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Monday, 3 March 1997
Page: 1067

Senator MARGETTS —My question is addressed the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer the minister to the fact that the Productivity Commission Bill 1996 has reverted to the use of gender specific language such as `chairman', and also to the fact that this appears to conflict with statements made by the Attorney-General in his second reading speech to the Statute Law Revision Bill 1996 in which he confirmed that changes to insert feminine as well as masculine pronouns were part of the process of altering gender specific language in legislation. I ask: does this apparent change in policy indicate any broader government policy change with respect to the use of gender neutral language? If so, when can we expect to be advised of any specific government policy in this regard? Are you, perhaps, considering delaying this announcement to coincide with International Women's Day this Saturday?

Senator VANSTONE —Senator, your humour has lost you today. To suggest that, were such a decision to be made, it would be announced on International Women's Day is hardly humorous. I have not had a look at the Productivity Commission Bill closely. I will have a look at it. I will refer the matter to the Attorney-General and, if he has got something to say about it, I will give you his comments.

Senator MARGETTS —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Can you please confirm or perhaps take it on notice that this is verbal instruction being given by the Prime Minister to revert to gender specific terminology but without a specific written policy as yet? Would you not consider that, if this were the case, if would go against the concept of open government?

Senator VANSTONE —I will take it on notice. If anybody I refer it to has got something to say about it, I will put an answer on the record for you.