NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell says he approves of a directive from health officials that staff stop addressing each other or the public as 'darling', 'sweetheart' and 'honey' - but he isn't keen on banning use of the word 'mate'.
Northern NSW Local Health District has emailed health workers and other staff to remind them to use professional language with the public and other employees, the ABC has reported.
I have some issues myself around the word 'mate' - I think it is part of the Australian vernacular
Terms like 'mate', 'darling', 'sweetheart' and 'honey' are not appropriate, the memo says, because they may be perceived as "disrespectful, disempowering and non-professional".
Mr O'Farrell says he supports any manager wanting the public to be treated more professionally by his staff but questions the directive not to address people as 'mate'.
"I get the fact that we don't want public servants providing services to the public to be referring to the public as sweetheart, darling or honey," Mr O'Farrell told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
"I have some issues myself around the word 'mate' - I think it is part of the Australian vernacular.
"But I'm not going to criticise any public sector manager who is trying to ensure that public servants across the state, whether in the health system or any other department understand the need to treat the public professionally."