Puzzled by the way words are used in the election campaign? Here’s your handy cut out ‘n’ keep pocket guide to the vocabulary of campaigning politicians:
That whistling sound you can hear is the dictionary being thrown out of the window. The one thing every election campaign produces is a large number of words. There are speeches, news releases, slogans, advertisements and tortuous answers to interview questions. But those words, while resembling familiar words found in your average desktop dictionary, are in reality special “campaign coinages” with their own distinct meanings that are easy to miss.
In other words, all elections take place in Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5 (Dunsinane, within the castle) being “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” If truth is the first casualty of war, then the English language is the first casualty of election campaigns. It is our words and language that spindoctors put their grubby little hands on and proceed to spin and doctor until they are no longer recognisable.
The hope is that the following short lexicon will aid in your interpretation of the polly waffle filling the airwaves in this crucial last week of the campaign.
Adani—an employment generating, foreign currency earning coal mine that must not be approved for fear of upsetting voters in Newtown and St Kilda (see Inner city voters) and must not be rejected for fear of upsetting voters in north Queensland (hence the expression “We will consult widely…”).
Angry outburst—a speech by your political opponent.
Cancer—[a] disease that should be cost free to patients; [b] disease currently largely cost free to public patients; [c] reason heart disease patients feel politically neglected.
Christianity—[a] politically incorrect religion; [b] faith of 52 per cent of the population that can be safely ignored, except: to be mocked when practiced by a prime minister, to be punished when endorsed by a rugby player, and not to be mentioned when churches are blown up in Sri Lanka (see Islam).
Climate change—something that’s never happened before (did someone mention ice ages? and alternating warm periods?); caused by everyone not driving an electric car and switching to a vegan diet (see Electric cars, see also Vegan).
Clive Palmer—pin-up boy of the advertising industry (“See, advertising really does work”); may (or may not) play a significant role in the election; may (or may not) re-pay monies owed to Queensland Nickel’s ex-employees.
Coal—a substance that destroys the planet if burned in Australia but becomes cheap, efficient energy if burned in India or China.
Costing—something you don’t need to know until after the election (see Trust).
Cut—an increase in spending by the wrong political party; e.g. when a Coalition government increases health spending from $61 billion (last Labor budget, 2012-13) to $81 billion (2019-20 Coalition budget) this is counts as a cut.
Dividend imputation credits—either [a] an attempt to rip off the nation by nasty, self-funded retirees; or [b] an attempt to tax the same profits twice: first in the hands of the company’s accountants then again in the hands of investors.
Electric cars—[a] vehicles not going anywhere, parked by the side of the road plugged into power poles; [b] the reason for the failure of the electricity grid when everyone tries to charge their batteries over night.
Fair go—policy believed by every political party opposed to an unfair go.
Giving someone else a go—what politicians do at news conferences to avoid awkward questions.
Independent umpire, the—the Fair Work Commission which was set up Labor and then cut some weekend penalty rates (some umpires are just too damned independent).
Inner city voters—bicycle riding, latte drinking, basket weaving, vegans who must not be upset at any price (see Outer suburban voters) even though their votes are already locked in for the Greens.
Inquiry, we will hold an—election promise that doesn’t require [a] doing anything, or [b] spending money.
Islam—politically correct religion; especially when congregated in marginal electorates (see Marginal seats).
Left wing—the meaning depends entirely on the speaker: either [a] warm, lovely humanitarians; or [b] social engineering cultural Marxists (see also Right wing).
Living wage—opposite of a dead wage (i.e. money paid to residents of cemeteries).
Listening—[a] what politicians say they are doing to the electorate; [b] what a politician appears to be doing while trying to think of what to say next.
Magic pudding—tax payers’ hip pockets (inspired by Norman Lindsay’s children’s classic of the same the name about the “cut and come again” pudding that is inexhaustible).
Marginal seats—to be wooed and won (as in “This election will be decided in…”).
Minor party—every circus needs someone to do the pratfalls and slapstick comedy: the preferential system was invented to ensure there would always be minor parties, and micro parties, to provide the fun and colour.
Notoriety—the reason your political opponent gets so much attention (as in “I am famous, he is notorious”).
Outer suburban voters—mum, dad and the kids who don’t understand what’s bothering the bicycle riding, latte drinking, basket weaving, inner city vegans.
Pre-polling—getting it over and done with (so we can get on with real life).
Respect—what a politician feels for party members who support them in caucus.
Right wing— the meaning depends entirely on the speaker: either [a] cruel, hard-hearted oppressors; or [b] evidence-based common sense thinkers (see also Left wing).
Safe seats—safe to ignore (the sheep that have never strayed from the paddock).
Signature policy—a colourful flourish, a swirl of the pen, that looks nice from a distance (and we’ll work out the details after we’re elected).
Taxation—the way governments raise money: taxpayers go in as pigs and come out as sausages.
Twitter—the home of unhappy people with limited vocabulary but unlimited vitriol.
Trust—a mystical substance that has recently been lost, stolen or strayed (search parties are combing the landscape and political parties are helping police with their enquiries).
Vegan—extremely unpleasant diet that will starve you of protein but save the planet (you’ve got to get your priorities right).
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