Dunne is adamant that she wants to make the event open to all religious groups, why not hold it at a local mosque?

          Date and time
          January 24, 2013, 10:38AM
          • For ACT Liberals "innovation" = 2,000 year old voodoo ceremony.

            Date and time
            January 24, 2013, 10:56AM
            • FTW! So very true, although only being 2000 years behind is probably a step up. I heard they've recently stopped crusifying people.

              Date and time
              January 24, 2013, 2:42PM
          • Yet another example of how out of touch the Liberals are with the community. What next, Tony Abbott making it compulsory that all bosses hear confession weekly. It is not a tradition of our parliament to hold a religious service. I'm more than happy for her to follow whatever religious beliefs she wishes but don't foist them on others. Surely there are more important things at hand than this tedious matter.

            Eric The Mighty
            Date and time
            January 24, 2013, 11:17AM

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