Media Analysis

Liberal scare campaigns: Super lies promoted by media

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Peter Dutton has been spreading memes from the Murdoch press lashing out against Treasurer Jim Chalmers (Image by Dan Jensen)

The mainstream media is failing in its duty to hold the Coalition to account as it continues falsified scare campaigns against Labor, writes Dr Victoria Fielding.

AS I LISTENED to Labor Treasurer Jim Chalmers talk about the unsustainable nature of superannuation tax breaks, which cost an eye-watering $50 billion per year and by 2050 will exceed the cost of the aged pension, my mind went immediately to the inevitability of the Liberals’ scare campaign.

These scare campaigns would fall flat and would not scare if they were based on truth. But, of course, we have all seen this show before. We have seen the Liberals’ predicable, reactionary, false narrative in response to responsible Labor Government reforms. The mining tax. The Carbon Price. Franking credits. Negative gearing. All of these policies were torn down by Liberals using lies to scare the public into opposing policies that were ultimately good for the collective.

The Liberals are a one-trick pony. They exist to oppose Labor and they know how to use fear to do it. We also know why falsified Liberal scare campaigns work. It’s because the media doesn’t call them out on it.

Let’s get some facts straight right off the bat. Jim Chalmers has made it crystal clear that he is only interested in tightening up superannuation concessions for the tiny less than one per cent of Australians who have more than $3 million in their superannuation accounts.

That means when Opposition Leader Peter Dutton posts the following Herald Sun propaganda meme saying ‘Jim wants your super’, he is lying. I don’t know how to put it any other way than that. He is lying.

(Source: Twitter)

Jim doesn’t want “your” super — no one is taking away anybody’s super. And the only people likely to be impacted by Chalmers’ policy, which is still being discussed and is far from confirmed, are the ultra-wealthy.

The collective “your” is a big, fat, blatant lie. Dutton knows that. The media knows that. So, why won’t anyone call it out?

There are broadly two types of mainstream media in Australia, with both types having their own motives for not calling out Peter Dutton’s lies about Chalmers’ superannuation policy ideas.

The most powerful type is those who are in the Liberals’ corner. Murdoch, and very often Nine outlets, promote Dutton’s lies because they, too, oppose Labor governments. They work in concert with Dutton by amplifying his scare campaign lies, and vice versa.

(Screenshots supplied)

It’s usually impossible to know whether the Liberal Party or their friends in conservative media outlets started a scare campaign because they are so in sync, they meld into one. They are a snake eating itself. Conversative media are not calling out Dutton’s lies — they are lying with Dutton.

The other type, in some ways, is more concerning. This type – which includes the ABC and other outlets which are committed to journalism instead of propaganda – doesn’t endorse Dutton’s anti-Labor scare campaign in the same way as Murdoch outlets. But, they also don’t do their most important job — holding Dutton to account for lying about Labor’s policy discussion.

I’ve written before about how I’m concerned that outlets like the ABC are so paranoid about being accused of being Left-wing, that they bias their reporting Rightwards. I’ve also written about how easily Dutton is able to play the media. They put his stunts and falsities in headlines, rather than doing their jobs and scrutinising the truth of what he says.

A perfect example of the media’s lack of accountability for Dutton’s lies is his war against the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Dutton’s false request for more detail has lit a media narrative fire, perpetuating the false idea that voters don’t know enough about the very simple constitutional change. Once a false idea like this is set on fire in public discourse, it is almost impossible to smother.

Rather than perpetuating this false scare-campaign narrative, journalists should do their job and tell their audiences that the Voice proposal has been intricately outlined in a 275-page report and that constitutional change is required before any policy development can proceed. Facts.

The same goes for the superannuation changes. It is not good enough for journalists to include somewhere in their news articles the caveat that the superannuation changes being discussed are only going to impact on a minuscule number of high-wealth individuals. It is the headlines that matter.

 The headlines should say loud and clear that Dutton is lying when he says “Labor is coming for your super”. Ideally, they would also point out that many in the media are also perpetuating lies. This is what holding power to account looks like.

How many times do we have to watch this horror show unfold before quality journalists step up and say “not this time”?

Dr Victoria Fielding is an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Victoria on Twitter @DrVicFielding.

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