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Has Qantas gone overboard on political correctness?

March 8, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Qantas has reportedly advised its male employees not to “manterrupt” women and has counselled its staff to avoid using words like “mum” and “dad” and to use gender-neutral language – leading critics to accuse it of having gone too far on the political correctness front.

The airline is said to have released an information pack as part of its “Spirit of Inclusion” month detailing a list of potentially offensive terms.

The tale has been picked up around the world.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph broke the story, saying the airline’s people and culture group executive Lesley Grant sent out an information pack on how to make employees feel comfortable as part of its Spirit of Inclusion­ month, suggesting workers ban words like “darl, honey or love” from their vocabulary, in case they might offend.

However the material is not specific to Qantas. The Diversity Council of Australia circulated the advice to its 450 member organisations, of which Qantas is one. Council chief executive Lisa Annese said the information pack was more of a “guide than a rulebook”.

Back to 1997 and the famous ‘Gayviation’ float trundles down Oxford Street

“There’s no word that’s off limits, we’re not telling people what to say or not say,” Annese told columnist Miranda Devine on the Miranda Live online radio show.

“It’s about the choices people make and the impact that has on other people – we want organisations to have conversations about language they use in the workplace.”

The information pack says: “Always using the terms ‘husband­’ and ‘wife’ can reinforce the idea that people are always in heterosexual relationships … in the same way, always referring to ‘mum and dad’ can make many families feel excluded – both  same-sex couples and single-parent families.”

The advice also says people should stop referring to the arrival of the British in Australia as “settlement” when it was really “colonisation”, “occupation” or “invasion”.

Former Australia prime minister Tony Abbott is among critics. He told Radio 2GB the pack was “political correctness gone too far”.

“Qantas staff are very good people… they’ve got to deal with just about every possible type of person, and they don’t need this kind of nonsense, they really don’t,” Abbott told listeners.

Although the guidelines are not binding, Qantas has a history of promoting social inclusion and it has long been a gay-friendly airline.

Over 20 years ago (more than a decade before Alan Joyce took the Qantas helm) a sizable squad of Qantas flight attendants took part in the famous  “Gayviation” float in the 1997 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

The float, which won “Best of Parade” that year, consisted of a Boeing 747 front section followed by hundreds of marching flight attendants doing a safety demonstration. At the end came the tail fin of the 747. And here it is!

Written by Peter Needham

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