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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1823


Senator COLLARD —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Communications aware that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Standing Committee on Spoken English has recommended that all its broadcasters use newspeak, ostensibly to avoid sex discrimination? Does the Minister not agree that the examples given in the ABC's radio news last Friday morning, 4 May 1984-that is, 'alderman' becomes 'alderperson', 'mankind' becomes 'humankind', 'man on the land' becomes 'rural person'-would distort the natural flow of the English language, which has a long history of the use of generic terms? As a consequence of this decision, will the works of Shakespeare and other great exponents of the English language be altered to conform with this absurd trend? Finally, bearing in mind this current preoccupation with regard to so-called discrimination, will the Minister ascertain what designation the ABC plans to give Mother's Day?


Senator RYAN —The Minister for Communications has not provided me with a brief on this matter, but I do recall reading media accounts, and perhaps even hearing a radio report, of a discussion such as was referred to in Senator Collard's question. From those reports I gleaned that some committee within the ABC had discussed the use of language which is more appropriately reflective of the changes that have occurred in our society. As to what specific terms--


Senator Withers —Rubbish.


Senator RYAN —Well, I suppose there are plenty of women on the land who do not like being excluded every time the rural sector is referred to. I suppose there are many women farmers who have made an enormous contribution to rural productivity in this country who do not particularly want to be excluded every time the rural sector is discussed on the ABC. But that is a separate matter. I cannot give any detailed information about Senator Collard's question, but I simply remind him, if he wants to start setting himself up as some kind of linguist or some sort of theoretician on the use and development of language, that the English language, like all living languages, changes constantly and that we no longer speak the language of Shakespeare. In fact, I would be surprised if Senator Collard would be able to understand Shakespearean English. A realistic response by institutions such as the ABC to the changes which have occurred, both in the English language and in the society in which the English language flourishes, grows and changes, is a perfectly appropriate course of action.