Politics Analysis

ALAN AUSTIN: Treasurer Frydenberg's spurious pre-election claims

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has tried to justify the Coalition's economic policies (image by Julian Meehan via Wikimedia Commons)

As the next Federal Election approaches, the Coalition is expanding its supply of misleading claims on the economy, writes Alan Austin.

TREASURER JOSH FRYDENBERG'S interviews in April have reinforced the falsehoods exposed already. They have added some sneaky fresh new ones as well.

The tried and true deceptions include:

  • The economy is roaring back;
  • The economy is battling strong global headwinds;
  • The Coalition has balanced the budget;
  • Australia’s economy is outperforming all major advanced economies;
  • Company tax cuts create jobs;
  • Labor is the high spending party, the Coalition low spending; and
  • Labor is the party of high taxes, the Coalition the party of low taxes.

New furphies

The Treasurer has concocted at least 10 new falsehoods this month. None of these was queried by his interviewers.

From 15% jobless down to 5.6%

Frydenberg claimed:

'We were standing on the edge of the economic abyss last year. Treasury feared that unemployment could reach as high as 15%. Now it’s down to 5.6%.'

Independent Australia has been unable to find any Treasury statement anywhere suggesting the jobless could have hit 15%. This appears to be a Frydenberg fiction.

The current 5.6% rate is relatively weak. It ranks 72nd globally and 14th in the OECD.

Building sector jobs

Frydenberg suggested that:

'HomeBuilder has been a game changer, creating jobs, jobs and more jobs.'

This is quite false. Building jobs are being lost at a rapid rate. The ABS recorded 1,153,900 construction jobs in February, 29,700 fewer than in February 2020 and down a disastrous 43,500 on February 2018.

Jobs in the mining sector

The Treasurer apparently believed:

'That industry [mining] ... will continue to promote job creation in our country.'

Current Government policies are not creating mining jobs. The ABS reported 252,100 mine workers in February. That’s down 9,700 from the previous count, in November 2020, and well below the mining workforce above 265,000 through most of Labor’s last two years.

This is partly due to increased mechanisation. But also due to this Government's failure to expand exports to other markets.

Jobs in agriculture

Frydenberg has said:

'The Australian agricultural sector has been remarkably resilient and has been able to diversify its customer base ... we encourage that.'

Agriculture has stagnated under the current Government's policies. GDP from agriculture has collapsed since the first quarter of 2017. Only 325,400 agriculture jobs were recorded in February. That is below the 333,600 two years earlier and well below the 350-plus thousands employed during the recovery from the last global economic crisis under Labor.

Job training is important

Frydenberg has alleged that:

'Skills and workforce are priorities for the Government.'

The opposite is true. Enrolments in education in 2020 were down 28,500 from 2019. As a percentage of the population, enrolments are now the lowest since 2009.

This is due to a range of policy failures, including education costs, lack of suitable courses, insufficient teachers and families in poverty needing to send adolescents to work or on the dole.

Support for apprentices

The Treasurer claimed:

'We are very focused on ensuring that they have that degree of certainty and stability and that program [wage subsidy for apprentices] has been very successful.'

The latest ABS tally of apprentices is a miserable 192,400. That is 23,800 fewer than in 2019 and well below Labor’s levels from 2009 to 2013. These averaged 213,200 a decade ago.

Vaccination failures not our fault

Further, Frydenberg sought to defend the Government, saying:

“We have a challenge with [vaccine] supply and that is a function of factors beyond our control ...”

As IA colleague John Wren has shown, the vaccine rollout has:

‘... by any measure has been an abject failure by the Federal Government.’

Boosting productivity

On Sky, the Treasurer put forward:

'Investment right across the board gives you a double benefit. It boosts productivity ... These incentives are working.'

Productivity over the last four years rose just 2.4 index points, well below average. This contrasts dismally with the satisfactory 4.1 point increase through Labor’s last four years.

Tax cuts help struggling businesses

Frydenberg boasted of the Government's programs, including:

“We have business investment incentives like the tax cuts that are rolling out ...'

Tax cuts are useless for businesses failing to break even. They only benefit corporations already making profits and serve to accelerate the current rampant regime of wealth being shunted offshore. They ultimately weaken Australia’s economy.

Taxation punishes corporations

Unsurprisingly, the Treasurer is of the belief that:

'What we want to see is investment over the period of the cycle, not a punishment for companies when they are doing better than previous times.'

Taxation is the primary mechanism for retaining wealth in Australia to benefit Australians. It is not a punishment imposed on those fortunate enough to be profiting from exporting Australia’s vast resources.

By allowing extensive tax avoidance, the Coalition is failing to safeguard Australia’s heritage. This is the principal reason the economy has collapsed from clearly the world’s best a decade ago to outside the top thirty today.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read an update here and contribute to the crowd-funding campaign HEREAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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