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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4049

Senator MACKAY(6.56 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I will give the Senate a break from the fantastic and inspiring oration of Senator Murphy by talking about report No. 32, ANL Limited: equal employment opportunity program , which gives me the opportunity to talk more generally about the notion of equal employment opportunity and this government's agenda in relation to women. Those reports that are listed are on ANL, the Australian National Railways Commission, the FAC and so on and the reports in relation to the equal employment opportunity program, which of course was a very worthwhile Labor government initiative. It was one that was carried out assiduously within the federal public sector, and we are attempting to encourage the state public sector to do the same.

We now have a situation whereby there seems to be a fairly definite indication of what can only be described as social engineering with regard to the horror and disdain with which this government holds terms like chairperson, chair, seafarer or staffing, perhaps. This has become what has been publicly called `political correctness'. The term `political correctness' came from the extreme Right of the Republican movement in the United States and was in fact deliberately coined in order to try to stop these sorts of words being used. Earlier this year, we had John Howard issuing instructions about the use of terms like chairperson and chair—that they are not acceptable terms to be used and that the more acceptable term to be used is chairman.

We in the Labor Party believe in choice. We believe people should have the choice in how they vote in terms of both general elections and preselections. We also believe they ought to have a choice in what sort of language they use. So we do not mind if people want to use terms like `chairman', but we do not like it. We would prefer that they did not. In fact, in our party rules and in the way we address people, we use `chair' and `chairperson'.

Senator Carr —Comrade.

Senator MACKAY —Comrade, which is gender neutral. I think John Howard still thinks that we are living in the 1950s and 1960s and that we are all very relaxed and comfortable. He wants to take us back there both linguistically and in terms of the sorts of social structures we have and the kind of language we use. I would like to conclude with those statements. I could go on and on about this government's agenda for women, but I do not have time. (Time expired)