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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 02:36 GMT 03:36 UK
Mates are OK at Aussie parliament
John Howard and George W Bush
John Howard prizes informality, not least with his beaut mate George
Security guards at Australia's parliament can continue addressing politicians and visitors as "mate", after a ban on the term was reversed.

After a complaint from a civil servant about informality, guards were told to address everyone as "sir" or "madam".

But Prime Minister John Howard said barring the classic Australian greeting was "absurd and ridiculous".

With many of his mates in Canberra also up in arms, the official edict was overturned within 24 hours.

Keep it familiar

The banning notice was issued by the Parliamentary Services Department on Thursday, after the head of government department complained about being called "mate".

Bob Hawke
It's pomposity gone mad
Former PM Bob Hawke

But within hours Mr Howard was leading the calls for "mate" to be reinstated in Canberra.

The prime minister is no stranger to informality, even with foreign heads of state, having once addressed US President George W Bush as "mate".

He admitted that "there are circumstances where a more formal address is appropriate".

But, he went on, "as you become more familiar with your conversation and your exchange, you might end up saying 'mate'".

'Criminal'

Other politicians were equally dismissive of the drive for gentility.

"It's pomposity gone mad," said former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, praising the term's flexibility and "nice neutrality".

"I have never seen anything so criminal in all my life," said one of Mr Howard's Liberal Party colleagues, backbencher Bob Baldwin.

"It's part of the Australian vernacular. It's a term of endearment and of mateship."

But the leader of the Labor opposition in parliament, Kim Beazley, politically no mate of the prime minister's, put the blame for the "un-Australian" move on Mr Howard himself.

"This is John Howard's Australia. It's all about masters and servants," he said.


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