Tony Abbott has criticised the decline of Christian prayer and rise of acknowledgement of country in official public ceremonies.
It comes three weeks after the special envoy for Indigenous affairs thanked Traditional Owners in South Australia for “putting up with the invasion”.
Mr Abbott said he attended the official opening of Sydney’s Northern Beaches Hospital on Monday and noted the absence of religion.
“There was a formal welcome to country. Fair enough,” he said.
“Every single speaker – and there was about six of them acknowledged country. Fair enough. But there was not a single prayer. Now I am sure there will be a lot of patients saying prayers in that hospital but there wasn’t a single official one – even though our society is absolutely unimaginable without the influence of Christianity.”
The former prime minister was speaking in Sydney at the launch of 'How Political Correctness is Destroying Education and Your Child's Future', a new book by Kevin Donnelly.
The conservative education commentator was recently quoted in a front-page Daily Telegraph article criticising the idea to incorporate Aboriginal culture into the national science curriculum.
“There are many circumstances where it is entirely right and proper to acknowledge country. But what I was observing was a singular illustration of the official mindset which takes for granted that there will be an acknowledgement of country not once but many times,” Mr Abbott said.
“I think it’s fair enough that we begin the parliamentary day with an acknowledgement of country but thank God, thus far at least, we haven’t dumped the Lord’s Prayer.”
Mr Abbott, who was once a trainee priest, approves of a curriculum which includes European history, Shakespeare and “a familiarity with the gospel stories”.
“It’s the education that people get today that critically shapes the society of tomorrow,” he said.
“Now I have to say that I am all in favour of Asian, environmental and Indigenous perspectives. But are these really the three top priorities that should permeate every aspect of our curriculum? I doubt it very much indeed.”
The appointment of Mr Abbott to the special envoy role has been highly controversial and he also believes Australia's education system is failing despite record spending.
“We have to improve teaching and we have to improve teachers,” Mr Abbott said.
“But it’s not enough to be able to read, write, count and think. There needs to be an essential cultural literacy that everyone going through an Australian education should have.”
Speaking to a small audience of reporters and supporters, Dr Donnelly and conservative radio host Alan Jones argued that the curriculum has been “dumbed down” by political correctness.
Celebrity publicist Max Markson ended the event at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth in a jocular fashion by saying: “I just want to acknowledge the original owners of the country, the Packer and Lowy families.”