The Guardian • Issue #2104


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2104
Weasel Words heading

Red Tape

Red tape used to be the ribbon that public servants used to tie up bundles of documents. It soon came to mean any annoying and unnecessary bureaucratic stuff. Of course, one person’s ‘red tape’ is another person’s protection. Just ask people trying to get money back from a dodgy builder or developer if they’re glad the builder/developer wasn’t tied down with red tape.

In the recent federal budget, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government would build massive amounts of public housing.

Just kidding – this is Labor we’re talking about, Chalmers said he would “slash red tape.” What that means is more deregulation for developers.


Fair things are good, so making something ‘fairer’ is even better, right? This word is weaselly through vagueness. Who gets to say what’s fair?

The government wants to make the NDIS fairer and also sustainable (another often weaselly word). Here Chalmers and Shorten get to choose what the words mean. For them, that’s putting robodebt-like conditions on NDIS spending, and bumping people off the scheme.


Resources Minister Madeleine King has said that Australians are “renowned” for pragmatism and a positive outlook on life. Yeah, right; people in other countries never stop telling us how pragmatic we are.

Like ‘fairer,’ ‘pragmatism’ is a very open term. Madeleine King thinks our resource industries are pragmatic in a wholesome Australian way. Those parts of our resource industries that extract fossil fuels and pay next to no tax are happily making the planet unfit for human habitation. It’s pragmatic to help them out the way King and the Albanese government has been doing, if your vision of the future only goes as far as the next two elections.


The grand-daughter of former Victorian Liberal Premier Rupert Hamer – who insists being a Hamer is nothing to do with her being preselected, and also loves to talk about her famous grandad – has said that it’s really important that politics is respectful.  Being full of respect does sound nice, but we wonder where Amelia Hamer was when her leader was making unfounded allegations about child abuse amongst Indigenous communities. Perhaps she respects Dutton too much to call him out on it.


The original meaning of this word was a serious downfall which took place in a tragedy. The person who had the downfall ironically sort of caused it. The word evolved to just mean something which is very very sad. That sort of change happens all the time. The weaselly use of the term is when it implies that it’s nobody’s fault – like when someone dies at a very young age from a disease which is just bad luck, but is very much someone else’s fault.

Israel has called an inhumane attack on the Gazan city of Rafah “a tragic mistake,” whereas in fact it’s a war crime. The tragedy is that the USA and its allies, including Australia, have backed Israel’s apartheid and genocide up to this point.

Enthusiasm gap

The chief electoral strategist for the UK Tories, Isaac Levido has coined this expression. We don’t know what the British Conservative party pays its chief electoral strategists, but presumably it’s enough to make Levido talk about an enthusiasm gap instead of just telling his bosses everybody hates them.

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