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The language of treachery versus a statement from the heart

When I thought there was nothing more to write about apropos the events of the last fortnight, I came across an op-ed penned by Daily Telegraph shill Tim Blair.

The headline read ‘The coup we had to have’.

An impressionable child could fairly ask a parent, what does coup mean?

So the language of sedition and treachery dominate the Australian vernacular as never before.

I lived through the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, a prime ministerial stickler for the values of the Constitution. And while Australians were outraged by his ignoble sacking by an unelected governor general, at no time — correct me if I am wrong — did the nomenclature of treason enter the debate.

Yet descriptions of the moves against former Prime Minister Turnbull were punctuated with shadowy mutterings about the means of a political killing.

Coup, destabilisation, put him to the sword, the killing season, political assassination, bloodletting Kill Bill, the Mad Monk, Morriscum, Jbish … Just a few of the words and phrases deployed by journalists, commentators and ordinary citizens to describe the events which paralysed the nation.

How and when did we allow our language to become so malevolent?

In the year 2000, after the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony, Australia presented an image of a young, sanguine nation. And the planet responded in kind. The Games marked the emergence of Sydney as a world city and Australia a capable, buoyant and welcoming nation with limitless potential. We were magnificent, and I was fortunate to observe my city and country behave in a fashion which confirmed an earlier decision to become a citizen.

Eighteen years on and every Prime Minister since John Howard — the incumbent resident in the Lodge during the Olympic Games — has suffered the ignominy of political termination with extreme prejudice.

Eighteen years marks a generation, and this new voting cohort knows nothing but political instability. This young constituency is bombarded by the lexicon of treason. A shameful inherited, national legacy.

How is this possible? And how can Australians debate big ideas such as a republic without a notion being subverted by seditious language?

With swathes of the media addicted to the rhetoric of the school yard bully, it is apodictic we will remain trapped in a cycle of recrimination. And with this craven determination to tear down any proposition which may change the status quo, it is almost impossible to question who we are and how our destiny might evolve.

I recently eavesdropped a conversation about politically correct terms being deployed to neuter the words granny and granddad. This alleged insistence of the use of gender neutral language is a popular trope among sections of the community, convinced the thought police are denying their right of expression.

There is no evidence for the assertion but this and similar myths, persist and trouble tens of thousands of Australians, many of whom live in regional and rural parts of the nation.

The propensity for hate speak in political debates has grown to such a level, incendiary rascals such as Tim Blair regularly use the allegory of violence to make a point.

A grand master of colourful political vituperation Paul Keating learnt the art of a genuine Australian turn of phrase from his mentor NSW Premier Jack Lang who literally mounted a soap box during street corner debates.

But with the deployment of the cold-blooded invective of the assassins’ creed we have drifted from the resonance and sincerity of Keating’s Redfern Speech.

Or have we?

The Uluru Statement from the Heart dismissed by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is for me an almost transcendental declaration of the possibility of a noble future. The Statement, free of cant and sincere, describes a space Australians should consider occupying if we are to become truly great. It embraces the notions of unity and truth telling and therein the possibility of a confident Australia.

It behoves us as parents and grandparents to teach this generation of its intent, for by accepting the Statement’s recommendations, Australians might become emotionally equipped to occupy an optimistic country; beyond political spite and the dark bombast of propaganda. Consider this paragraph from The Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown”.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney based author. His book, Best and Fairest is available at Valentine Press


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  1. vicki

    The first word that came to my mind on hearing of anther over throw was Treachery, he was the best of a bad bunch of Dictators not Liberators, my feeling towards this Leader was his intentions were good but not on the mark,he gave too much power to the right in ALL aspects to control the populace in order to get what he wanted done, so in effect he sold his soul and the Ultimate Freedom of this Nation and for what, To appease a few? Well We are and have been since john Howard on a downwind spiral, as Lies,treason,treachery,deceit and msm influence on the the Nation can all be trace backed to this LEGACY of Government.

  2. New England Cocky

    “This sovereignty is a spiritual notion ….. and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown”.

    Interesting, dual sovereignty for the one geographical land, a unique legal position.

    No wonder the lawyers have worked so hard for over a century to extinguish this concept of land NOT ceded under war to the English invaders, despite government sponsored “shoot on sight” Aboriginal policies in the 19th century, to prevent English land title being legally irrelevant.

    No wonder that Isaac Isaacs, a Beechworth lawyer who supported eugenics, with one Australian High Court judgment empowered successive governments to practice policies promoting Aboriginal genocide … until 1975.

    No wonder Aborigines were denied the vote until 1967, and indeed, after South Australia granted the vote to both women and Aborigines in 1892, took the vote away from them in 1901 while giving the vote to women in NSW.

    No wonder the supporters of this NLP misgovernment crave a 19th century future with a Bunyip Aristocracy to keep them in the manner to which they prefer to remain accustomed.

    Women supporting Adultery support National$.

    @vicki: Howard was a driving force in the downward spiral, rather than a hero of the people, buying middle class voters while allowing community assets to decay into ruin.

  3. PeterF

    @ NEC, VICKI : One word for Howard : Tampa.

  4. Kronomex

    “How and when did we allow our language to become so malevolent?” At a rough guess, from around the time Abbott was the leader of the opposition.

  5. paul walter

    In a way, it was sad reading it as someone who has watched this country heading down the drain since the mid-nineties of last century.

    Tart shop?

    Couldn’t run a chook raffle up the local.

  6. Nigel Drake

    “Tart shop” is an euphemism for brothel in some of the “polite society”.

  7. paul walter


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