Census data shows the time has come for two of my policies that have previously sparked undue controversy and resistance – freedom of religion in Parliament and ending the exemption of profitable religious operations from taxation.
I have moved a motion to end the mandatory recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each Parliamentary day, out of respect for the diversity of our community, and am also pushing for the removal of tax exemptions for corporations set up under a dubiously broad definition of ‘religious purpose’.
In response to my Lord’s Prayer motion, the current government earlier indicated it would replace the recitation of this prayer with a moment’s faith reflection and perhaps a secular statement about the pre-eminence of public interest in Parliament.
In the spotlight of the census data, I call on the government to affirm this commitment to replace the Lord’s Prayer in both house in the early months of the next Victorian Parliament. And I call on the Opposition, as the alternative government, to declare openness to ending this inappropriate and archaic practice should they form government.
The census was stark. The proportion of people choosing “No religion” increased from 29.6 per cent in 2016 to 38.4 per cent in 2021, the biggest ever increase. Christianity was the stated religion of as many as nine in 10 of Australians until 1966.
It is the first time the number of Australians declaring a belief in Christianity is less than half.
It’s unsurprising in a nation where half of us have at least one parent born overseas and where one on four of us was born overseas.
No religion should be given special taxation or any other regulatory treatment – or an unduly privileged place in Parliamentary proceedings.
Let us pray. Or not. Everybody has the right to religious faith. Nobody has the right to impose their religious faith. No religion has a spiritual or moral monopoly.
Nor a right to special taxation treatment. Research done at my behest by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office found that removing land tax breaks would save taxpayers $13.7 million across 2021–22 to 2024–25 and as much as $71.2 million across 2021–22 to 2031–32.
That’s an unholy situation when one considers what else could be done with that money to make thing a bit better and fairer for people.