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Meaningless jibber jabber infects ministry

Katherine Rich MP National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

17 December 2004

Meaningless jibber jabber infects ministry

National Party Welfare spokeswoman Katherine Rich is urging the person who'll be named to replace Steve Maharey as Social Development Minister on Monday, to campaign against the weasel words infecting the department's reports.

"The report out this week dubbed a 'new approach to cross-government action for social progress and Opportunity For All New Zealanders', is a classic example.

"The recently published Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words gives us some idea of how to translate this jibber jabber," says Mrs Rich.

'Totalitarian states use weasel words to hide truth and slew or complicate meaning. They use them, as they use clichés and other dead forms, to exercise and maintain power' - Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words.

"The book goes on to describe weasel words as 'smokescreens or vapour to repel anyone sniffing out the truth'.

"The Dictionary of Weasel Words should put aside a new section for Mr Maharey and his 'new approach to cross-government action for social progress' which, in my view simply means - Labour's ideas for welfare," says Mrs Rich.

"Below is my translation of some weasel speak in the report."

Quote: '...it provides a strategic co-ordinating framework for sustainable social development, and stands alongside the Growth and Innovation Framework, which is the Government's co-ordinating framework for sustainable economic development.' Translation: We've thought a lot about what to call the plan.

Quote: '...overarching programme of action for a sustainable future.' Translation: The plan.

Quote: '... sustained interagency action.' Translation: What we're paid to do.

Quote: '... it shows how government agencies are working together to achieve and sustain improvements in social wellbeing, and to reduce disadvantage and promote equality of opportunity for all New Zealanders.' Translation: We're trying to make things better but we won't make any promises.

Quote: '... maximise the number of jobs that provide opportunities to increase potential and enhance productivity. Minimise persistent disadvantage in the labour market and enhance the sustainability of employment and to improve the quality of people's working lives.' Translation: We'd like more jobs and people to get pay increases.

Quote: '...Opportunity For All New Zealanders is more than a document. It represents the commitment by a broad range of government agencies to work together to make a difference.' Translation: We think this is important. Quote: '... identifies challenges and social issues that are critical for the future wellbeing of our people, and states how central government will respond to these.' Translation: We did some homework.

Quote: '... providing a resource for active citizen engagement in public policy discussion.' Translation: We hope people will talk about it.

Quote: '... this government is committed to a proactive cycle breaking approach to improving social wellbeing, reducing disadvantage and promoting opportunity for all. This requires both investing in people and in the social institutions that enable people to fulfil their potential, prosper and participate in the social, economic, political and cultural life of their communities and nation.' Translation: We might spend some money if we think it's a good idea.

Quote: '... the aim of social investment is to create a 'virtuous circle'. Investing in social development results in a healthier, better educated, employable and productive population. This in turn contributes to economic development and the continued prosperity of New Zealand and its people.' Translation: When we do spend money we hope it's not wasted.

Quote: '... maintaining effective social protection systems to respond to the needs of individualism, groups and communities who have encountered difficulties.' Translation: We're trying to keep an eye on things.

According to George Orwell this kind of language 'is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind'.

"New Zealanders want action on welfare - not wind," says Mrs Rich.

ENDS

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