Hollow words at a moment of great significance

26 11 2007

Kevin Rudd

The staff at Verdurous are of course overjoyed at the imminent return of Australia to the framework convention on climate change negotiations. I look forward to Australia’s involvement in helping solve all of our global environmental concerns.When I first started writing this blog, Kim Beazley was opposition leader and I felt that, despite his troubles, changing to Rudd would be a disaster. At the time, Labor had already started to improve in the polls on the back of the Iraq war and climate change was emerging as an issue. History now shows I was wrong. Rudd was good for the party. Nevertheless, I’ve found him a very colourless figure, prone to dry pronouncements and speeches laced with what former Keating speech writer Don Watson calls “weasel words” – dull, lifeless cliches, empty platitudes, management speak and cant.I will re-print below Kevin Rudd’s victory speech from Saturday night (source: SMH) and will italicise what I believe to be weasel words or weasel phrases. It is pretty hard to read without the eyes glazing over. For contrast, I link here to a certain politician’s electoral concession speech from 2000 (transcript and audio) to show what Mr Rudd might have aspired to.It seems that David Marr of the SMH agrees with me (and puts it better of course). Other more generous comment on Rudd’s language style is here.

Today Australia has looked to the future. Today the Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward – to plan for the future, to prepare for the future, to embrace the future. And together to unite and write a new page in our nation’s history. To make this great country of ours, Australia, even greater.

I want to thank all those people in Australia who have placed their trust in me and my team. And I say tonight to the nation: I will never take their sacred trust for granted.I am determined to honour the confidence which has been extended to us by the people of our great land. And I say to all of those who have voted for us today, I say to each and every one of them: that I will be a prime minister for all Australians; a prime minister for indigenous Australians; Australians who have been born here and Australians who have come here from afar and have contributed to the great diversity that is our nation.

Friends, tomorrow the work begins. Australia’s long-term challenges demand a new consensus across our country. I’m determined to use the office of prime minister to forge that consensus. I want to put aside the old battles of the past: the old battles between business and unions, the old battles between growth and the environment, the old and tired battles between federal and state. The old battles between public and private. The future is too important for us not to work together to embrace the challenges of the future and to carve out our nation’s destiny.

We have put before the Australian people a plan. It’s our agenda for work: To start building a world-class eduction system. To embrace the long-term funding needs of our public hospital system. To act, and act with urgency, on the great challenges of climate change and water. To build a 21st-century infrastructure for a 21st-century economy. And to get the balance right between fairness and flexibility in the workplaces of the nation.And this task as well: to remain ever vigilant in the defence of our nation’s national security.

Yawn.  Am I being too critical?

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