Reading Barry Cassidy’s article in ‘The Drum’ this week, I learnt a new word: Battologist, which means ‘wearisome repetition of words in speaking or writing’. Perhaps there are many of you out there who knew of this word but, unlike Cassidy, never thought to apply it to our prime minister, Tony Abbott. Or perhaps you did, but never told me.
I think it fits perfectly, particularly the bit about being wearisome. How often, in sound bites graciously granted to us by the commercial television networks, do we groan as we descend into a mediocre slump listening to another wearisome, repetitious monologue from this man?
I have often thought, while suffering through this tedious monotony, that he does it as a delay tactic, forcing us to endure this absence of interest, this mind-numbing routine, while he presses home the point.
But of late, I have come to the view that he does it to hide the fact that he really has nothing else to say; that he’s waiting for another thought bubble.
It’s something many politicians do when speaking in Parliament. I thought they did it to reward themselves for saying something they thought was so eloquent it deserved a repeat performance, or to hear themselves above all the shouting and abuse that flies from one side of the chamber to the other.
But no, Barry Cassidy has led me to see it differently. In all previous governments of my experience, there was a narrative, a clearly defined storyline that one could identify, if not agree with, that set a government apart from the Opposition. This is what gave them their mental script. But Abbott and his government have none.
They simply make it up as they go. Policy on the run, disaster management (if you could call it that) on the run, they govern for the day, the hour, even the minute, but never for the future. The future, it seems, will take care of itself.
The Abbott government really is a policy vacuum. I can just see its leading lights at the next election telling us that they have stopped the boats, got rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax and little else. It will be the mother of all negative campaigns. ‘If you don’t vote for us, you’ll get Labor’, ‘Labor will drive us into bankruptcy’, blah, blah, blah.
I doubt there will be one visionary item on their agenda. They simply don’t think that far ahead. As Cassidy so rightly points out, they have lost any initiative on the economy, climate change, employment, debt and deficit, same sex marriage and asylum seekers. The government has no teeth to bite or chew over these issues anymore.
Abbott the battologist, has reinforced this view time and time again, repeating himself constantly, but saying nothing inspiring, nothing new. Likewise his body-english betrays a cave-man element; the apeman-type rolling of the shoulders, left to right as he marches down the parliamentary corridor and the meaningless arm movements when he stands at the podium.
How I long for an orator, a statesmanlike leader, an Obama, to rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of our present mediocrity. In the absence of that, who is there that will give us an eye into the future, a vision, something to show we are moving ahead? Silly question, I know.
My alternative offering is to reverse the process. Let the people lead the politicians. Let us look again at those areas where neither party has the initiative, where neither party has the advantage. I propose we put a short questionnaire to them. They may not know the answers but it could go a long way toward starting a national conversation. We should make it simple with a yes, no, or ‘one word’ answer:
You choose your favourite subject and submit 5 questions you would like answered. The other topics are: climate change, employment, asylum seekers and national security, or you could nominate a pet topic of your own.
Do you believe that running a national economy is the same as running a household economy, only larger?
If the government spends more than it taxes, does that mean it has to borrow the difference?
Do you believe that when a government spends less than it taxes, that the difference is money saved for the future?
Do you believe that a sovereign government can ever run out of money?
What comes first, taxes or spending?
Perhaps asking the right questions will inject some inspiration, some life back into this wearisome, repetitious, near-carcass like animal we call government. I suspect, however, it will only show up the hollow nature of their battology.
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