Senators turn numbers and time into something real

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Those of you who weren’t listening to question time in the Senate Wednesday February 8 missed out a prime example of good interview technique. (You know who you are.)

Senator Wong seems pleased with Hootville's praise.

Minister for Finance Senator Penny Wong was casting doubt on the Opposition’s ability to deliver promised $70 billion in budget cuts. Rather than repeating a number that is so big as to be meaningless, she converted it into something very meaningful indeed:

“But, if those opposite want to talk about numbers, I suggest they have a look at the $70 billion that they have to find in the budget just to get to the starting line. Their backbench may not know this, but $70 billion is the equivalent of Medicare payments for four years. They are the sorts of cuts you have to find because of your lack of discipline. It is equivalent to two years of the age pension. That is the sort of cut you would have to find because of your lack of discipline.”

Accurate? We don’t know. An effective way to give bread-and-butter voters pause for thought? Yes indeed.  A rare moment of clear, effective communications by our Federal Government. Shame for them that only we were listening.

Tip: Make figures more real by converting them to something more readily related to.  Typically any number of people is described thus: 

“The number of people with the disease could fill the MCG on grand final day.”

Any large amount of liquid is immediately described in terms of how many times it could fill Sydney Harbour.  Can we update these? Please.

Want speaker training? See Speak Savvy 101.

Let Hansard reflect Hootville praise.

Fellow high profile South Australian Christopher Pyne made the nightly news as he pounced on Fair Work Australia’s (inexcusable and dodgy) glacial-paced investigation into (inexcusable and dodgy) ALP member Craig Thomson. The report into the former union honcho’s affairs started in 2009. This lead Pyne to opine: “The investigation has taken longer than Watergate, the Korean War, the building of the Sydney Olympic Stadium and the duration of the Rudd government.”

Hoorah for colourful language that places a statistic in context. In both these cases the examples will be readily picked up by supporters.

FYI: As emcee Brett once introduced Senator Penny Wong at a national conference by explaining (as her bio stipulated) that she was the first woman of Asian background to become a South Australian Senator. “Others may have applauded the breakthrough,” said Brett. “I however was furious, as I had long held on to the dream that one day, that particular accomplishment would be mine.” The Senator took the stage very slowly before thanking him for sharing. Brett as MC?


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