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Posts Tagged 'Steven Joyce'

Semantics Perhaps, but Important

In a dodgy piece of journalism in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times, entitled ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’, Jonathan Milne castigated Finance Minister Steven Joyce for his most recent defence of his claimed $11.7 billion ‘fiscal hole’ in Labour’s campaign promises.

Milne wrote: ‘Challenged to explain his discredited calculations, Joyce took the art of the cheap apology to a new low. “Well I’m sorry,” he said, “but… they’re accurate.”‘

‘And with that, New Zealand’s finance minister devalued the word “sorry” further than he or his predecessors have ever taken the New Zealand dollar.’

Now here’s the problem: when Joyce responds ‘Well I’m sorry… but they’re accurate,’ to the accusations about there being a fiscal hole in his calculations, he isn’t apologising for the calculations, he’s simply being polite. His apology is for disagreeing with the questioner or commentator.

We all do it:

‘Well I’m sorry, I don’t care what it cost, I really don’t like that hat.’

‘Well I’m sorry, you can argue till the cows come home, but I still think Edwards is an idiot.’

‘Well I’m sorry, if that’s art, I’m a Dutchman!’

In every case the ‘sorry’ indicates an apology for disagreeing with someone else’s position. It’s not a mea culpa.

Challenged to defend his calculations, Joyce’s ‘Well I’m sorry’ wasn’t an apology for those calculations, but a common way of prefacing disagreement with something said.

It scarcely deserved the headline: ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’.

Semantics perhaps, but important.

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How Phil Goff may come into his own in the televised election debates.

There’s general agreement that the three televised debates between John Key and Phil Goff scheduled to take place between now and the election could  play a significant role in changing voter perceptions of the two contenders.

Television viewers have seen a lot of Goff over the last three years primarily because he has, on principle, made himself available for cross-examination. He regards that as something any politician aspiring to the highest office in the land ought to do. Key, on the other hand, has been largely unavailable for media interviews, preferring, it would seem, to be seen rather than heard. It’s interesting that the video which preceded National’s phoney debate TV opening was a montage of the Prime Minister’s photo ops with famous people.

If the polls are anything to go by, not being available to answer questions is a more effective strategy than being available to answer questions. But it can hardly be described as a more responsible strategy.

The televised debates thus assume a particular importance since they represent the first occasion on which the PM will be available for media interrogation before a large audience and the first occasion, outside Parliament, when we will see him in a face to face encounter with Phil Goff. Read the rest of this entry »

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