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ABC News economics department shows incompetence with false information

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ABC News has reported false claims about the strength of Australia's economy (Image by Dan Jensen)

The ABC’s economics reporting is becoming as bad as in Rupert Murdoch’s tawdry tabloids and Fairfax/Nine pro-Coalition pamphlets. Alan Austin reports.

LAST WEEK’S ABC News report on the latest economic growth numbers was blatantly false.

Its central message was:

‘Deloitte Access Economics said there were only five other countries [besides Australia] that could boast an economy bigger than it was prior to COVID-19.’

The main graphic showed Australia ranking third out of the top six countries.

That is pure fabrication. The ABC has failed its audience badly.

All close observers of comparative econometrics have watched with dismay as Australia’s economy has steadily slid down all global tables since 2013. Claiming Australia has suddenly positioned itself third in the world on economic growth displays either profound willful ignorance or straight misrepresentation.

ABC sucked right in

The two reporters have simply lifted the content of a Deloitte media release and published it without checking. They then reproduced Deloitte’s chart which amplified the false assertions. See below, with our addition in red.

(Image supplied)

The chart shows 28 countries plus the OECD and the European Union, apparently cherry-picked to make Australia appear deceptively successful. It left out Turkey, Estonia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and others — which had reported their March quarter results last week and were streets ahead of Australia.

That graph was like claiming Carlton is currently third among the 12 teams on the Australian Football League ladder by leaving out the current top eight, adding the Canberra Raiders and the Parramatta Eels, then changing the order a bit. (Carlton is currently in the bottom third, as is Australia’s economy on most ladders today.)

Deloitte’s dodgy data

Deloitte is well-known as a multi-national public relations firm paid handsomely by the Morrison Government and other corrupt regimes to serve their interests.

Just last week we learned that Deloitte has copped severe penalties for failing to act with “integrity and objectivity” in auditing a British software company.

Independent Australia asked Deloitte for its data source for that mendacious chart. The corporate affairs manager advised it was from this OECD page.

He added:

‘We agree, on reflection, that we should have referred to the five other economies as OECD member countries to have released 2021 Q1 data.’

He concluded with:

‘Our media release is being updated do (sic) reflect this.’

This is just more deception. The five other economies at the top of Deloitte’s chart included China and Romania, which are not OECD members. The linked table shows quarterly GDP growth, not annual. It shows 48 countries with Australia ranked 14th — not third. Their updated media release still displays that fraudulent chart. It is still headed ‘Australians ahead of the pack’ instead of ‘Australia still lagging the world’.

Incompetence or worse?

The ABC should have taken Deloitte’s falsehood-riddled PR cheat sheet and exposed its multiple errors. It didn’t. It ran them as though they were true.

Were the reporters deliberately trying to deceive, or are they just incompetent? We cannot judge that on one incident. So we will continue to follow this closely.

Compounding the ABC’s failure to check its data is its refusal to make timely corrections. Independent Australia advised the ABC of the glaring errors and the fraudulent graph early last Friday morning and received an acknowledgment from Audience and Consumer Affairs. As this is published, four days later, the falsehoods are still on full display.

Australia’s actual global ranking

So far, 63 countries have reported annual GDP growth for the 2021 March quarter.

Of these, 27 have reported a recovery in GDP above the March quarter of 2020, which was when COVID-19 first impacted growth. Australia ranks equal 19th. Not third.

Sixteen countries have reported a GDP recovery above the 2019 December quarter, an acceptable alternative pre-COVID-19 benchmark. Not six. Among those, Australia ranks tenth. Not third.

Of the 34 OECD members to have reported data from the March quarter of 2020 to March this year, Australia ranks equal eighth. If we start at the 2019 December quarter, Australia ranks seventh.

Valid comparisons can be made with all 63 countries which have reported GDP growth up to March 2021, or all highly developed nations, or all OECD members, or all G20 countries.

The chart below shows all countries to have reported GDP growth to March which are currently in positive growth. Australia is a long way from third.

(Image supplied)

Sneaky deceptions

ABC News and the Coalition’s other media spruikers use comparative data quite deviously.

Through most of the Labor period, 2008 to 2013, Australia actually did have the best-performed economy in the developed world. In 2011, at the equivalent period in the recovery from the last global recession, Australia had the world’s highest median wealth; the OECD’s greatest economic freedom; 20 years of continuous GDP growth; triple A credit ratings with all three agencies; net debt at a minuscule 6.4 per cent of GDP; and the Aussie dollar at a 30-year high.

The jobless rate was just 4.92 per cent in June 2011, among the lowest five in the OECD and a level not achieved since.

None of the mainstream media outlets reported Australia’s global ascendancy accurately. They focused almost exclusively on the “unprecedented stimulus spending” which, they asserted, caused a “debt and deficit disaster”.

Today, ABC News and the other shonky media outlets are doing the reverse. Now Australia does have appalling deficits and debt, they are largely ignoring these.

Casting around desperately for positive economic “news”, they find none. Australia has tumbled down virtually every global table and is coming dead last on some.

So they simply concoct “facts” to suit — with graphs to amplify the deception. Our tax dollars shouldn’t be paying for this.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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