Flat Earth: One man's argot . . .

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The Independent Online
WE TOLD YOU earlier this month how impressed President Suharto of Indonesia was with Paul Keating's fine parliamentary phrases - scumbag, sleazeball, gutless spiv . . . that sort of thing - and had ordered a series of video highlights of the Australian prime minister's despatch box performances to enlighten Indonesia's rather tame legislators.

We regret to report that Mr Keating's colourful argot is not appreciated one bit by Malaysia, Indonesia's smaller neighbour. Last week, an unfortunate bit of Keating lip set off a trade war between Canberra and Kuala Lumpur. He called Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, a 'recalcitrant' for boycotting the Apec summit in Seattle. Recalcitrant is not a word we would expect to find in Mr Keating's lexicon of abuse, but then Malaysia under Dr Mahathir has always been a sensitive place.