The Guardian • Issue #2043


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2043
Weasel Words heading

Complexities /kəmplˈɛksɪtiz/

Readers who lived in a share house during their student days may remember instant tidying for parties. One top tip for student house-dwellers in a hurry to make the place look nice is to pile all the rubbish in one corner of the room and throw a nice blanket over it, hoping your guests will think it’s a charming piece of furniture, albeit probably one they shouldn’t try sitting on.

In speaking about the terrifying possibility that people with large superannuation balances might lose the tiniest part of the massive tax concessions they get, some commentators like to talk about the complexities of the super system. Nice blanket thrown, let’s move on, and hope nobody looks underneath.

Class-focused /klˈɑːs – /fˈəʊkəsd/

We Australians like to think we are an egalitarian bunch. Classes and castes are for other countries. Ruling class Australians especially like the rest of us to think that. So it’s considered bad manners to talk about a class system in this country. However, there is one situation in which the dreaded word “class” will often be deployed – when it looks as though the class with the most is in danger of losing a privilege. Hence two of our lovely progressive (cough) Teal Independents have piped up to show that they know who lives in the seats they represent, and which side their bread is buttered on.

Take a bow Allegra Spender, Independent Member for Wentworth in NSW (the nation’s wealthiest electorate) who has called the government “class-focused” for daring to mention how much the extremely rich are going to avoid in tax. Say hi, Zoe Daniels, Independent member for Goldstein in Melbourne (also well-heeled) who has described the mere possibility of making superannuation less of a rort as a “class war tactic”.

If only, Allegra and Zoe, if only.

Families /fˈæmɪlɪz/

Some people miss their families if they’re away. Others wish they could get away from their families. Australian conservative politicians have the best families of all. No, no, not the actual families who grin like maniacs in the pictures that pollies release, beaming while the would-be leader sings April Sun In Cuba or stands next to a hills hoist. Not the families politicians go to spend more time with when they’ve been forced to resign. The best families are the invisible ones politicians can talk about when they want some imaginary wholesomeness on their side. Just like “millions of Australians” (see previous Weasel Words), but not much like real families, these families are on your side without any arguments.

Wars /wˈɔːz/ (over)

Actual wars are no joking matter. They’re a deeply horrible thing, which is why everyone is usually quite happy when they’re over. When a war finishes, it can seem quite offensive to ask questions about it.

Wanting a bit of that seriousness is probably why Australian politicians and their attendant commentators quite like declaring that some argument is, not just a war, but a series of wars. More than one war! That sounds like something we should be really glad is over. Hence we’ve had history wars, education wars, culture wars, and climate wars.

The history wars either fizzled out because the guys who kept saying Aboriginals hadn’t been warred against or stolen paused for breath, or kept going on depending on how you view things. Julia Gillard announced the end of the education wars with a typically timid attempt to make education funding a mite fairer. The Albanese government and various optimistic commentators are announcing the end of the climate wars because instead of a Coalition government that is actively hostile to any form of carbon emissions reduction, we have an ALP government that pretends it’s reducing carbon emissions, a step in the right direction that we hope the atmosphere appreciates (it won’t). The culture wars have been quiet since Matt Canavan berated the Wiggles for giving a Black Australian a job, but it’s only a matter of time. When someone announces the end of a non-war War, we are expected to feel the same sort of unquestioning gratitude that people feel towards great leaders who end real wars. As the song had it: War! What is it good for?

(turns out the answer is “distraction”)

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