Here’s an email doing the rounds of Parliament House, to the horror of some of the occupants:

Subject: Professional development course – Speechwriting for Ministers and Executives

The Australian National University’s Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) has places still available in the next one-day professional development course on Speechwriting for Ministers and Executives.

The course is on 21 October at The Australian National University Innovations Building on the Acton campus in Canberra, from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, cost $395 per participant.

The course is designed for people who might be tasked with writing the words a Minister, Shadow Minister or other Members of Parlimanet (sic) and executives will say publicly to a variety of audiences, including the media. It is intended to develop the skills and self-confidence needed in the preparation of effective and communicative speeches.

Further details can be found on the CCE website.

“Tasked”? I wouldn’t let anyone who uses such a ghastly bit of bureaucratese have anything to do with speechwriting.

And some occupants of the House are also taking issue with the Centre for Continuing Education. An amended version is doing the rounds says: “Properly written the third paragraph would have used 40 per cent fewer words, imparted the same meaning, been more clear and said: ‘This course is for people who have to write the words for delivery to a variety of audiences by a Minister, Shadow Minister or other Members of Parliament and executives. The course will develop the skills and self-confidence needed to prepare speeches.”

OK, marks to the CCE for tackling the issue of speechwriting – or “addressing” it, as they would probably say. But even if they cut through the jargon, they’ll probably still be pushing sh*t uphill.

Sadly, many of the employers of their potential targets cannot read or write, can’t or won’t follow a script – and remain blissfully ignorant of the fact.

Peter Fray

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