Much of it comes down to the individual – Bob Hawke in many ways embodied the larrikin ideal, and his roughness allowed him to get away with slang. John Howard, in contrast, made everyone feel slightly uncomfortable and inclined to apologise on his behalf, when he announced to the world that Saddam needed to be fair dinkum about whether he possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In the televised debate in 2010 between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, Abbott dropped the term ‘fair dinkum’ four times before Gillard started using it back in an ironic sense. Even Kevin Rudd made his return to the campaign trail claiming that ‘I actually don’t think Mr Abbott is fair dinkum.’
But Tony has now sent ‘fair dinkum’ into overdrive.
“I try to be fair dinkum with the Australian public and last night I was trying to be fair dinkum with Kerry O’Brien,”
“Who do you think is more fair dinkum? The people who stopped the boats in the past? Or the people who started them again?”
“Mr Rudd was talking about who do you trust? It’s really about who do you think is more fair dinkum? Who can you rely on to be build a better future?”
“Anything less than a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme would leave us poorer as a society, an economy and a country and the test of good government, after all, is to leave the country better off than you found it.”
Mr Abbott defended the policy – which cuts off at $75,000 for women earning $150,000 a year – as a “fair dinkum” plan that will deliver “workplace justice” for working mums.
‘If it’s right for people at the ABC to get a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme, why isn’t it right for the factory workers, shop assistants and people like that to get access to a similar scheme, and our scheme is fully funded.’
Mr Abbott has moved to reassure Indonesia that he is “fair dinkum” about respecting its sovereignty while also saying he “made it very clear that this was an issue of sovereignty for us”.
There are many more examples but you get my drift, and if that last one, said in October 2013 (oops), is anything to go by, the words have lost their meaning anyway.
Which is my point.
Fair dinkum means “true”, “the truth”, “speaking the truth”, “authentic” – at least it used to until politicians took it over.
Dr Evan Kidd, who has been researching Australian slang at La Trobe University, describes it like this:
“By using slang, politicians are trying to both align themselves with ‘Mr & Mrs Average Australian’ by showing them that they aren’t really different from anybody else despite their unusual job that (sometimes) comes with a high profile.
Australian politicians probably use it to conform to a stereotype of Australians as down to earth, no-nonsense, and a bit rough around the edges. I like to call this the “Daggy Uncle” effect, where people feel a slight tinge of embarrassment when someone is trying to sound cooler or more hip than they are generally perceived to be, like when one of your older family members uses teenage slang.”
But in this case I think it is far more sinister than trying to sound folksy. Tony Abbott is trying to convince us, and maybe himself, that he is a man of the people and for the people. “Who do you trust” he says. He would have us believe he is the real deal, a man of his word, a fair dinkum good bloke.
Well Tony, I call bullshit. You have no right to hijack our iconic phrase for your self-advertising. Fair dinkum implies an integrity that you seem to be completely lacking. Fair dinkum does not apply to political spin. It is not one of your slogans to put in front of all your crazy policies in a cynical attempt to validate them. You are demeaning the value of the phrase and everything it stood for in an Australia that is rapidly being taken over by PR image consultants and advertising gurus who are anything but fair dinkum.
I wonder if you were fair dinkum when you said you would lead a transparent and accountable government?
I wonder if you were fair dinkum when you said “One thing that I’m determined to do is build a country where no one ever feels like a stranger, to build a country where the bonds of social solidarity, the bonds of social solidarity, the bonds of community are stronger and stronger.”
Were you fair dinkum when you made the commitment to the Australian people that “There will not be deals done with independents and minor parties under any political movement that I lead”?
Fair suck of the sav Tony, get off the grass. Don’t come the raw prawn with us – Aussies can tell shit from clay yanno. ‘She’ll be right’ is wearing a bit thin mate. Seems more like ‘I’m all right Jack and the rest of you galahs can bugger off’. And if ya don’t mind, use your own bloody sayings, gawd knows ya got a million of em, and leave our fair dinkum alone!