When a speech by Anthony Albanese, leader of the House of Representatives in Australia, lifted material from the movie The American President, we saw the funny side: Hollywood speech writing. Now it’s getting even funnier. Because Mr Albanese’s controversial speech attacked Australia’s opposition leader. And now it’s the same opposition leader, Tony Abbott, who’s accused of taking material from real American presidents. Yes, a Tony Abbott speech once again in the headlines.
Tony Abbott’s speech didn’t take material from Hollywood presidents. But it borrowed from real American presidents.
So, this week the Tony Abbott speech noted:
At the heart of Labor’s failure is the assumption that bigger government and higher taxes are the answer to every problem.
And in February 1973 President Nixon noted:
At home, we must reject the mistaken notion…that even bigger government is the answer to every problem.
More currently the Tony Abbott speech also borrowed a line or two from President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address:
The current leaders of the Labor Party have failed to understand what Abraham Lincoln knew in the marrow of his bones, that government should do for people what they can’t do for themselves and no more.
President Obama’s speech noted:
I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.
There’s a big fuss in some quarters of the Australian press about all this. But should we really be concerned?
Good speeches, good lines and good speakers can all stand imitation. Because the warp and weft of solid speech writing depends on the re-cycling of material that’s worthy.
President Obama does it. He borrowed from President Lincoln for his 2012 State of the Union speech. And the Tony Abbott speech borrowed from Presidents Lincoln, Nixon and Obama. Worthy material the first time around and still worthy now.
If I’m allowed a request, it’s that the Australian public be treated to some Australian-sourced material next time their politicians give a speech? The richness of Australian language over the years can’t be overlooked.
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