Josh Mehlman writes: Re. “Say what you mean” (yesterday). While you caught the irony of Mike Pezzullo’s speech on communicating clearly, given his department’s active hostility towards the act of communication, how did you miss that it’s also awful, awful writing? In one heavily padded 100-word paragraph he includes almost a dozen examples of redundant words, repeated phrases, and woolly verbiage. Best of all, while insisting that “the active voice should be the grammatical standard”, he crams in a total of five passive verbs.
If Pezzullo had even the vaguest understanding of the advice he was dishing out, he would have recognised his own speech was a prime example of the linguistic sins for which he was scolding everyone else. He may as well have told his public service colleagues they needed to do words much more gooder-er. How embarrassment.
Richard Creswick writes: Re. “Retrospective super change looks dead in the water” (yesterday). Regarding the anger over the Coalition’s proposed retrospective superannuation changes, it should be remembered the Libs have form on this. The most famous case of retrospectivity in legislation must surely be John Howard’s 1982 ‘bottom of the harbour’ legislation which made a lot of corporate lawyers most unhappy because it led to them being penalised for advising on tax dodges that had previously been legal. Howard was, of course, treasurer at the time. It’s perhaps interesting, and instructive in the current situation, to wonder if the widespread anger among people who had managed to avoid taxes for years might have contributed to the Fraser government’s loss to Hawke and Labor at the March 1983 election.