Updated: Christopher Pyne clearly says the C-word? Nope

[Update Friday 16 May 2014, 1115 AEST: Having read the spectrogram analysis by “Fully (sic)”, the language blog at Crikey, I withdraw pretty much everything I’ve said in this post. I did indeed hear the word I thought I heard, but only after having read a headline that told me that’s that I was going to hear. I forget the name for that psychological phenomenon — is it “priming”? — but I know it’s a thing. Anyone listening to the audio files here would have been subject to the same phenomenon.]

Today in the Australian Parliament, Christopher Maurice Pyne MP, Member for Sturt, Minister for Education and Leader of the House, said a word which he says was “grub”. I call Christopher Pyne a liar.

The sentence said across the chamber to Opposition leader Bill Shorten (or maybe someone else) was, quite clearly [to me], “You’re such a cunt.” Listen for yourself.


I will be discussing the phonetics of “grub” versus “cunt” in the next episode of The 9pm Edict. Read the analysis at “Fully (sic)”.

I’m happy to respond to your comments on this stuff, but I’ll be busy recording my podcast sleeping and covering a conference in San Jose before finishing my podcast production, and won’t respond until that’s all finished. Be warned, however, that I’ll simply delete comments that are nothing more that party-political trolling. Keep it to the discussion of phonetics, appropriate language for parliament and suchlike. My website, my rules.

What I will say, however, is that I don’t really care what Pyne said. In the heat of the moment we’ve all said things we later regret. Sometimes, for some people, that might involve swearing. What concerns me is the character of a man who simply lies in the face of the evidence, rather than taking responsibility for his own words and actions. That’s just low.

Christopher Maurice Pyne, you truly are a grub. No, the other word.

There will doubtless be questions about the authenticity of this recording, so I’ll spell out precisely what you’re listening to here.

This audio file is the result of going to a ninemsn news story, since removed, at the URL http://video.au.msn.com/watch/video/pyne-calls-shorten-c-bomb-in-parliament/x78q4ru in the web browser Safari for OS X, and using Audio Hijack Pro to extract the audio of the video as it streamed and saving it into a 16-bit 44.1kHz AIFF audio file. I imported that file into Reaper, a digital audio workstation, trimmed the ends to fit, and saved it as an intermediate AIFF file with the same settings.

I then processed that file by normalising it (which means adjusting the volume so that the loudest sound in the file is set to the maximum audio level possible), creating another intermediate file, and then compressing it to an MP3 file with a variable bit rate of 128kbps at 21,050Hz.

[Update 16 May 2014: Edited to reflect the fact that I’ve put the podcast production back a day.]

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  1. Michael Neale’s avatar

    Youtube has a version that seems slightly higher fidelity in the audio:

  2. Nel Matheson’s avatar

    My only objection to the comment that Pyne made is that is it is inappropriate language for federal parliament, and that the speaker demonstrated partiality in the extreme. It shows our parliamentary processes to be closer to a three ring circus than a house of leaders.

  3. Paul’s avatar

    Your explanation of the way you captured the audio is tech speak and will do nothing to allay the doubts of people who don’t know this process.

    I don’t know what Pyne said. I don’t really care. I don’t like the man but I think this is all a bit trivial.

    1. Elizabeth Marr’s avatar

      You are entitled to think it’s trivial but if an ALP member had used that language not only would Bishop have blasted them but the media, especially Murdoch owned, would have put them on the front page & crucified them.That’s why it’s important. That said,I have listened twice & it definitely sounds like it but I was puzzled by the calmness & no immediate gasps or shouts from the house.

    2. Nick Andrew’s avatar

      Is there another source of audio? There are multiple microphones in the house. It must be mixed to provide a #qt feed. I’d like to hear just Pyne’s microphone.

    3. Rod’s avatar

      After listening a number of times, I could believe, were he to suggest it, that the word used was “punk”. There is no way in hell, however, that the word is “grub”. It’s not even close. And since that’s the line he’s chosen to push, his obvious lie makes me wonder if perhaps it was “cunt” after all. Sorry, Chris, you could have fooled me if you’d chosen your lie more carefully.

    4. Eldred’s avatar

      On the recent Q&A (the student protest one) Christopher Pyne was challenged about the cost of university and declared that he’d paid for his education. A Lie eh?
      Anna Burke said as she and he were of the same generation and she got hers under the Whitlam scheme…
      It just shows how lightly lies lick from his lips and the fact he never owns up.

      and it sounds like a ‘cunt’ to me.

      1. Mark’s avatar

        If Pyne’s claim to have paid for his education were subjected to an ABC ‘Fact Check’ analysis, it would probably rate something like ‘overstated’, ‘selective’ or ‘not the full story’. According to his LinkedIn profile, Pyne completed a law degree at Adelaide University between 1985 and 1989.

        As it happens, I completed my undergraduate engineering degree between 1986 and 1989, so I know for a fact that the first year of HECS was my last year of study, i.e. 1989. But there’s no need just to take my word for it.

        I think my contribution at the time was about $300 per subject – a couple of thousand dollars or so for an entire final year of electrical engineering, complete with extensive project work in extremely well-equipped laboratories.

        I have listened over and over to the phrase in question. It doesn’t sound like ‘grub’ to me. I am not 100% sure that it’s the c-bomb – it does sound like it, but I was preconditioned to expect that word. I played it to a colleague who did not know what Pyne was supposed to have said, and she does not think it sounds much like c—. But she agrees that it sounds nothing like ‘grub’.

        As Rod says (at 15 May 2014, 5:33pm) it might be ‘punk’. But if so, Pyne has no reason to lie about it. So why is he lying? Perhaps it’s a compulsion with him?

        1. Sarah’s avatar

          I believe he did further law studies in 1990, so he would have paid $450 HECS in total

          1. Nel Matheson’s avatar

            Wow! $450 for uni. That must have hurt!

          2. sylmobile’s avatar

            I’d like to see quality video of his mouthing and a lip reader’s interpretation. I’m being to think it’s not impossible that he said grub.

            1. sylmobile’s avatar

              Okay, here’s my low budget forensics: a grainy zoom into Pune and me vocalising grub and cunt. I think the cunt has it. In particular, I am convinced by how the throat balloons differently. http://www.mobypicture.com/user/sylmobile/view/16902349

              1. sylmobile’s avatar

                Now with the update here and further consideration, I revert to my original second position, which is that it isn’t cunt that Pyne uttered.

                The suggestion of what may have been said is indeed a powerful influence…

                1. sylmobile’s avatar

                  Damn it, reading the Crikey piece is now actually swaying me back to him actually saying it. I’m going to stop now. It’s embarrassing.

                2. dunph.pat@gmail.com’s avatar

                  Lip reading will support the C which is also obvious to my ears as is the form of his mouth as the word comes out. Just check the way Pynes lips move and say both looking in the mirror. With four women in the background – how crass and then to not fess up – but to lie. T**D

                3. Benjamin Dry’s avatar

                  Long time reader first time caller – 100% certain he said cunt

                4. Denyse Gibbs’s avatar

                  it’s not ok to use the word in the parliament. If I called someone that in my workplace there would be huge consequences . If he has so little self control he shouldn’t be in the job. Kids visit the parliament .

                  1. Leroy’s avatar

                    If you think children in australia have no knowledge of the word then you must live a very sheltered life.

                  2. Cate Cahill’s avatar

                    Not that there’s anything wrong with a cunt. Would it be less controversial if he said prick? My gender political is rising. Much ado over very little. Still he does present as an education minister, and should have some control over his stupid mouth.

                  3. wily’s avatar

                    You’re such a grub, Stil.

                  4. Stilgherrian’s avatar

                    Having read the spectrogram analysis by “Fully (sic)”, the language blog at Crikey, I withdraw pretty much everything I’ve said in this post. It has been amended appropriately.

                    I’m still waist-deep in podcast editing, so responses to your comments will come some time later.

                  5. Richard Creswicks’s avatar

                    I read the analysis as posted on Crikey and both looked and listened to the clip a number of times. I think Pyne used the c word because I too looked at the shape of his mouth and it is completely different for ‘c’ and ‘gr’. And even ‘p’ as in punk,.I have his mouth saying something that looks c, and sounds like cunt. The ONLY thing that creates doubt in my mind is the lack of the sort of shocked reaction his use of that word woul! presumably, have

                  6. Brian’s avatar

                    It would be better if he used tax payers money to hire prostitutes or take money to renovate his house. Go to bed son you have an art lecture early tomorrow morning.

                  7. George’s avatar

                    No shortage of them in Canberra whatsoever.

                  8. jacksonpollock’s avatar

                    Yes Christopher Pyne is a dick but who really cares that you ripped some audio, converted it to an uncompressed format and then compressed it again? Completely insignificant information.

                  9. Carlyle Wells-Peris’s avatar

                    It really goes to show how low these guys will go to. The Minister for Education and the speaker of the house are a disgrace and must be sacked immediately. How funny the Murdoch press has been silent.

                    Another new low in Australian politics.

                  10. rob’s avatar

                    Put it into a speech recognition app and see what it comes up with.

                  11. pam’s avatar

                    After listening over and over it was a “t” at the end. It was undoubtedly a “t”…..The issue is not the word which is as low as one could get but that he would use it in parliament.

                    With the great english language we have and that’s all he could come up with? Just goes to show the limitations of his intelligence.

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