Parliament's prayer up for review

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 15:05 23/07/2014

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Parliament could get a new prayer after the election in September.

A review of standing orders, the rules that MPs must adhere to, was published this week, putting the prayer back on the agenda.

The review recommends MPs be asked their views on changing the prayer read by the Speaker at the opening of a sitting of the House.

The wording of the present devotion has not changed since 1962. MPs voted in 2007 to retain the prayer, after a petition asked that it not be specifically Christian.

"We acknowledge that not all members identify with the practice of reading a Christian in prayer at the opening of a sitting of the House, although it is a tradition of very long standing," the review says.

The review, which is likely to be accepted by the House, also wants to make it easier for foreign leaders to address Parliament.

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a speech to the chamber in 2011, but the rules dictated this had to be outside normal sitting hours. New arrangements would come into place before next year's Anzac Centenary and the 150th celebration of Wellington as New Zealand's capital.

Among the other changes recommended are funding for web-casting for select committee hearings and the use of sign language in the House, if an MP requires it.

It formalises a new rule requiring a record of attendance that sees an MP's pay docked if they are absent without leave.

Parliament's business committee can also decide that question time goes ahead when the House goes into urgency.

And if the attorney-general determines legislation breaches the Bill of Rights Act, a select committee must formally consider this opinion.

The review also makes clear that donations of more than $500 to MPs battling in a leadership contest must be disclosed. This follows a row over last year's Labour's leadership run-off.

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