The Guardian • Issue #2071


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2071
Weasel Words heading


Absolutely nobody is really ‘self-made’. If you think you are, just ask your parents to give you a little talk about the Facts of Life. Biology aside, people who bill themselves as ‘self-made’ ignore schools, society, friends, and education. In the case of near-billionaire Tim Gurner, he gets to call himself ‘self-made’ despite a hefty loan from his family and a lot of family connections in the world of property development. Tim was famous before for telling young people to knock off the avocado toast if they wanted to afford a house (you can buy a median house in Melbourne for only 56,666 not-eaten smashed avocado and toast breakfasts), and now he’s freshly famous for wanting unemployment to go up by 40 per cent and moaning that tradies earn too much. His image as a clueless plutocrat is self-made, we’ll give him that.

Common-sense (adjective), common sense (noun)

Common sense is a classic weasel word because it’s always undefined. If a speaker calls something common sense, it almost always means that the speaker can’t be bothered thinking of any alternatives to it and/or that they think their prejudices are the world. Northern Territory Country-Liberal Party anti-Voice zealot Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has said that political leaders have been unwilling to apply common-sense approaches to Indigenous policy issues for fear of being branded racists. Given how racist her friend and leader Peter Dutton has been so far, we can only wonder what he would have done if fear of coming across as racist hadn’t held him back. Price has also said that Aboriginal people didn’t have running water before European settlement, so it’ll be a thrill for her when she sees her first river.


If we were honest about words, ‘political’ would just be an adjective, not good or bad. A lot of things are political. As it is, ‘political’ is often used as a slur, and/or get-out-of-jail card, usually by people who live and breathe politics.

Here’s a case in point: it has just been confirmed that a company which won a contract worth $110 million had 11 meetings with Morrison government minister (and politician) Stuart Robert. The company was linked to a very close associate of Robert’s.  Notes weren’t taken, and no officials from Robert’s department were at the meetings. Wild coincidence, no doubt, but the parliamentary committee looking into it is referring the matter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission just in case. Stuart Robert calls the whole thing a “hyper-political attack”.


Everyone is bagging Tim Gurner (see above) because he said tradies are spoilt and we need unemployment to rise so that workers remember who they work for. Pity the commentator who’d like to get some mileage out of this, but is about 8000 social media posts and columns behind. What they can do is talk about Tim being made a ‘villain.’ This focuses our attention on the real victim of a system where Tim Gurner is almost a billionaire – Tim Gurner. He’s the victim of a ‘pile-on’ (see previous Weasel Words columns). Villains are silly-but-fun fictional creations who give the likes of Batman and James Bond a hard time, so saying that Tim Gurner has been made a ‘villain’ makes it look like the thousands of working people who find him obnoxious are exaggerating. They aren’t. Tim has been rightly bagged for his mask-off moments.

Mature debate

A mature debate is certainly better than a childish or immature debate. The weasel use of the term is when someone really don’t have any good response to their opponents, but wants to seem like the adult in the room. Anti-Voice opportunist Warren Mundine has said that Australia needs to have a ‘mature debate’ about changing the date of Australia Day – once he’s finished campaigning against big changes that affect Indigenous people, that is. Given that Mundine is part of an organisation trying to use ‘change the date’ as a bogey-man to scare people off the Voice, he seems, if not immature, at least confused.

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