Unparliamentary language – what line is it crossing?


The next General Meeting will feature a presentation by CSE’s president Nigel Brew, who is also a section director at the Australian Parliamentary Library. You can attend either in person or via a Zoom webinar.

For details of future meetings, scroll to the end.

Date: Wednesday, 29 June 2022
Time: 5:45 pm (on site), 6:30 pm (webinar)
Further details below.

Have you ever thought seriously about unparliamentary language? (Beyond shaking your head during question time …)

Nigel has. And he wants to share his research with you at our next general meeting.

About the presentation

Nigel explores the definition and regulation of unparliamentary language and the broader conceptual issues around it.

Rules on parliamentary practice and actual incidents recorded in Hansard indicate that there are no precise definitions. The determination of what is unparliamentary is often highly dependent on individual context.

Is it possible to say where the boundary between parliamentary and unparliamentary language lies? And what determines whether that boundary line has been crossed? To find out, Nigel based his research on examples from federal parliament and interviews with senior parliamentary officials.

Nigel’s presentation also considers whether parliament should set or reflect community standards and expectations when it comes to language. In doing so, he examines briefly – within the community and parliamentary contexts – whether swearing and other ‘bad language’ is always inherently offensive and what the tolerance is for such language.

It will be a fascinating talk, so come along in person or join us online on 29 June!

The presentation is based on Nigel’s research paper for the ‘Parliamentary Law, Practice and Procedure’ course for parliamentary officers run by the Australia and New Zealand Association of Clerks-at-the-Table (ANZACATT) and the University of Tasmania, and is used with permission.

It is a repeat of the presentation Nigel gave at the 2021 IPEd national conference.

About Nigel

Nigel is a postgraduate qualified and accredited editor who has been editing for over 15 years. He works full-time in the Australian Parliamentary Library. In addition to his primary role as a section director in the Research Branch, he leads the Library’s in-house team of volunteer editors and edits Library research publications in a variety of disciplines.

Nigel is a member of the inter-agency working group for the new (7th) edition of the Australian Government Style Manual and a member of the IPEd Communication & Style Standing Committee. He also edits on a casual freelance basis in a private capacity and undertakes pro bono editing for a national charity and advocacy group.

Nigel is currently the President and Professional Development Coordinator of the Canberra Society of Editors.

To attend in person

We’ld love to see you in 3D. There’s no need to register beforehand, but please sign the attendance book when you arrive at the venue.


The Durie Room
St Mark’s National Theological Centre
15 Blackall St (not Blackall Place)
See MAP.


Wednesday 29 June 2022
Room opens at 5:45 pm. Presentation begins at 6:30 pm.

To attend the webinar (via Zoom)

Please click here to join directly by the Zoom app.
(Passcode: : 020245)

Details for joining in a web browser:

Go to https://zoom.us/join
Webinar ID: 868 6048 9695
Passcode: 020245

Details for dialling by phone:

Dial the number for your area 02 8015 6011 (ACT/NSW) 03 7018 2005 (Vic./Tas) 07 3185 3730 (Qld) 08 6119 3900 (SA/WA).
Follow the prompts to enter:
Webinar ID: 868 6048 9695
Passcode: 020245

The webinar audience can use Zoom’s Q&A functionality to ask questions or offer opinions. (You will not be able to see the presentation or participate in the Q&A if you attend by phone call.)

The webinar will not be recorded.

Other General Meetings this year

27 July


31 August

The self-publishing industry

William Webster (Australian Self-Publishing Group, Pty. Ltd/Inspiring Publishers), with Kaaren Sutcliffe

28 September

Sensitive language and language, discrimination and gender in English

Roly Sussex (Emeritus Professor from the University of Queensland and ABC radio presenter on English and language)

26 October


30 November

Trivia quiz night

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