The Guardian • Issue #2059


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2059
Weasel Words heading

the job (getting on with)

The Labor government doesn’t have time for empty talk, you’ll be surprised to hear. That’s because they are “getting on with the job” of building new homes. “Getting on with the job” sounds so real and practical, it’s no wonder people whose jobs are mostly talking love to use it. It sounds, for just a moment, as though they’ve got a wheelbarrow full of bricks they need to get back to.

affordable (housing)

A very specialised weasel word, this one. ‘Affordable’ is only ever used when talking about housing. It’s a very successful weasel word, almost never questioned. Affordable by who? For how long?

“Affordable” sounds like it must be good – it’s not like we want housing which is unaffordable! What “affordable” should be contrasted with instead is a word not used much now – public.  “Affordable” housing can be only affordable for some people, and can also be flogged off later when the NGO that helped get it built needs some cash, long after the announcements have been made. Let’s get housing which is publicly owned and affordable  for everyone!

modest (adjustment)

Modest clothing doesn’t draw attention to itself. Modest changes to super laws are like that. Labor was scared by the fury they faced when a proposal by Bill Shorten to stop giving free money to rich people was misrepresented as a scheme to attack all old people and take away their beach houses. Now treasurer Jim Chalmers has made a “modest” adjustment to super affecting only the .05 per cent of people with super balances of more than $3 million. Everyone else’s rorts will be uninterrupted. It remains to be seen if this modesty will satisfy the right wing media whose approval Labor craves, but if “no tax refunds for rich people who don’t pay tax” isn’t modest enough for the Murdoch press, I wouldn’t bet on it.

reward (for your experience)

When is paying person A more than person B for the same job not underpaying person B? When it’s a reward to A for experience! Labor’s ‘same job same pay’ legislation is meant to address the situation where two people doing exactly the same work can get different rates of pay because they’re working for different contactors. It’s nothing to do with fairness, but unfairness is the Mineral Council of Australia’s thing, so they’re spending big on totally deceptive ads pretending it’s all about rewarding people for experience and hard work.

agency (exercising our)

“Exercising agency” is a waffly way of saying “doing what you want to do,” unless you have a dog called “Agency” that needs a walk. Agency becomes positively weasle-ish in the hands of Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Asked by an anxious journalist about whether Pacific islands countries were banding together to prevent having “a closed hierarchical region dominated by one particular power” Wong answered that “peace is best served by all of us exercising our agency.” Never mind the fact that a region dominated by one particular power is what the Pacific has now – that power is the USA, and Wong is absolutely fine with US domination. As for exercising agency, remember the uproar the last time the Solomon Islands exercised its agency by signing an agreement with China? That may not be the sort of exercise Penny Wong had in mind.

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