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Only Dunne's faithful back religious kick-off

Vicki Dunne.

Vicki Dunne.

Legislative Assembly Speaker Vicki Dunne is looking increasingly isolated in her controversial push for a start-of-term religious ceremony, with the Clerk of the Assembly saying it would be too political for him to attend.

Other members of the Assembly's support staff said the planned ceremony had become ''divisive'' and were worried they would be seen to be ''picking sides'' if they attended.

It was likely the ceremony, planned for February 10, the day before the first sitting of 2013, could be attended by just by Mrs Dunne, her seven Canberra Liberal colleagues and their staff.

The idea received a further blow when the last Liberal to hold the office of Assembly Speaker weighed in to criticise Mrs Dunne's insistence on holding the service.

The ceremony, the first of its kind in the Assembly's history, was to be held at St Paul's Anglican Church in Manuka and proved controversial from the start.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher made it clear she would not attend ''as a matter of principle'' and her seven Labor colleagues all backed their leader, refusing to go.

Balance-of-power Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury also said he had no intention of attending the multi-denominational ceremony and even accused Mrs Dunne of taking the Speaker's role backwards with the idea.

All politicians in the Assembly, their staffers and all of the building's support workers, who were supposed to be strictly non-partisan, received invitations to the service from the Speaker's office.

But Clerk Tom Duncan said the issue had become too politically charged and that attendance by himself or his secretariat staff might be seen as breaching their duties of impartiality.

Another non-executive staff member said the row between the Speaker and the Chief Minister had caused division in the building.

''It's become very divisive,'' the staff member said. ''Because it's all got political now, people are worried they will be seen to be taking sides, whether they go or they don't go.''

Mrs Dunne's office said it was not aware Mr Duncan had formally declined the invitation to attend the service and would not comment until confirmation was received.

Former Liberal Speaker Greg Cornwell, who held the post from 1995 to 2001, said he disagreed with Mrs Dunne's insistence on a religious ceremony.

''I would not have proposed a service,'' Mr Cornwell said.

''Religious affiliations or not are conscience matters like abortion or euthanasia and inevitably in a small legislature of 17, individual members will be singled out for not participating.''

12 comments

  • I respect Vicki Dunne's right to practice her religious beleiifs privately or within her church community but sorry, she has no right to impose those practices and beliefs on a secular government .... That's the Taliban's job.

    Commenter
    bikeandyak
    Date and time
    February 01, 2013, 7:53AM
    • Thank Zeus!

      Commenter
      jg
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 01, 2013, 8:38AM
      • Sigh.... and we pay this woman??!!!! get on with the job you are paid to do.Canberra petty politics..... a total joke

        Commenter
        Cobbcres
        Date and time
        February 01, 2013, 9:07AM
        • Exactly Cobbcres, we pay her damn good taxpayers dollars and have done so for to many years and I for one have no idea what she has accomplished for anyone in this ACT Government two teired class community.

          Commenter
          Nitro Gangster
          Location
          ACT
          Date and time
          February 01, 2013, 9:58AM
        • It's not often I agree with Nitro Gangster.... but well said mate!

          Commenter
          Joe
          Date and time
          February 01, 2013, 6:43PM
      • Now, I'm not at all religious, but I have noted that politicians of all stripes and beliefs will happily attend religious services at other times (after the bush fires; when a dead soldier comes home etc and so forth).

        So they might as well all go. If they genuinely don't care to be there, they could take some work to do during the service, like Keating used to do at the PM's XI matches.

        Commenter
        His Lordship
        Date and time
        February 01, 2013, 9:40AM
        • @His February 01, 2013, 9:40AM.
          "but I have noted that politicians of all stripes and beliefs will happily attend religious services at other times" That's only when services for said soldiers/victims are held at religious places, those services are also not connecting the government with religion.

          However, holding a religious ceremony to kick off the assembly is completely different as the assembly (Or the government for that matter) has nothing to do with religion.

          Commenter
          Lurchi
          Date and time
          February 01, 2013, 10:19AM
          • Religion has nothing to do with any of the other events that pollies show up in church for, either, which is my point.

            Commenter
            His Lordship
            Date and time
            February 01, 2013, 1:53PM
        • Mrs Dunne will have even fewer in attendance because she seems to have overlooked the fact that Feb 10 is the last day (?) of the Multicultural Festival. It is also the day of National Prayer and Fasting in the Big House. Maybe she needed an excuse to avoid being linked with the pro life theme of the gathering at Parliament House.

          As far as the staff are concerned, I would suggest they all meet in the church car park at a point away from the building. That would show true impartiality. Their current proposed action is more in line with the Chief Minister, rather than the Speaker.

          Good on you Mr Cornwall. Are you the only one to see the elephant in the room?

          Commenter
          Getting Serious
          Location
          Campbell
          Date and time
          February 01, 2013, 12:21PM
          • Aren't they sworn in "religiously"?

            Commenter
            Deutsch
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            February 01, 2013, 12:29PM

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