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Australia Parliament Overturns ‘Mate’ Ban

August 19, 2005

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ Officials at Australia’s Parliament House on Friday overturned a day-old ban on guards and attendants using the word ``mate″ to address lawmakers and visitors after the new rule sparked outrage among prime ministers past and present.

The U-turn came after Australian Prime Minister John Howard said it was ``absurd″ to require security guards at the country’s Parliament House to stop addressing visitors and lawmakers as ``mate″.

One of his predecessors called the ban ``rampant pomposity.″

On Thursday, guards and attendants at the building in Canberra were told to stop using the common Australian expression of endearment following a complaint from a senior civil servant, media reported.

``These things are all a matter of context, and that’s why it’s impractical and absurd to try and ban something,″ Howard, who in the past has used the term to describe President Bush, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Hilary Penfold, secretary for the Department of Parliamentary Services, said the ban was intended to ensure staff do not offend visitors.

By Friday afternoon, staff had been issued fresh written instructions to ``be aware when a degree of informality may be acceptable and when a more formal approach is required.″

Former prime minister Bob Hawke was enraged by the ban.

``It’s pomposity gone mad,″ Hawke told ABC radio.

Hawke, a former union leader famous for his down to earth approach and for holding a beer drinking record while studying at Oxford University, said the term had been useful to him at official functions.

``It gets you out of all sorts of embarrassing situations,″ he said. ``It’s got a nice neutrality about it. I mean, it doesn’t imply any intimacy, it shows a reasonable level of respect. I think it’s one of our great words.″

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