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Question: Parliamentary Standing Orders

3 May 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of parliamentary standing orders.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last month, the Adelaide Advertiser reported that, following a review, changes have been made to standing orders in the other place to ensure the adoption of gender-neutral language. Previously, the standing orders in that place referred to the monarch as 'Her Majesty', the Governor as 'His Excellency', and the Chair of Committees as 'the Chairman'—anachronistic, given the number of women that are chairing committees in this parliament.

After the reforms were reported in the media, several members of the opposition lined up to say that they would oppose similar changes to standing orders here in this place. The Advertiser, however, later revealed that gender-neutral language had in fact already been adopted in this chamber. My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: in light of the confusion, will he clarify the current status of gender-neutral language within the Legislative Council's standing orders?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in this area. I can certainly provide an answer to his question. I might start at the start, start from the beginning, and say that I am a firm believer that workplaces should strive to stay contemporary and relevant, particularly workplaces with such an old history of traditions as in our parliament. That's why this chamber unanimously recently agreed to rename the Strangers Gallery the Public Gallery. We have a responsibility in this place, I think, to be inclusive not just to the people who work here every day but to the diversity of the community that we represent.

With that being said, I can advise the honourable member that we have no plans to amend the standing orders in this chamber to introduce gender-neutral language, and that is quite simply because we were beaten to it. We were beaten to it, I am ashamed to say, not by the Greens—with apologies to the Hon. Robert Simms—but, to my great shame, we were beaten to it by that beacon of political correctness, the Hon. Robert Ivan Lucas—the wizard of wokeness, the prince of progressiveness, the king of correctness: the Hon. Robert Ivan Lucas.

I have to say, I think many people have been astounded over the last few weeks at what we have heard about the priorities from those opposite. While those on this side of the chamber and many on the crossbench were working hard for the people of this state, the Liberal Party in this chamber chose to spend its time over the last month trying to start a culture war with themselves, and I am not even sure that's a war that they would win. A culture war that was fought and won by their own side in the last century.

It was on the motion of the king of woke, the Hon. Robert Ivan Lucas, that gender-neutral language was removed from the standing orders of this council back in 1999.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: When?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: In 1999—almost a quarter of a century ago. In the 1999 report of the Standing Orders Committee, chaired by then Liberal MLC and President, the Hon. Jamie Irwin, the very first recommendation was, and I quote, 'Standing orders be amended to incorporate gender neutral language.' It was such a sensible change that the Hon. Robert Lucas put forward, remembering he was the Liberal campaign's spokesperson just last year. The Hon. Rob Lucas, last century, urged all members to support the change to gender-neutral language.

For the record, this woke gender-neutral language was passed unanimously—not a single vote of dissent in August 1999. I am sure the Hon. Rob Lucas has dragged off that spoil of war, his gender-neutral win no doubt rousing cheers over muskets at dawn at The Adelaide Club. I can imagine him now in his twilight years, as he tends to his ponies in the field, remembering, thinking back on this great victory in his younger days: removing gender-neutral language from the Legislative Council. Guess what happened when this change was brought in last century? Nothing. The sky didn't fall in, the world didn't come to an end. Gender-neutral language, last century, really was the Y2K of its time.

The Hon. Dennis Hood is quoted as railing against this with great passion, saying that the Liberal Party was likely to come to a different position in the Legislative Council should there be a move away from non gender-neutral language here. Unfortunately, it had already happened more than 20 years ago. The Hon. Nicola Centofanti was quoted in the media also, standing firmly against this change that had already happened. The honourable member obviously wanted a time machine to go back more than a quarter of a century to fight the culture war with the Hon. Robert Ivan Lucas.

Just yesterday, it was reported in the media that a former Liberal candidate has criticised her own colleagues as focusing on niche culture war issues within the Liberal Party. I can assure this council that this government will continue focusing on issues that impact South Australians, not fighting against the ghost of Rob Lucas, tilting at his windmill, but it's a shame we can't say the same of those opposite. Ta.