REAL AUSTRALIA

The words that 'kill brain cells and sink hearts'

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You need those neurons in you brain working. Weasel words won't do that. Photo: Shutterstock

You need those neurons in you brain working. Weasel words won't do that. Photo: Shutterstock

That was a long, drawn-out and, ultimately, inevitable demise.

No, not Dominic Thiem's brave five-set loss to Australian Open trophy hoarder Novak Djokovic but rather Bridget McKenzie's resignation from cabinet.

It's been "interesting" watching the sports rort scandal unfold. Of course, a political point of view but also linguistically.

What a blast from the past. Hands up if you had moments of deja vu. Or if you rewound contemporary Australian history to 2005 and thought fondly of Don Watson.

Not only is Mr Watson a former speechwriter for Paul Keating he's also an award-winning author. You might specifically remember Weasel Words, published back in 2005.

The promo from his publisher Penguin says it all: "This book is a heavy weapon against politicians, managers and all those whose words kill brain cells and sink hearts."

It references: " ... core and non-core election promises, your boss asks you to commit to an involuntary career event (you're fired), and hospitals refer to negative patient outcomes (you're dead)."

In Watson's own words it is politicians using "clichéd, lifeless babble?" And haven't we ensured an excessive amount of babble in 2020 already?

The National MP Bridget McKenzie at National Party conference at the National Press Club in Canberra. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

The National MP Bridget McKenzie at National Party conference at the National Press Club in Canberra. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Just days ago the PM maintained "no rules were broken" in the administration of the community sports infrastructure program.

Any number of MPs parrotted the line (or rather 'talking point') that all the projects which received funding were indeed 'eligible' to receive funding.

If we were living in Orwellian times that would translate as "some projects are more eligible than others".

A damning Auditor-General's report found the scheme favoured marginal and targeted seats.

When asked by the PM to determine if ministerial standards were breached, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens (Mr Morrison's former chief of staff) said they were.

But, in stark contrast to the initial report, Mr Gaetjens found "no basis for this suggestion that political considerations were the primary determining factor".

So, nope, no pork-barrelling to see here - just lots of weasel words and a gun club membership that was not revealed.

Writing in The Canberra Times more than a fortnight ago, Kirsten Lawson suggested it would be "a miracle" if McKenzie survived with her ministry intact.

"To be sure, we live in an era of political miracles, but if she, the Nationals and Scott Morrison think it reasonable to tough or bluff this one out, it speaks not to an era of enlightenment but an era of dangerous befuddlement where everyone has collectively lost complete track of what is right and what is wrong."

As it turns out Lawson was right - no miracle, but lots of thoughts and prayers presumably.

 Prime Minister Scott Morrison denies the allocation of $100 million in sports grants was political.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison denies the allocation of $100 million in sports grants was political.

Mr Morrison said Senator McKenzie had shown "a great respect for the statement of standards" by resigning.

"Standards, as I say, are about accountability," the PM said.

Just one last hark bark to 2005 ...

When Don Watson was asked about the consequences of politicians using weasel words he said: "I think it has repercussions for a democracy. If we can't trust the words of our leaders then we're that much diminished. And politicians are determined to say as little as possible. It seems to me that one of the purposes of political life is to actually talk to people as if you understand them."

Hang on, what?

Janine Graham

ACM digital news editor

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