Wresting a straight answer from a politician to the most direct of questions can be like wringing water from a wash cloth – something will inevitably come out but the contents extracted will likely be murky, rather unpleasant to swallow and smell more than a little off.
Brazenly facing down one's inquisitor, offering highly stylised versions of events while ignoring the pretext and premise of the question is a political dark art.
Tony, what a big surprise!
Should we eat Skippy?
Census privacy concerns
And the winner is
One Commissioner not enough: Dodson
Australian arrested over terrorism-related activities
Commission needs Aboriginal involvement: Shorten
The hardship of foster care
Tony, what a big surprise!
Rocco Fazzari and Denis Carnahan present their musical analysis of the Budget. With apologies to Chicago.
Simply called: weasel words.
Trickstering and huckstering.
Complex gymnastics of the language designed to avoid fessing up to inconvenient truths.
John Howard had his "non-core promises", a convenient way to wriggle out of iron-clad promises made during the 1996 election campaign.
His successor, Kevin Rudd found himself in a tight spot after yet another failed leadership coup, huffily declaring that there were "no circumstances" in which he would ever contest the leadership again.
A brooding few months spent on the backbench later, Rudd amended the statement to "I don't believe there are any circumstances…" before doing precisely what he had said he would not.
Wayne Swan was fond of parroting he would not "rule anything in or rule anything out" when asked to provide details of just about anything pursuant to his Treasury portfolio.
According to the unofficial political bastardy handbook, to not rule anything in or out, by the way, translates as: we have learnt our lesson in making promises we can't keep and we are too frightened of saying anything that might bite us on the bum further.
Julia Gillard will likely forever regret THAT "no carbon tax" declaration, a clustermuck compounded by the weeks in which Labor – after announcing they would legislate for a carbon tax - insisted on arguing the toss between a tax and a price on carbon, which fooled precisely no one.
(Still they don't learn. Deficit levy not a tax, anyone?)
“Moving forward” and a “good government had lost its way” were similarly weaselly and wordy statements put together in the vain hope the electorate might forget a certain assertion Gillard would “play full forward for the Western Bulldogs” before she would challenge the leadership.
Tony Abbott unwittingly revealed the mindset of politicians faced with accusations of broken promises and their fondness for words of a weasel nature in a now infamous appearance on the ABC's 7.30 Report.
In May 2010, chief inquisitor Kerry O'Brien was quizzing Abbott - then opposition leader - over a promise he had made not to increase taxes - a promise he then broke in a budget reply speech by pledging to fund his paid parental leave scheme with a new tax.
Lathered in sweat and frustrated with O'Brien's relentless pursuit, Abbott uttered the now immortal gaffe:
"I know politicians are going to be judged on everything they say, but sometimes in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark," he stammered.
"Which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks."
It was a wrapped and be-ribboned gift for the Labor government, at the time lagging desperately in the polls.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has spent the week saying there has been no “breach of faith” with the public, despite spending on the government's flagship Direct Action climate policy, was revealed in the budget papers as $1.4 billion less than expected in the first four years.
Proposed expenditure sets out $75.5 million for the fund in 2014-15, $300 million in 2015-16 and $354.5 million in 2016-17.
Mr Hunt had previously said the forward estimates would give initial allocations of $300 million, $500 million and $750 million in the first three years of the fund.
He said on Wednesday the budget papers simply set out the likely cash flow to business for four years and there was "flexibility" to move funds if more money was required.
"Let me repeat this: the policy as it was set out in 2010 established $2.55 billion to be made available for contracts in the first four years. That has been delivered," Mr Hunt said.
Flexibility? As it was set out in 2010? What about as it was promised in 2013? Weaselly in the extreme.
Along with unpleasant tidings for pensioners, anyone born after 1966, motorists, and youths audacious enough to eschew the ranks of the employed for any period of time, the federal budget has, reliably, delivered myriad examples of our elected representatives engaging in ever complex rounds of tongue twisters.
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey will be busy for some time, one would suspect, putting on their bravest – and most bullish – faces.
When reminded, during many interviews in the post budget media blitz, of promises Tony Abbott made during the election, to wit, “there would be “no cuts to education, no cuts to health…” only to reveal $80 billion of such cuts, the Prime Minister reached for the Dictionary Weasel.
Interviewer: How can you justify your broken election promises with this budget?
“This is a fundamentally honest budget. We were upfront with the Australian people about the difficult choices that had to be made. We didn't cook the books. We didn't fiddle the figures.”
Interviewer: “So do you think you have been honest?
Tony Abbott: “Look, the most fundamental commitment I made was to get the budget back under control. One thing everyone understands, Kochie - you cannot pay the mortgage on the credit card and that's what the former government was doing.”
The last, and most sacred, rule of weasel words: if all else fails, blame the previous government.
The problem, with weasel words is that they, no matter how many pour forth with gusto, at speed and volume, can never camouflage the plain fact that politicians will promise just about anything in circumstances that offer a shot at power.
Inconvenient truths have a way with catching up with us all.
And that is a fact.