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29th August 2023 15:25
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan): I rise to make a brief contribution to the Statute Law Amendment (References to the Sovereign) Bill 2023. My colleague Mr Ettershank has already discussed Legalise Cannabis Victoria’s position on this bill, so there is no need for me to reiterate what he has already said, and I am very much in support of his position. Instead I would like to take this opportunity to touch on a specific aspect of this bill, namely the decision to continue to opt for gendered language. Amendments in this bill make gendered changes to the language used in various pieces of legislation, including for instance changing ‘Her Majesty’ to ‘His Majesty’. This means that for every future demise or succession of the sovereign we may well have to go through this whole process of amendments all over again – and I do take Mr Batchelor’s point that due to the succession that we are seeing we probably will not have to; however, we do not know their pronouns as yet. I too hope that we will become a republic before that time. But for now we have lost an opportunity for greater efficiency in our statute amendment processes. We have missed an opportunity for further discussions about the impracticalities and exclusionary nature of gendered language in legislation.

The push for gender-neutral language in law is not new, and the politics of it are well understood. Attorney-General Symes has highlighted the importance of inclusive language in all aspects of life, and this government requires that new legislation and amendments are written in gender-neutral terms. I thank the government for this. In our briefing with the government on this bill we did question whether they had considered a change to gender-neutral terminology for the purpose of these amendments. I understand that they did consider this issue but that gender-neutral language was not pursued further due to the additional complexity of the drafting process. I understand that reason, but I still think it is unfortunate that this government’s commitment to gender-neutral language did not extend so far as to impact this bill. Although for many it may seem inconsequential, as elected representatives we can reflect our community and values through the language we use in legislation. An inclusive gender-neutral language approach to crafting legislation and amendments has much merit. For my friends in the queer community: I know this issue is important, I understand its impact and I will not stop advocating for you.

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