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Not eloquent, but effective

By Richard Stanton - posted Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott may not be a good public orator or rhetorician but that does not make him a poor statesman.

Politicians lack training in the skills of oratory and rhetoric. Lawyers no longer leave their law offices and advocacy training to pursue the oratory of public policy argument.

The political sphere is the province of the professional staffer who seeks preselection then public office, devoid of imagination or inspiration.


Once upon a time lawyer politicians filled the parliamentary chambers with their rhetorical flourishes, their oration, their capacity to turn pieces of legislation on elegant argument.

Not any more. Parliament and politics is reductive to the point of boredom.

The argument, as we have seen, is personal. Witness the opposition spokeswoman on foreign affairs persuading us to be embarrassed because the prime minister is going to embarrass us in the global public sphere.

Note the future tense. Tanya Plibersek presented us with a future scenario – the inevitability of Mr Abbott, when overseas, doing and saying silly things.

The left-of-centre media were keen to pick up the idea given that the older narrative of Mr Abbott as bully and misogynist was all but dead, buried and cremated.

Mr Abbott visited with a number of leaders of conservative governments and with the Democrat leader of the free world, President Barack Obama.


Mr Abbott acquitted himself well. Despite the best efforts of the left-of-centre news media to divert and destroy.

The Australian news media has developed a binary position in Australian politics; it is divided along political lines favouring conservatives (Liberals, Nationals, The Australian, The Bolt Report versus Greens, Labor, ABC, Fairfax, for example).

No matter how good Mr Abbott's diplomatic skills or statesman-like presence - his ability to expand global policy and Australia's effective presence in world trade - left-of-centre media scratch around until they find what they consider a weakness and go hard to exploit it.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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All articles by Richard Stanton

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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