What 'Nobody Has Lost Their Job' Actually Means

In Question Time at Parliament today, Government senate leader Senator Eric Abetz was asked if the government would apologise for imposing cuts on the ABC that will result in 400 people losing their jobs, thereby breaking an entirely unambiguous pre-election promise that no cuts will be made. His response? "Nobody has lost their job." Huh?

Sometimes Mind Your Language deals with subtleties of communication, but this is not one of those times. The phrase "nobody has lost their job" is the direct opposite of 400 people being shown the door in the near future. This is not a difficult sentence to decipher. And in this case, it is clearly an entirely untrue one. If the Senator had meant "nobody has lost their job yet", he should have said so — but that would hardly be an answer to the question posed to him.

If you want to have any chance of persuading people of the merits your policy approach — in government or anywhere else — you have to express yourself clearly. Accuracy matters. Pretending that 400 people facing redundancy is the same as "nobody losing their job" makes you look delusional at best. This is not a catchphrase anyone else should adopt the next time forced redundancies come around.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


Comments

    I was under the impression that lying to Parliament was a punishable offence. Have the LNP changed that too?

      No one lost their job. Working hours were changed from 38h a week to 19h. Those that didn't like it, left of their own accord.
      How's that for spin. I'm sure those responsible will come up with something creative along those lines...

        They've created a "Family Friendly" work week of just 19hrs to help ABC workers better balance their home and work lives.

      I think lying to and in parliment is probably a job requirement, if not an entitlement.

    I hate the current government and can't wait for them to be out. Watching how Abbot turned away from some people during Question Time was particularly disturbing- obviously I havent watched a lot but it showed a real lack of respect. I read that he didn't applaud some speaker at Whitlam's funeral. Gross guy.
    ANYWAY is it possible that they're going to try and spin it in a way that says 'hey, we just delivered the cuts, we never INTENDED for people to loose their jobs- that's on the ABC' and that's what the response was alluding to?
    Either way, for 'intelligent' human beings, they really suck at... well, they just really suck IMO.

      Why would anyone applaud anything to do with Whitlam: the great wreaker. He moved the labor movement from something worthwhile to something that had entailed profligate and pointless spending, capture by the anti-jobs brigade and sell-out to the Green-ist nightmare. I only wish Abbot had the nerve to call this madman out.

        You obviously have an Axe to grind...
        He:
        - improved the position of women and our indigenous population
        - introduced Medibank, the precursor to Medicare
        - introduced needs-based funding for schools and free university education
        - introduced the Trade Practices Act
        - ended conscription
        - began diplomatic and trade relations with the People’s Republic of China
        He was shanghaied by Sir John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser..!

        Last edited 25/11/14 11:28 am

      It's actually pretty common for the Leaders to turn away from the speaker. To discuss something with their (Shadow) Minister's; to try and alleviate their boredom through the fun of swivelling, and yes also simply to be rude.

      Unless it was someone special it just sounds like regular politician jerkiness rather than special jerkiness.

      It's called filibustering and it'd done simply to waste time, so the opposition ignoring it is common place..!

    Political output (I just can't honour this by calling it rhetoric) has really reached "Nineteen Eighty-Four" levels of doublethink.

    War is Peace! Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength!

    Mark Scott has to wear the loss of jobs in the ABC. With that tiny cut in funding, he's sheding 400 jobs? That's a political ploy on his part.
    Still, I don't know why the ABC has so many TV channels, radio stations, book shops, websites...where's the public benefit or market failure that all that is addressing?
    Still, there's no need for two hosts on the morning news, and a spare body doing weather. One's enough.

      It might help to put this in perspective.

      If the reports about mail being hand-delivered to staff desks twice daily are true instead of operating out of a mailbag/centralized floor pigeon-hole are true, then I'd suspect there were probably some efficiencies to be gained that could've gone before firings.
      (Well. Maybe some firings in the mail-room.)

      But not as much as you seem to think.

      5% across the board is still a LOT. And the lion's share of most service-oriented organizations is wages. If, hypothetically, one was to have inside knowledge of State Government doing something similar...

      If you tried to cut 5% out of a department who is spending 90% on wages, and 1% on communications, 1% on fleet, 5% on accommodation, 0.5% on stationery/printing, 1% on utilities, 1.5% on IT, you CANNOT just cancel all the phones, cars, office space, power, computers. It doesn't work.

      Wages are the lion's share of these types of organization and they'll have to take the lion's share of the hit. Even HALVING all those other expenses still only gets you in sight of what you need, and it would be VERY unlikely that they could find a way to halve all their operational costs.

      5%'s a big number and you don't make that call without being fully aware that most of it's going to come out of payroll.

      And with a unit like the ABC, you kill programming, and that allows you to make cuts to anything tied to that programming. Licencing, operations, consolidate operations into infrastructure enough to cut out some infrastructure, and of course... staffing.

      Mark Scott may have had his pick of who got cut, but given the percentage spent on payroll it was always going to be someone, not just 'something'.

      Last edited 25/11/14 4:53 pm

    Abbott, is trying to get Shorten to deny that he was planning to do the same thing, but the fact is even if Labor get in at the next election, the damage will already have been done..! This Govt needs to be cut Shorten... ;)

    Last edited 25/11/14 9:00 am

    A certain telecom that I work for was trying to "consolidate" its customer insights teams into a single group for months. At the outset, the CFO made it unequivocally clear that the exercise was aimed at improving efficiency, not cutting costs.

    Suited boffins from a consultancy firm of international repute were drafted in to grease the process. End result? The “consolidation” is finally on the verge of competition after months of extended workshops and secret meetings of the corporate brahmins. Fortunately, there were no redundancies, only "head count reductions".

    I suppose as someone who came out relatively unscathed from the exercise, I should not take issue with mere casuistry.

    My take on the Senator's weasel logic. I assume that voluntary redundancies will be offered to achieve the reduction in 400 staff at the ABC. As the ABC employees will be voluntarily accepting a redundancy, they have given up their jobs on their own accord rather than being forced into redundancy. Therefore no one will have technically 'lost' their job as they will have voluntarily gave it up.

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