Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft has accused Australia's political leaders of setting a poor example with degrading personal vilifications that he says are repeated in workplaces, playgrounds and in the home.
Archbishop Herft said he was concerned about the increasing use of derogatory and foul language in the community and urged politicians to set a better standard of public debate.
"Gone from our politics is the art of repartee," he told worshippers in a diocesan magazine.
"To engage in public discourse that assassinated a person's character was considered degrading.
"Parliament stood for quality debate - a parade of well-presented convictions.
"The big issues are drowned out as personal vilification takes up valuable and costly time."
Expanding on his comments this week, Archbishop Herft said many people felt let down by exchanges in Federal Parliament.
He singled out the war of words between Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last month in which Mr Abbott was labelled a misogynist.
"Parliament does set a model and an example . . . when people observe what's going on at a parliamentary level, and some of the pettiness, you begin to ask 'have these people no other issues to discuss'," he said.
He said the behaviour was being repeated in the community.
"Local clubs are reporting to me there's a degree of angst and a degree of foul language that has certainly increased," he said.
"I'm one of the first to have a go at the referee or umpire if they don't go the way of my side, but there's a way of doing it.
"It used to be with a real degree of humour and engagement, not disparaging, and we've lost that."
He gave the example of Australian cricketer Michael Clarke, who was booed as he walked off the Gabba in Queensland in January.
"He represents the highest level of achievement, and to have him abused from the sidelines by some yobbos who probably were drunk, just isn't good enough," Archbishop Herft said.