This is a pretty depressing exercise, with the English language broken-nosed and bruised and bleeding from pretty much every orifice in pretty much every paragraph. From her Barrie Cassidy interview, in order:
‘Tony Abbott will have to look people in the eye at the time of the next election and explain to them how he’s taking their tax cuts away, their family payment increases, their pension increases. He’ll also have to look them in the eye and explain (etcetera)’. You can’t look people in the eye, eye is singular, people is plural. Look Australia in the eye, surely. Look the average Australian householder in the eye.
‘He won’t take carbon pricing away. He’ll engage in a little fiddle, a little fudge to kind of pretend but carbon pricing won’t be there.’ You don’t engage in a little fiddle or a little fudge, you attempt one, you try one on. You don’t ‘kind of pretend’. There is no such verb. You pretend, or you do not.
‘Look, in hindsight I was very concerned about the circumstances of lower income Australians (facing the GST). I was very concerned about it being a regressive tax…But the system changed and you had to accept the reality of the new system.’ She wasn’t ‘concerned’ in hindsight, she copped it in hindsight. She accepted it in hindsight, she said so. And she wasn’t ‘concerned’, she was fighting it tooth and nail as an Opposition politician. And it wasn’t the ‘reality of the new system’ any more than Nauru was. It could have been repealed, like Nauru. Like our part in the Vietnam War. All that it means is she changed her mind. And it wasn’t ‘you’ who ‘had to accept the reality of the new system’, it was ‘I had to accept the reality of the new system.’
‘I think with Mr Abbott in particular what we’ve seen is false claims, reckless claims made day after day.’ What she means is ‘what we’ve heard is false claims’, you don’t see claims, you hear them, or you read them.
‘I mean has the coal industry shut down today, Barrie? Are your news rooms flashing up on their screens that coal is no longer being mined in Australia? Are your news rooms flashing up on their screens that everybody’s Sunday roast is costing them a hundred dollars a roast?’ Newsrooms don’t ‘flash up’ anything. They write copy that is read aloud by broadcasters or run in a crawl across the bottom of a television screen. What she means is ‘news programmes flashing up on their screens’ or ‘news editors writing headlines’ or ‘news readers announcing’.
‘I have been prepared every step of the way to work to get a solution here (on asylum seekers) and I am still prepared to do so.’ You don’t ‘prepare’ to take each step of a journey, you just take it. You don’t ‘step’ to work. You don’t ‘work to get a solution’, you seek a solution, connive a solution, work hard to get a solution, work towards a solution.
‘The central tenant of the refugee convention …’ She means ‘central tenet’, probably, but it’s possible she believes the convention has a person living in it.
‘People smugglers would be sent the strongest message that they cannot represent to desperate people that they can get them to Australia.’ By ‘cannot represent to desperate people’ she probably means ‘they should not tell desperate people’ or ‘they should not make desperate people think’. This is wrong anyway. They can get them to Australia, ninety-seven percent of the time. Or, going via Nauru, ninety percent of the time.
‘Yep, I understand Mr Abbott wants to see Nauru opened, and we said we would do that too. So, we have been prepared to compromise every step of the way.’ She does not ‘understand’ that Abbott wants Nauru back, she knows it. It is not in doubt. ‘Understand’ implies some doubt, and there is none. You can’t ‘compromise every step of the way’. Every step of the way includes complete surrender.
‘I talk frequently to the president of Indonesia.’ No she doesn’t. ‘Frequently’ means at least three times a week. That is, well, frankly, Prime Minister, a lie.
‘Weve got a strong and robust relationship between our two countries; and it’s not fair, Barrie, to see it through the prism of of people smuggling. Our relationship is a deep one on the economy and trade, on education links, on development links within the G20, in the East Asia Summit and the list goes on.’ ‘Strong’ relationship is a lie, we were at war with Indonesia quite recently, over East Timor. Indonesians have hanged some of our citizens despite our protests. They hold Schapelle Corby. ‘Robust’ implies we are frank with them. This is really wrong. ‘Our relationship is a deep one on the economy and trade’ shows no knowledge of the meaning of ‘deep’ or ‘relationship’ or ‘economy’ or ‘trade’. ‘Deep relationship’ usually means sharing a bed, or raising children together. ‘Trade’ usually means an at-arm’s-length relationshoip, not a sharing-the-bed one, and ‘economy’ has never before in the history of the world been intermingled with ‘deep relationship’ in any sentence uttered by a human being.
‘I’ve been conscious of the need to be providing solutions to the problems that our nation faces. That’s why I’ve been so determined to deliver nation changing reforms like carbon pricing.’ Well, not so determined as to not promise you would never do it. ‘Determined’ implies a continuity of purpose more than you showed when you promised not to do only twenty months back what you presently say you have been long determined to do. Being ‘conscious of the need to be providing solutions to the problems that our nation faces’ is a breathtaking thing to say. It implies that there is, or was, a possibility that she at some time did not know, or had not remembered, what it is a Prime Minister does every minute of the year. Better to say, surely, ‘My job is clear, and I have to get on with it.’
‘Indonesia is a very important partner to us and we do cooperate very strongly with Indonesia on people smuggling. And they have seen some success for the efforts in the past few years. They’ve disrupted around three hundred people smuggling ventures, they’ve made arrests, so Indonesia has been actively working with Australia to try and combat this very evil trade.’ It’s not a ‘very evil trade’. It’s been the salvation of thousands and provided Australia with a quarter of a million good citizens if you count the Vietnamese. Most boat people regard their smugglers as their saviours and their heroes and find it appalling that they’re arrested and dare not say so. If they’d ‘disrupted three hundred people smuggling ventures’ they’d have made a thousand arrests and they’ve clearly not done this, so this, too, Prime Minister, is a lie. ‘They’ve made arrests,’ she says, but clearly they haven’t made many, and have not put anyone, I’d say, in gaol. Which means we don’t ‘co-operate very strongly’, a phrase she seems to have coined, as dizzying in its jangling nullity as the others.
The trouble with her seems to be us that she responds to every question with an impulse to lie; or to avoid revealing what is going on; to conceal as much as she can as a general policyand leave the questioner ignorant. And this is why she gets into such tangles of language.
The obvious contrast is with Bob Carr, whose instinct is to tell as much of the truth as he can, the truth in its multivarious international difficult complexity, without, however, getting himself into political quicksand by saying too much. She conceals many, many things, and gets herself into a flummox doing it, many things it would be harmless to reveal. And he reveals, with acuity and eloquence, all he can.
It goes without saying he would be a better Prime Minister.
Leadership is always, always about mastery of language. And she speaks the language like a timorous foreigner. Like a Peter Sellers Indian, really.
And it’s a pity.