Which was the colour of choice for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Senator Payne when she spoke on the ABC’s Insiders program on 20 June 2021.
Now, the job of being the nation’s leading diplomat is not easy. Words matter and what foreign ministers say is necessarily circumscribed and nuanced.
But sometimes, politicians swim in a soup of verbal nothingness. When asked for comment they have nothing meaningful, insightful or significant to say.
And so it was, with the foreign minister, who, on the subject of climate change, gave us thin gruel and mush, ‘… the Prime Minister has been very consistent in saying that we absolutely want to aim to achieve net zero emissions, preferably by 2050, and that remains our position.’
Grammar fans will notice a particular grammatical structure here: the chained or concatenated verb phrase – 3 verbs chained together – ‘want to aim to achieve’.
Is the minister saying the government will achieve net zero emissions?
Is the minister saying that the government is aiming to achieve net zero emissions?
Again, absolutely not.
Rather, the end point is that, in our efforts to control emissions, we apparently have wants. We want to aim to achieve. At this stage we don’t even want to achieve anything.
And because the minister cannot say anything about outcomes, she fell back on the dismal grey target of process. When it comes to climate change the best we can do apparently is to want to aim.