Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been taught to speak more slowly since taking power, a leading researcher says. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott's speech delivery resembles that of a puppet and is similar to the wooden style ridiculed in former prime minister Julia Gillard, a voice expert says.
As the nation's leader Mr Abbott speaks 100 words a minute slower in media interviews than he did in opposition, and is also using a more monotone voice, according to Cate Madill, director of the Voice Research Laboratory at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences.
She reviewed interviews and press conferences from Mr Abbott's time as opposition leader leading up to the election, his victory speech and his interaction with the media and parliament since his elevation to the country's top job.
Dr Madill said changes in the PM's delivery were ''absolutely significant'' and the result of coaching, and that his speech was much faster before he won the nation's top position.
''Since he's become Prime Minister his speech rate has dropped considerably,'' Dr Madill said.
''He repeats himself far more often. He never used to repeat what he said, but now he will repeat phrases two or three times in close proximity, and he's far more fluent, he doesn't have what we call disfluencies and fillers, that is the um, ahs and long pauses.
''In that sense his speech is far less interrupted but he's also slower, much more monotone than he was, and with much less pitch variation than he used before.''
Dr Madill said an analysis of Mr Abbott's election acceptance speech showed he spoke at about 140 words a minute with no disfluencies, while another formal pre-prime ministerial speech was 161 words a minute with six disfluencies.
His speech in media interviews has dropped from 216 words a minute to 108 words a minute.
''That's a huge difference,'' Dr Madill said.
''Now in response to an interview question he's speaking at half the rate.
''I look at his rate of speech now and I think, 'He's got a lot of time to think about what he'll say next', and repetition is a very good strategy to buy yourself time. If you can't think what you're going to say next, just repeat what you said before.''
But Dr Madill warned that the Prime Minister's transformation had gone too far.
''There is always a balance between authority and spontaneity, but the hard part is you risk losing the sense of who you are, and that was what Julia Gillard suffered from. I think he's now on a par with her wooden presentation style, and Julia Gillard didn't have nearly as many repetitions. He has to find a balance, because I think he's starting to drift towards a presentation that is so controlled and so managed he risks his listeners switching off. He's becoming a puppet.''