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A Brief Guide To Understanding Politico-speak.

It occurs to me that many people are put off politics by their simple expectation that politicians should be honest and their frustration when they’re not.

“To be perfectly frank…” as a beginning to a sentence suggests that, up until this time, the person speaking hasn’t been. However, in politics, what it means is that person is going to continue to waffle about something totally unrelated to the matter at hand. It’s part of the shorthand that anyone who follows politics quickly understands.

Once one understands that, for politicians and the Canberra press gallery, politics has little to do with the real world, then you can treat what they say as having no consequences. After all, it’s what they do all the time.

Like when our Minister for Immigration – who almost always insists that he won’t comment – feels that it’s suddenly OK to give us the details of each of the medical people that the alleged rape victim was alleged to have seen. Then, when she was alleged to have changed her mind about the alleged termination, they allegedly chartered a flight for her to take her back to Nauru which is allegedly a country. in spite of the alleged “fiscal emergency”.

Anyway, here’s a quick guide for those who have been frustrated by expecting that what politicians say should match the way words are used in everyday life:


What They Say Meaning
“My understanding is that…” “Someone has told me a bare-faced lie but I’m blaming them if we’re caught.”
“I have no recollection of that.” “I’ve been advised by our legal team that you can’t prove that I knew.”
“I believe that…” “Ok, it’s probably not true, but it sounds better than what you’re suggesting!”
“Mr. X remains a valuable member of our team.” “Yes, all right, he’s a complete nuff-nuff, but he’s part of a powerful faction/has the photos of me at the Christmas Party when I didn’t think I’d become leader.”
“I’m happy with the job I’m in.” “The journalist I briefed about the coming spill wasn’t meant to leak it just yet.”
“The fundamentals of the economy are good, even though we’ve had a few hiccups because of conditions overseas!” “We’re in power!”
“The Australian economy is a complete basket-case and this a direct result of the government!” “We’re not in power!”
“I don’t pay attention to the polls.” “Ok, I’m f*cked. But it’s still some time till the next election so there’s always a chance of a miracle. I mean, remember ‘The Tampa’?”




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  1. Matters Not

    “Let me be completely honest … “

  2. diannaart

    “In the fullness of time…everything will be crystal clear…”

  3. lefturnahead

    I have complete faith in the Minister= He’s a dickhead and i’ll sack the bastard as soon as i figure out a way.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Work, save, invest = no, we will not be taxing multinationals and we expect you workers to lift your game and get us out of debt. We know you will lead fuller lives if you work to 70 and there are many of our mates who will fill the carers gap for a large fee.

  5. paul walter

    “You may surmise as you may… I couldn’t possibly comment..”

  6. Kyran

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, the expression ’nuff-nuff’ is actually an acronym. ‘Needing Urgent Psychiatric Help’ – NUPH NUPH. Given the phonetics, it may derive from the Pharaoh’s. Which is ironic, as their excesses at the expense of the masses led to them being well and truly phucked.
    In the spirit of contributing to the discussion, the one that gets me every time is “Trust me.”. It seems to be most normally used when a politico has an idea of little substance (as opposed to an aspiration) and is unable to detail the transition from the idea to reality. In the absence of any detail, the assurance is given – Trust me.
    Thank you, Rossleigh. I can now dispense with all other translation guides. Take care

  7. halsaul

    Loved your comment Kyran – laughed out loud. Heard Barnaby use “trust me” many times – laughed out loud every time.

  8. Roswell

    It was Labor’s fault.

  9. JeffJL

    I don’t agree with the premise of that question – Good question but I will not answer it as it will be incriminating for us so here is a stock standard statement to distract your listeners from the fact that I am not answering your question.

  10. mars08

    It’s unAustralian?

  11. corvus boreus

    “Let me be crystal clear…”; ‘I am about to obfuscate’.
    “To be perfectly frank…”; ‘I am about to blatantly lie’.
    “The real question is/should be…”; I have no way of answering your question that will not reflect badly on me, so I am ignoring it’.
    “We will examine the options”; ‘We will commision a focus group and appoint some lobbyists’.

  12. mmc1949mmc1949

    Kyran, I taught my daughters from a young age to never trust anyone who says “trust me”. It’s a pretty universal yardstick.

  13. Kyran

    mmc, I have sons. Same drill. halsaul, my guess is the translation from ‘Trust me’ to ‘phuck you’ is a translation from politico to real people. Maybe the author can assist? Take care

  14. joni

    Also the term “specific allegations” allows them wriggle room.

  15. Geoff Andrews

    Apparently, there’s a proforma advising new coalition backbenchers on how to ask questions:

    “Can the Minister update the house on (here write the topic suggested by the Minister) and is the Minister aware of any alternative policies” = “use as much of question time as possible to slag off at the Leader of the Opposition knowing that any point of order based on relevance will be overruled”.

    “I thank the Honourable Member for that question”
    1. If the question is from a government member, means “I see you’ve got my email so I will now read my answer to my terrific question”
    2. if from the Opposition, means “I will waste as much question time as possible by provoking points of order based on relevance and slagging off the Leader of the Opposition”.

    (Younger readers will probably be surprised to learn that it was once against standing orders to read the answer to a “question without notice”. If challenged, the Minister would assert they were just “copious notes”.)

  16. jimhaz

    We don’t want it to become a political football – it is more politically convenient to not stick up for what we believe in.

    The strengthening of the economy = more opportunity for the rich to make money from the serfs

    There are some areas of disagreement = Their policy is an utter joke

    To represent all Australians = Lobbyists, Come on Up!

    honourable member = Not yet sentenced to jail time.

    Need to maintain government secrecy = We were born to rule as we see fit. Democracy…ha ha ha as if.

  17. mars08

    Class warfare?

  18. paul walter

    Nah…Class warfare is what we used to have at school with dusters and chalk when the teacher was out of the room.

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