Truthiness to English Dictionary

This is an updated version of the Truthiness to English dictionary, with words and phrases added as they come into common usage – or at least into Abbott-usage.

The original guide to Abbott-Speak – including an explanation of Truthiness – can be found here.

Quick Links
Budget Repair No Cuts/No Changes
Carbon Tax Operational Matters
Crystal Clear Stopped the Boats (We’ve)
Important thing (the) Terrorists are coming
Mining Tax


Truthiness: Budget Repair (as in “We’ve done a lot of budget repair….. “)
English:  We can’t think of anything else to say about the budget that doesn’t sound REALLY bad….

There was a much used Truthiness phrase which preceded this one – that has passed out of common usage this year – “Debt and Deficit Emergency”. The English translation of that phrase is “We want you to think there’s a major economic problem, and that only we can fix it”. This wasn’t true of course – but Truthiness doesn’t have to be true, it just has to feel true.

Of course since taking Government, the LNP have arguably turned our economy into a basket case, and created the world’s worst debt trajectory. This makes it challenging for them to continue to use the ‘Debt and Deficit emergency’ Truthiness phrase without having it potentially used against them.

The LNP have now rolled back their ’emphatic’ commitment to deliver “a surplus in [their] first year in office and….achieve a surplus for every year of [their] first term” – which of course they haven’t. Instead they’ve gone for the only thing they can really say without admitting ‘we’ve done a really crap job’ – which is essentially that ‘we’re working on it’.  The budget is effectively ‘in the shop’ for repairs.

(See also ‘Terrorists are coming for every one of you’.)


Truthiness: Carbon Tax ( as in “We’ve scrapped/axed the carbon tax…”)
1. We really aren’t convinced that climate change is caused by carbon.
2. We’ve got a world-first policy on climate change
– one that has resulted in an increase in carbon emissions instead of a decrease.
3. We’ve gone from collecting revenue from heavy carbon emitters to paying companies
for possibly, maybe, do something about reducing carbon emissions at some point in the future.

Abbott regularly lists axing or scrapping the carbon tax as one of his top achievements. He boasted about it at the G20 last year, he referred to it as the best thing he has done as Minister for Women, and in his interview with Leigh Sales last week he again boasted of it proudly, saying “When was the last time a government abolished a tax?“. But what does the repeal of the carbon tax really mean for Australia when you translate Abbott’s claims from Truthiness into English?

The place to start is by understanding Tony Abbott’s original philosophy on climate change. In 2009, he said that climate change was ‘crap’. In his autobiography, he indicates that he is a fan of Australian geologist Ian Plimer – a director on the boards of several of Gina Rinehart’s mining companies.  Plimer’s own book argues that ‘the climate has always changed‘ and that humans are not responsible for current global warming. Interestingly, it seems that Plimer is also a fan of Tony Abbott’s, having donated a total of $97,000 to various branches of the Liberal and National parties in 2013/2014.

Given Abbott’s philosophy on climate change, it was no surprise that he attacked the Carbon Tax ferociously, and made scrapping it a major platform in his 2013 election campaign. Then following his election, as soon as was feasible, Tony Abbott pushed legislation to repeal the Carbon Tax through the Senate – and the ‘tax was axed’.

This lead to a world first – the implementation of a climate change policy that actually resulted in a serious increase in carbon emissions. In fact, since the repeal of the Carbon Tax, Australia’s carbon emissions have been increasing at one of the highest rates since records started in 1990.  This suggests that Abbott  still doesn’t believe that cutting carbon emissions is a priority, despite the clear consensus amongst scientists that it should be.

Here’s a graph of data published by Greg Hunt’s own Department of Environment earlier this year showing total Australian carbon emissions since just before the carbon tax was introduced along with projections through to 2020. The graph shows that there was a clear drop in carbon emissions (the green bars) following the introduction of the Carbon Tax. This drop in emissions immediately reversed (the red bars)after the tax was repealed, and the stark increase in emissions is expected to continue through at least 2020.


The other thing that happened as a result of the carbon tax being repealed was that we went from a scheme which raised revenue by taking money from companies with high emissions via the carbon tax (some $6.6 billion in 2013), to one where we pay companies $2.5 billion via the Direct Action Scheme to commit to reducing their emissions. At some point in time. But not necessarily straight away. In fact, only 1.5% of companies who are currently participating in the Direct Action scheme are committing to reduce emissions in the next three to five years.

And despite waging a fear campaign to suggest that the revenue raised by the Carbon Tax would be outweighed by its ‘devastating’ impact on jobs and investment, even Tony Abbott admitted last week to Leigh Sales that this hadn’t really happened. In fact, since the ‘tax was axed’, unemployment has continued to climb and investment to drop.  Even the promised $550 a year cuts to household bills are really only $280 per household, and are arguably far outweighed by the $7.6 billion hole that was left in the budget.

Read this article for more information on the who the real winners and losers were from scrapping the carbon tax.

Also see ‘Mining Tax‘.

Truthiness: Crystal Clear (as in “I want to make it absolutely crystal clear”) 
English: This may or may not be true, but I’d like you to think it is

The use of this phrase can be an indicator that whatever it refers to is probably Truthiness rather than English. Here’s some great examples from Tony Abbott:

“I want to make that crystal clear: we absolutely stand by all the policies that we took to the election”

“We’ve got good and improving cooperation with Indonesia. I want to make that absolutely crystal clear.”

“Can I make myself crystal clear: the pensioners of Australia are better off under this Government”


Truthiness: Important thing (as in “The important thing is……..”) 
English: That topic might make me look bad, I’d rather talk about….

Tony Abbott uses the phrase “the important thing is….” a lot in interviews. Rather than indicating that a particular point is actually important – which would be the normal English interpretation of the phrase – when used in the Truthiness dialect, it seems to indicate that the question Abbott has just been asked is probably not one he wants to answer. So instead of responding to the question he has just been asked, he diverts the listeners’ focus onto a topic he does want to talk about – referred to as ‘the important thing’.

Here’s an example from an interview in June with Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW:

Neil Mitchell: Theoretically, hypothetically, would you find it acceptable to pay people smugglers?
Tony Abbott: Look Neil, I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals. The important thing is that we stop the boats…


Truthiness: Mining Tax (as in “We’ve scrapped/axed the mining tax”)
1. This move was really popular with some of our big corporate donors
2. We think those largely foreign owned mining companies need to take more profits offshore

Despite claiming there to be a debt and deficit emergency that needed urgent remedying back in 2013, one of the LNP’s first pieces of legislation to go through the new Senate last year – hot on the heels of the Carbon Tax being axed – was aimed at repealing the Mining Tax. This left the budget $3.4 billion worse off over the following four years, which doesn’t seem like the act of a government who is strapped for cash. So who are the real winners from the Mining Tax being scrapped?

Ironically, one of the biggest winners from the introduction of the Mining Tax was the Liberal Party themselves. As reported by Crikey in 2012,”the mining tax saw an extraordinary increase in donations to the Coalition that has opened up a huge funding resource for the Liberals” as shown in the following graph:


The largesse of the mining sector towards the LNP continued post 2012. If you have a quick glance at the Donor lists on the Australian Electoral Commission site, there was over 1.8 million given to the Liberal and National parties in the 2013/2014 financial year from resource and energy companies. By way of contrast, around $450,000 was donated to the Labor party from the same sector over the same period.

Clearly, if the level of their donations is anything to go by, there were a lot of Mining companies (and related suppliers like marine dredging operators) out there who were very happy to see the LNP – with their commitment to the repeal of the Mining Tax – win the 2013 federal election.

Prior to ‘axing’ this particular tax, the Abbott Government argued that the Mining Tax destroyed foreign investment and cut jobs. But this was just another piece of ‘Truthiness’ that didn’t stand up to scrutiny. In fact, if the very similar Petroleum Resources Tax introduced over 25 years ago is anything to go by, which had minimal if any impact on jobs or investment, the same would arguably have been true of the Mining Tax, had it been left in place.

The real losers from the mining tax being scrapped are the owners of the mineral (and resource) wealth – the Australian people. Our share of the profits gained from mining used to be 40% (back in 2001) – but has reduced back to 20% again following the demise of the tax.

Read more here about who the real winners and losers of the mining tax were.
Also see ‘Carbon Tax‘.


Truthiness: No cuts/No change to [insert name of program e.g. education]
English: I REALLY want you to vote for me 

Watch the following ten second video of some of Abbott’s pre-election promises:

Now play it back, and replace the phrase “no cuts/no change to [insert name of program] with “I REALLY want you to vote for me”.

It makes a lot more sense that way, doesn’t it?


Truthiness: Operational Matters ( as in “That’s an operational matter….”)
1. I don’t want to talk about that
2. Talk to the hand

Tony Abbott and his Ministers use this phrase regularly to respond to any questions on asylum seekers that they don’t wish to answer – which is pretty much any question on asylum seekers. It’s the Truthiness version of “Talk to the Hand”.

Here’s an example from an interview last week with Minister for Saying-We’ve-Stopped-the-Boats, Peter Dutton:

JOURNALIST: I can understand not providing operational details now, but surely just acknowledging ‘there’s been a boat, it’s been spotted, there are now operational approaches to deal with it and we will give those further details in due course’ – that’s not unreasonable surely?

PETER DUTTON: No and that’s exactly what we’ve said. We said we don’t comment in relation to operational matters and we’ve been very consistent about that…

Yes you have Peter Dutton. Yes you have.


Truthiness: Stopped the boats  (as in “We’ve stopped the boats”)
English:  We’ve stopped the boats from being a political problem for us, and we’ve made asylum seekers someone else’s problem

The problem with understanding the phrase “We’ve stopped the boat”, as I’ve said before, is that the phrase doesn’t specify what we’re supposed to have stopped the boats from doing.

The boats haven’t stopped coming, although they have possibly slowed – it’s a little hard to tell definitively, due to the Government’s ‘Talk to the Hand’ approach on asylum seekers. We do know the Government hasn’t stopped the people smugglers and they haven’t stopped deaths at sea. They haven’t even completely stopped arrivals. But still Tony Abbott repeats the phrase “we’ve stopped the boats”. So what does this Truthiness phrase mean in English?

The English translation of this oft-used phrase appears to be that Abbott and his Government have stopped talking about anything to do with the boats, by saying that anything relating to asylum seekers coming by boats is an ‘operational matter’ (see above). This has taken the political heat out of the problem, but left the problem of finding homes for asylum seekers like the Rohingya to our poorer neighbours.

Also see ‘Operational Matters‘.


Truthiness: Terrorists are coming for every one of you
1. Be afraid.  Be very VERY afraid…….And then vote Liberal
2. Look over here.
(Commonly used as a distraction technique when budget issues arise.)
3. Look at how we are keeping you safe from this HUGE threat that is actually half way across the world and not really much of a threat at all.

This is an extremely versatile Truthiness phrase – and has a number of potential meanings attributed to it – often used simultaneously. For example, last month the Victorian branch of the Liberal party sent out an email to its subscribers, with the image on the right enclosed, requesting donations:

“Your contribution is vital to ensure the Liberal party has the resources to keep fighting on the issues that matter to you.”

For more information on how this phrase is used, and the actual threat it poses to Aussies, see my Idiots Guide to avoiding Terrorists under the Bed.

That’s it for now. But check back regularly.  With Abbott spending up to 4.3 million dollars on creating new Truthiness phrases each year, you can be sure there’ll be new phrases needing translation coming out soon.


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