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The One Ronnie in the Blackberry Sketch

The BBC has an online report today about the decline of puns in modern comedy.

The story was prompted by the return of 80-year-old Ronnie Corbett to television in a Christmas Day special, The One Ronnie.

It’s nothing to do with politics, although the decline of creativity with the language is related, but it’s that time of year.

  • Watch the Blackberry sketch (3m)

Giving Substance To The Words

There are thirty-two new members of the 43rd Parliament, elected on August 21st. Three of them are returning after a voluntary or enforced absence. As a group, they constitute one-fifth of the House of Representatives, a significant turnover and renewal of the lower house. Many of them will be there for years to come.

Maiden SpeechesOver the past month, I have made a point of watching the maiden, or first, speeches of these members. On the whole, it is difficult not to be impressed by these fledgling parliamentarians.

There has been much comment on the moving speech from the Western Australian Liberal, Ken Wyatt, the first indigenous member of the House, but others also delivered considered and thoughtful speeches.

Take Andrew Leigh, the member for Fraser in the ACT. His reputation as an economist and thinker preceded his election. In his speech, he spoke of the importance of education for the nation’s future, of “optimistic experimentation” and of rebuilding “a sense of trust between citizens and politicians”. Leigh’s book, “Disconnected”, has just been published. [Read more…]

Democracy And The Law Threatened By Howard Government: Burnside

In an interview published in The Bulletin magazine today, Julian Burnside QC argues that democracy and the separation of powers is under threat in Australia because of the Howard Government’s attitude to refugees.

Burnside is quoted as saying: “The government has attacked the High Court and the Federal Court. It has politicised the public service, the office of governor-general and the armed forces. What’s left? These are meant to be apolitical arms of government where each functions independently of the others. The current regime does not seem to recognise this”. [Read more…]

Political Language

Some examples of the way language is used to obscure, slant, provoke, condemn and praise.


“Restatement of earnings”
– The expression used by executives of a number of American corporations in 2002. The law calls it “fraud”.


Positioning For Growth
– The expression used by the National Australia Bank in April 2002 when announcing the closure of more branches and the retrenchment of several thousand employees.


Asylum-Seekers Acronyms
– SIEV: Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel

– PUAs: Potential Unauthorised Arrivals


“Card-carrying environmentalist”

From the Sydney Sun-Herald, (December 2, 2001):

“Ms Nettle, who pipped Senator Vicki Bourne of the Australian Democrats for the sixth NSW Senate seat, has worked as a community welfare officer in western Sydney, taught English in East Timor, fought uranium mining in Jabiluka, campaigned against the construction of a women’s jail at Windsor and joined Critical Mass in blocking traffic in central Sydney in defence of cyclists’ rights.

“She is a member of the Greens and it is the first time NSW voters have sent a committed, card-carrying environmentalist to Federal Parliament.

“But just because she will be joining the party’s other senator, Bob Brown from Tasmania, doesn’t mean she will give up her career as a full-time activist.”

Spin: whereas commitment is usually praised as a positive characteristic, in this instance Ms. Nettle’s commitment is portrayed as zealous, excessive behaviour. She isn’t simply a Green, but a “card-carrying environmentalist” who has made a “career” as a “full-time-activist”.


“Battlefield Detainee”
– the term used to describe John Walker, the American captured while fighting for the Taliban in November 2001. The term is used because they don’t know whether to call him a ‘prisoner of war’, a ‘traitor’ or a ‘criminal’.


“Enemy Prisoner of War”
– EPW was used during the Gulf War in 1991 in place of ‘Prisoner of War’. Notice the redundant use of the word ‘enemy’.


“Collateral Damage”
– another term coined during the Gulf War to describe the loss of civilian lives in military attacks.

A Political Speech From David Frost

This is a clip of the British entertainer and interviewer, David Frost, satirising political speeches.

I can’t date the recording precisely but it was sometime in 1972, just prior to the Australian federal election that ended 23 years of coalition government. [Read more…]

Sir Winston Churchill’s Funeral: Eulogy By Sir Robert Menzies

This is the full text of Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies’s eulogy for Sir Winston Churchill.

Churchill died on January 24, 1965, at the age of 90. His funeral was held on January 30, 1965.

Menzies delivered the eulogy from the crypt of St. Paul’s.

Eulogy by Sir Robert Menzies on the death of Sir Winston Churchill.


As this historic procession goes through the streets of London to the Tower Pier, I have the honour of speaking to you from the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. I do this in two capacities. One is that I, Prime Minister of Australia, happen to be, in point of time, the senior Commonwealth Prime Minister, and therefore speak on behalf of a remarkable world organization which owes more that it can ever express to our departed leader, Sir Winston Churchill. He is one of the famous men whom we thank and praise. [Read more…]

Robert Menzies: Politics As An Art

This is the text of an article Robert Menzies wrote on the importance of the art of politics.

Robert Menzies


It was published in the New York Times Magazine on November 28, 1948.

Menzies canvasses the importance of the art of persuasion through oratory and speech-making. Politics, he says, “is both a fine art and an inexact science”. In focussing on the “scientific aspects” of politics, the activities requiring measurement, organisation and planning, it is easy to forget “how to persuade a self-governing people”. [Read more…]