Strewth! Aussies reel at TV swearing

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In a country where "bastard" is a term of endearment, one might expect people to be inured to strong language. But Australians, apparently, are so shocked by the amount of swearing on television that a parliamentary inquiry is to examine the issue.

Among those who have made people blanch of late is Gordon Ramsay, the notoriously foul-mouthed chef. Mr Ramsay let slip the "C-word", as one commentator delicately called it yesterday, during one of his programmes recently broadcast in Australia. That, it seems, was the last straw for Cory Bernardi, the conservative opposition's parliamentary secretary for family and community services, who said: "I've enjoyed Gordon Ramsay's show myself for a couple of weeks but I was prompted to investigate the regulations surrounding the use of swearing on television by a number of complaints that I received. We are now seeing this sort of language creep into our everyday viewing habits, and I think we have to establish what is an appropriate level."

He added: I have a broad acceptance of the Australian vernacular and the colourful use of language that permeates many aspects of life, but like many Australians, I do not agree with the gratuitous use of obscene language."

A senate committee will investigate the frequency and nature of profanities used on television. It will examine programme classifications, and whether they reflect the content, as well as the effectiveness of the public complaints system.

But even as the inquiry was announced, the notion of politicians setting standards was undermined by a minister in parliament. The alleged offender was Kim Carr, the Innovation Minister, who was overheard muttering "I've got no bloody idea" as he stood up to answer a question.