Abbott’s language gaffes likened to Sarah Palin

Dear Tony Abbott

I read in the news yesterday, that you’ve made another language gaffe. While your social blunders and misuse of words are not a new thing, likening the word conservationist to yourself, has me more concerned than the language gaffes which have you compared to Sarah Palin.

It is not the first time you have tried to make a connection between conservative politics and the word conservation. Just so we are clear, conservation pertains to the preservation of natural resources, not the saving of natural resources for human consumption.

“I regard myself as a conservationist. Frankly we should rest lightly on the planet, and I’m determined to ensure we do our duty by the future here….”

- Mr Abbott on ABC Radio as reported in The Age, June 13, 2014.

Mr Abbott, if there is one word that does not describe you, it is conservationist.

Tony Abbott has more Palin moments

Language blunders appear to be your forte. You remind me of Sarah Palin who is frequently putting her foot in her mouth and is an International embarrassment for the USA.

I’m not the only one to make this connection, nor is the comparison new, for you have been likened to Ms Palin since August 2010.

You might remember then you spoke of taking away unemployment benefits away from people under ’30,  to force them into the mining sector, with no training or skills? (Why does this policy sound so familiar?)

Language gaffes this week

This week abroad was a bad week for you and faux pas. You’ve been making international news headlines all over the globe.

Gaffes a part of life for Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott sports a socceroos scarf but makes a language gaffe on the Australian Captain’s name

“Good luck, Mike,” you said to the captain of our Socceroos team in Brazil. But his name is Mile, not Mike.

In a press conference in Ottawa you called the host country where you were visiting, “Canadia”. This gaffe soon became the joke of Twittersphere.

Tony’s past language gaffes

Even before you became Prime Minister, you were providing as with excellent examples of your command  of the English language.

No one, however smart, however well educated, however experienced is the suppository of all wisdom.

– Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader, August 2013


A suppository is tablet you put up your rectum. Perhaps there was one up your’s when you made this speech. It would explain your mistaken word choice.

Conservationist or Conservative

You have tried to align the word conservationist with the political use of the word conservative before you became Prime Minister.

The terms “conservative” and “conservation” have a common root. Both involve keeping the best of what we have.

– Tony Abbott, Speech to AIG, 2012

Your explanation could not be further from the truth. Of course, I understand that you are poorly attempting to connect the words through their origin. But such a connection is vague and misinterpreted.

Here is what the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary has to say about the origins of Conserve

Origin of conserve

Middle English, from Middle French conserver, from Latin conservare, from com- + servare to keep, guard, observe; akin to Avestan haurvaiti he guards
First Known Use: 14th century

I see nothing in this explanation to indicate that it means keeping the best of what we have. That appears to be an explanation that you have manifested.

While the word conservationist also originated in the 14th century, the political usage of the word conservative did not enter our language until 1831.

If you are going to liken the two words, conservative and conservationist together, you also then must liken every word that uses the latin conservare to conservative.  Here are a couple I have hand picked for your consideration:

  • conservatory  – a room that is part of a house, often annexed
  • conservatorium  – an institution for the study of music
  • conserve – to preserve by cooking with jam

Here are similar attempts to link these words:

The terms “conservative” and “conservatory” have a common root. Both involve keeping segregation.

The terms “conservative” and “conservatorium” have a common root. Both involve keeping traditions.

The terms “conservative” and “conserve” have a common root. Both involve keeping things a little sticky.

Anyone with a good sense of the structure of language knows that linking two words together because of their roots is like confusing climate with weather. And while there is a whole lot of that going on right now particularly in the conservative sphere, you only have to watch Neil deGrasse Tyson’s explanation in Cosmos, to become a little wiser.

Gaffes and the confusion of words

And don’t just take my word for about the confusion of conserve and conservation.  Take a look at this Michigan University Publication on the confusion of words:

The rise of modern day Conservatism

If you are a student of politics you would also know that the Australian political conservative movement’s ideology is not a stickler for preserving anything. Rather, like the UK conservative movement, it was formed on the ideas of Edmund Burke, and a general willingness to ‘change in order to conserve’.

But hey, we don’t have to play with words or political history to know whether you speak the truth of your conservationist leanings.  We only need to look your present actions, they speak louder than words. Here are just a few:

  1. Abolition of the Climate Commission
  2. Defunding of the Environmental Defender’s Offices
  3. Winding back of World Heritage listing in Tasmania
  4. Expansion of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef
  5. Abolish the Water Commission in December 2014


Tell the truth Mr Abbott

Tony, you are well known for telling furbies and for stretching the ‘truth’. But now that you have been wearing the Prime Minister’s shoes for over half a year, I think it is well past the time you should have started taking ownership for the language that leaves your tongue.


Do you agree that it is important for people in powerful positions to use the right words, in the right context?

Next time you try to say you are a conservationist when speaking about the environment,  just remember you are on the world stage. Everything you do and everything you say is judged. So, stop looking like a bloody idiot and tell us how it really is, you are first and foremost a capitalist.

No amount of conserving the environment will stand in the way of your true motives and your allegiance to big industry.

“Coal will continue to fuel human progress”

– Tony Abbott in Texas June 2014

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