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Oz Santas suffer no 'ho ho ho' blow

Traditional phrase 'may be offensive to women'

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A recruitment company's decision to advise its Santas to refrain from uttering the traditional "ho ho ho" because it "was too close to the American slang for prostitute" has caused a pre-Xmas rumpus Down Under, Oz's Daily Telegraph reports.

According to one former trainee Santa who signed up with Westaff, a company which supplies "hundreds of Santas across the country", he was told to lay off the hos since they "could frighten children and could even be derogatory to women". He quit in protest at the "political correctness gone mad", as did one other wannabe St Nick.

Julie Gale, head of the Kids Free 2B Kids campaign "against sexualising children", snorted: "Gimme a break. We are talking about little kids who do not understand that 'ho, ho, ho' has any other connotation and nor should they. Leave Santa alone."

Two department stores which employee Westaff-trained Santas moved quickly to reassure parents and kids that their Santas would not be gagged. A spokeswoman for David Jones at the Westfield shopping centre said: "Senior management have assured us that Santas provided to David Jones have not been censored in any way."

A spokesman for Myer, in the same complex, assured: "Myer has not directed our Santas to refrain from using 'ho, ho, ho' and believe the expression is an important Christmas tradition."

Westaff, meanwhile, wrote to stores to clarify its position. The company's "national Santa co-ordinator", Sari Hegarty, explained: "Westaff has been a provider of quality caring Santas for over forty years. Part of our advice to our Santas is that they should be mindful of children having their first Santa experience.

"We ask our Santas to try techniques such as lowering their tone of voice and using 'ha, ha, ha' to encourage the children to come forward and meet Santa. We wish you and your family a very merry Christmas."

Westaff national operations manager Greg Jansz added that it was "misleading" to claim the company had clamped down on hos and insisted "it was being left up to the discretion of Santa himself". ®

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