(Wherein our intrepid hero proposes a little revisionism)
Brendan Nelson is a man betrayed. Not by his turncoat party-members, nor his inconvenient principles and unpopular beliefs, nor intractable politics or uncomfortable truths. No, Brendan Nelson is a man betrayed by his speech-writers. Those of you that watched, listened to, or read his sorry speech are sure to agree, it could use some work. The meandering monologue was filled with qualifications, misdirection, justifications and double talk – the true meaning behind the words carefully hidden. It is in some ways a miracle that anyone could divine the true meaning of his words – but fortunately the more enlightened minds of our nation were, at least, able to get the gist of it. The problem is that whilst all the polito-speak is perfectly acceptable for typical use in parliament, this was not a typical situation. It was one of those nationally defining moments that calls for one of those great lines: “Ask not what your country can do for you…“, “The only thing we have to fear…“, “I have a dream…“. I get the feeling, somehow, that Kennedy wouldn’t have had quite the same impact with “In these materialistic, self-centred times, it is important that we recognise the necessity of contributing the vital welfare of our nation, even at the expense of ourselves.”
The key, you see, is to do it succinctly. It is a cliché of “good writing” in fact, that good writing is short writing – and this was the real failure of Nelson’s speech writers. The speech was too long, and the real sentiment, whilst still pretty obvious, was nevertheless far too obscured by the gluttony of lazy speech writers. Nelson could have achieved a much better result with a far shorter speech; one more in line with his character and that of his party, one that truly gave us a glimpse of the workings of that magnificent mind – one guaranteed to be remembered and repeated as it echoed down the long hall of history. He needed, in fact, only say one line:
“I’m sorry… but it’s not our fault you’re a bunch of darkies.“
My services are available on either a freelance or contract basis, just as soon as Kevin Rudd repeals Work Choices.