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Abbott, the Great Battologist

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.

battology 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.

quest My questions below, are on the economy.

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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  1. Graeme Henchel


    It’s now been on two years, since the Mad Monk got the job
    And in that time, he’s proved to be, a hopeless lying nob
    It’s not just him, cos in his crew, the talent is so sparse
    All in all, this mob have been, just one great sorry farce

    It’s no surprise, that Abbott’s such, a monumental fail
    But who’d have thought, how quickly, it would all start to derail
    I guess if you’ve no policies, and only can oppose
    It isn’t any wonder, he went quickly on the nose

    When asked about his policies, he had not much to say
    That’s because, he’d outsourced them, all to the I. P. A.
    He didn’t keep his promises, it turned out that he lied
    He kept on blaming Labor, and the lying he denied

    He got no help from Smokin Joe, whose budget went too far
    While Joe and pal Mathias, smoked a great big fat cigar
    While Brandis in the Senate, said that “Bigots do have rights”
    The Monk announced, he would restore, archaic Dames and Knights

    Pensioners, the unemployed, the students and the sick
    All were helpless targets, of this useless lying prick
    If not for the senate, they would surely have been screwed
    This budget based on lies, made sure, a poll decline ensued

    The backbench got so nervous, with a feeling of despair
    The Monk survived a challenge, up against an empty chair
    He promised he would listen and would stop his captains picks
    Now six months on, not much has changed, he still plays dirty tricks

    All the Monks decisions, take them further up shit creek
    From equal rights, to climate change, he’s on a losing streak
    His Captain’s calls keep coming back, to bite him on the bum
    The public have concluded, he’s deluded, and quite dumb

    The government’s in limbo land, the party paralysed
    Their only hope is Turnbull, who the right wing just despise
    While Abbott’s only focus, is on how to save his hide
    The public will, with cricket bats, commit politicide

  2. Anomander

    Compare Abbott the troglodyte to someone like Scott Ludlam, whose speeches resonate with passion, vision, eloquence and well-timed humour, as well as being intelligently written.

    Abbott is, without doubt, one of the worst public speakers I have ever heard, repetitive, stuttering, disjointed, filled with unnecessary noise words, grating, sloganistic, clichéd, and he has absolutely no concept of timing or inflection. I just want to scream every time I hear him speak.

  3. Ross Sharp

    “Well, er, uh, Michael, the questions we should be asking, the real questions we should be asking are all about jobs and growth. Jobs and growth. This government is committed to more jobs, more growth, and more jobs and growth. Now, we’ve stopped the boats, we stopped the boats, they’ve been stopped, we axed the tax, we’ve axed the tax, and we’re committed to delivering real results, real results, to all Australians for the benefit of the nation as a whole. A whole nation.

    But real challenges, Michael, real challenges lie ahead of us in the area of national security. National security. The death cult. The death cult that is a truly evil cult of death, that’s where we’re focused.

    That, the death cult, stopping the death cult, and jobs, jobs and growth. Those are the priorities of the government I lead, and will continue to lead, into the next election, and those are the questions we will be addressing until that time.”

    Rinse, repeat, spit, rinse, repeat.

  4. David Bruce

    Abbort, Abbort, Abbort!

  5. Bronte ALLAN

    And the best one of the lot….SACK TONY ABSCESS!!!

  6. JeffJL

    “The important thing here is…” (and then link to groceries. LOL)

    “What we must remember..”

  7. Jexpat

    Trust me, you do not want an Obama.

    Whereas Abbott is a battologist, Obama is Circean.

  8. hicom

    I read Julian Burnsides excellent article at the drum and wrote why couldn’t we have an elequent PM or at least one who can get to the end of a sentence without repeating himself five times. Of course Abbott’s Broadcasting Commission did,t print it.

  9. M-R

    @Anomander: hooray for you ! I was thinking I must be the only voter around who can’t understand why the Greens didn’t elect Ludlam as their leader. Talk about the obvious choice …! But I do not wish to use his name in the same textbox as you-know-who (listened again recently to Fry’s audiobooks of Harry), as it might cause some kind of … ahh … unknown combustion to occur. Yesyes, I know you did without probem; but you’re not me !

  10. Kizhmet

    it really does describe him perfectly doesn’t it? I can’t bring myself to listen to him speak. And I can’t get past imagining Gollum when I see a photo.

  11. corvus boreus

    Regarding Abbott’s ‘oratory’, I did for a time give him the benefit of the doubt in that he may have simply been simply pitching his speeches to those who constitute his core political base (morons who move their lips whilst ‘reading’ murdoch tabloids), but then came the G20, where, in front of the leaders of the developed world, he gave yet another repeat rendition of the exact same cretinous slogans.

  12. Pat Willoughby

    Twelve months ago I wrote that Tony Abbott was once again sharing with us his futuristic vision for the last six years of the labour Govt Eighteen months ago I asked just how far down the sewer these scumbags would take us with the refugee issue.You know what? These arsewipes have exceeded my wildest expectations and then some.Obviously the L in LNP stands for Lemming because these LNP sycophants are going to let this delusional cockhead destroy any credibility they may have had left.This is what happens when you let the spoilt brats run the country.Malcom,please rid us of this pond scum,stand up man.

  13. paul walter

    Wearisome and obnoxious because it is trying to block out good faith communication.

  14. brickbob

    Í was going to make a comment about this article which i think is very good,but when it comes to Abbott i just cant be bothered writing anything about him anymore,i cant waste anymore of my precious time on this awful human being,i just cant.”

  15. corvus boreus

    paul walter,
    You touch upon the heart of it for me, too.
    The divisive and inaccurate language of Abbott’s ‘off-the-cuff’ remarks rankle worse than his constant repetitions of prefabricated slogans.
    “Deals with the devil, heads should roll, courts are sabotaging projects”; this is the real Tony talking.
    There is no attempt to employ moderate and factual language, merely a pavlovian dog-whistle of inflammatory hyperbole, devised to provoke snarls, hackles, barks and bites rather than mere hungry drooling.
    As a case in point, there was the case where Tony spoke of an alleged 10% reduction in military resourse under Labor’s watch. This was one of the few times that the word word ‘decimation’ could have been deployed appropriately, and he chose to call it a “holocaust” (meaning ‘everything burnt’, with connotations of attempted genocide by fascists).
    What could one expect of someone who names his political memoirs “Battlelines” (a division of two groups of scared and angry people, armed with weapons and intent upon mutual slaughter, facing each other over ravaged ground).

  16. corvus boreus

    Belated thanks, John Kelly, both for the article, and for “battologist”.
    My first new word for the day

  17. stephentardrew

    The whole point for me is the the critical nature of your questions John which I feel are the most relevant we could ask of any politician at the moment and they should be made to answer them comprehensively and if not why not? The very foundation of our society rests upon a coherent and meaningful understanding of the economy and if that is dysfunctional the rest of government will fail to achieve stability, consistency and reliability.

    Austerity is killing Western economies as they continue on the boom bust cycles that have dogged capitalism ever since it’s inception. Knowing how money comes into, and out of, existence and the pathways through the economy is critical to forming a sound understanding of growth, stability and equilibrium which should be the foundational goal of economics.

    Enough has been said about this Government and its corruption and inherent support for inequality and harming the least able to care for themselves. The moral issues are critical however the only way we can attack thee injustices is by having a stable economy that provides a minimum wage, food, housing, health and leisure for everyone. Both left and right act like this is impossible so best just follow the status quo.

    It is not going to help if we do not change the underlying structure of the economic paradigm and this defeatist idea that it is the way it is and you will just have to live with it is pure unadulterated projection of self-interest disinterested in producing viable solutions.

    Personally I cannot see how we can keep on going with a system that is leading to environmental destruction, biosphere degradation and ever increasing inequality. There will be a tipping point that, when we reach it, is going to cause untold dislocation and even violence and revolt.

    In point of fact you have hit the nail on the head. If we cannot get the economy right we cannot instigate the social reforms necessary for a functional social and socialist democracy with adequate rewards for creativity and support for those who provided the necessary manual labor that sustains our culture. Everyone deserves a basic and secure existence regardless of IQ, aptitude or academic achievement.

    Any progressive movement, Labor, Greens or independents, must deal with these problems if they are going to achieve any social reforms at all. No economic stability no enduring reforms. Why? Because as soon as there is a downturn under the current system it is always the low income, unemployed, disabled and poor who lose as wealth is redistributed upwards.

  18. horatio

    Please don’t alert this PM to his missing plan for the future. It terrifies me to think of the diabolical plan he could concoct. As long as this gu’mmint continues to inhabit its alternative universe it has probably achieved all it set out to and it will cost the country a fortune to reverse the reversals.

    The only positive achievement they claim relates to signing any old trade agreement placed in front of them and who knows what that will cost.

  19. Stephen

    With Abbott and his captains calls I always think of the other shining example of captains calls

    We’ll make good time and set a new record to New York
    Edward John Smith, RD, RNR (RMS Titanic)

    Damn the torpedos full steam ahead.
    David Farragut, an order given at the Battle of Mobile Bay

    In his cabin snorting coke and having sex
    Francesco Schettino, Costa Concordia

    Anthony John “Tony” Abbott
    Parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party 2009 to ?
    Australian Prime Minister 2013 to ?

    I hope we get to fill in the second dates as soon as possible preferably with a full double dissolution or does a double dissolution have to be the full senate can’t remember right now?


  20. diannaart

    Had never heard of ‘battologist’ either – thought it was a parody until I read article, John.

    I concur with my Aimers – the wearisome repetition of a very few words drives me… well all it achieves is a switch of stations lest innocent electrical appliances be slaughtered.

    …and I was patient enough to allow him to time settle in – unlike Ricky Muir, Abbott has failed miserably, the man is incapable of erudition.

    We know this lunacy cannot last – how will Labor, the Greens and other progressives go about repairing the damage? Repair is the best we can hope for before Australia is looking forward instead of back.

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