Ruddspeak is alive and well

Stephen Smith in “conversation” with Fran Kelly on the ABC

Everyone has remarked on the new spin-word of the Gillard government, “conversation”. The Prime Minister wants a conversation with the Australian people. Now, all the Ministers seem to be wanting conversations with everyone. Transcripts are not available for ABC Breakfast, so here is a rough summary transcript of what I heard in a most appalling interview with Foreign Minster Stephen Smith, in his best RuddSpeak mode, by Fran Kelly on ABC Breakfast yesterday.

Fran Kelly observes that an off-shore processing centre is facing stiff resistance in East Timor:

FK: The signs are not good. Isn’t Indonesia indicating it is not keen on a regional processing centre?

SS: That’s not true. We agreed with Indonesia that we would have a conversation … Our officials have been in East Timor …  They have had very good conversations

FK: How good? How encouraging, given that vote in Parliament …

SS: The East Timor government position has not changed. They are in conversation, in discussion with Australia. They are having a conversation with Australia. And in the second half of this week I will probably have a conversation with my East timor counterpart …

FK: Will you also have a conversation with Nauru because the PM of Nauru has indicated they want a conversation too. They are prepared to sign up to the Refugee Convention.

SS: Well, our focus is very squarely on East Timor.

FK: Why? Why not consider Nauru, when there is a detention centre already there?

SS: Well, our focus is on East Timor firstly …

FK: I understand that that is where your focus has been … but why in your view would East Timor be a better solution than Nauru … given that Nauru has already an Australian built detention centre there …

SS: Well, we are focusing on East Timor

FK: Why though?

SS: Well, we believe it is the appropriate place to have a conversation. Nauru was used by the Howard government … but we are in conversation with East Timor …

FK: But why would East Timor be a better solution than Nauru, that’s all I’m wondering?

SS:   [Finally, Smith gives a vague answer about regional agreements, UN approval, that fact that Nauru is not a signatory although he welcomes the fact that they want to, etc.] …. This is an extensive conversation that is not going to be solved in one day, one week or one meeting with officials.

If there is one thing that characterised Kevin Rudd — and that frustrated journalists almost more than anything — was the use of clichés combined with assiduously not answering questions.

If Immigration Minister Chris Evans, as reported, has admitted that the immigration debate was “killing the government” then interviews like this by our Foreign Minister is going to do little to reassure the Australian public with his Ruddspeak and evasion. Tony Abbott makes the obvious point that if Gillard were “fair dinkum about offshore processing, she wouldn’t be talking to the East Timorese who don’t want a centre, she’d be talking to the Nauruans who do want a centre.”

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