Page 2330 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 3 August 2022
amendments to the language used in almost 40 pieces of legislation, which I will not name, in the ACT statute book so that, where an individual is the subject of a provision and it matters not what gender that individual is, a generic pronoun or noun will be used—for example, “individual” or “person”. I note that, for the grammar nerds amongst us—I think I used to be that, strictly, but less so now—sometimes the plural pronoun “they” will be used. We will just have to get over that.
I note that this bill was produced by the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office as part of their general editorial and supervisory role, to ensure that ACT legislation is concise and clear in language while avoiding redundancies and complexities. I note as well that there is a minor amendment to the Territory Records Act, on a different theme, to remove the requirement for the minister to approve leave for the Director of Territory Records.
As always, I appreciated the briefing from the Attorney-General’s officers on 25 July, which included parliamentary counsel. The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill.
MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra—Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Business and Better Regulation, Minister for Human Rights and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (6.17): As has been mentioned, of particular note in this bill are the amendments to remove gendered language from almost 40 acts and regulations. Consistent with the recognition of gender diverse people, the use of personal pronouns in the masculine or feminine is no longer appropriate drafting practice in the ACT. Gender neutrality in our legislation is important to reflect and foster an accepting, inclusive and progressive Canberra community.
The use of gender-neutral language is also supported by reports such as the ACT Law Reform Commission’s Beyond the binary and the ACT government commissioned ACT LGBTIQ+ legal audit: reforms for an inclusive ACT. Indeed a gender-neutral drafting practice has been adopted in most other Australian jurisdictions and in countries around the world.
Gender-neutral drafting involves avoiding gender-specific pronouns and adjectives and avoiding nouns that might appear to assume that a person of a particular gender will do a particular job or perform a particular role—for example, “chairman”. Gender-neutral language is important because it makes legislation accessible and it makes it relevant to everyone.
Our Parliamentary Counsel’s Office has already been adapting its drafting practice over many years to incorporate gender-neutral language. The adoption of gender-neutral drafting practices means that, for at least the past two decades, legislation drafted by the office has primarily used gender-neutral language to refer to people or positions. This includes new bills and regulations, as well as amending bills and regulations.
Multiple amendments in schedule 3 update the statute book with gender-neutral language, avoiding bias towards a particular sex or social gender. References to gendered personal pronouns such as “he” or “she”, “his” or “her”, “him” or “her” and