Words are bullets, especially when delivered by a national leader. Few people know this better than Tony Abbott, a politician for almost 20 years and, before that, a journalist, political staffer and student of policy and power.
So when the Prime Minister responds to questions in a set-piece interview, he knows those words will be parsed and analysed with precision. That’s because they are the words of an intelligent politician who unambiguously understands their potency.
So let’s look at some of the words Abbott has delivered over the past few days …
To Lally Weymouth in the Washington Post:
But Labor wanted to extend fiber to every household?
Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government.
So you believe the former government was doing a lot of things that were bad for the country?
I thought it was the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history.
Be more specific.
They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honor. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus. They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power. It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.
… and to Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun:
AB: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.
PM: That is complete hogwash.
After 50 days in the job, Australia’s new PM is firing words as bullets in ways that are calculated, unsubtle and devoid of gravitas. And he knows it. Abbott is no longer opposition leader. There are some concerning early signs about the kind of prime minister he will prove to be.