Politics Analysis

Anne Ruston tries to outdo Morrison and Frydenberg on greatest deceptions

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Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston has perpetuated the Liberal Party tradition of bending the truth (Screenshot via YouTube)

Falsehoods foisted on voters by the Liberal Party are multiplying rapidly, with ministers seemingly competing to concoct the biggest whoppers, as Alan Austin reports.

IN ONE INTERVIEW last week, Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, challenged the great fabricators of the Liberal Party on who is the nation’s most audacious fibber.

In her opening salvo on the ABC’s 7.30, she said:

“We inherited 5.7% unemployment and today it is at 4% and 1.7 million jobs [were] created over the term of this Government.”

That is a whopper of almost Trumpian proportions. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), File 6202, Table 1, the increase in jobs over the term of the current Government is a modest 531,200. That’s nowhere near 1.7 million. Clearly, this Minister is ambitious for promotion.

IA emailed her asking where the 1.7 million came from but received no response.

The first part of Ruston’s assertion is also deceptive, even if technically correct. It slides over several important realities which must be considered when comparing jobless rates over time.

Manipulated jobs data

First, there has been a significant shift away from full-time work since 2013. Today, many “workers” counted as employed are on one hour a month. Last August, the ABS recorded more than one million “workers” counted as “employed” who were on zero hours per month.

Second, many workers now require multiple jobs just to get by.

Third, migration has shifted into reverse, with 89,900 more residents leaving Australia last financial year than arriving. This impacts the civilian population, the workforce, the employed and the unemployed, and renders the jobless rate no longer comparable with past numbers.

And fourth, there has been a surge in the public service, with a thumping 529,500 “workers” getting government jobs since 2016. That’s an expansion of nearly 40%, or 4.2% of the 2016 workforce. This alone easily explains the drop in the headline jobless rate. See yellow chart, below.

(Graph supplied)

Looking abroad, we find the 5.7% jobless rate in 2013 was one of the best in the developed world, ranking sixth in the OECD. Today’s rate of 4.0% ranks a lowly 14th. If we correct that figure to the more realistic 6% or 8%, the ranking tumbles further.

Jobs added by prime minister

Ruston is clearly trying to sell voters the myth that the artificially low 4.0% jobless number reflects sound economic management. It doesn’t. We can tell by calculating jobs generated by each administration, which the ABS enables us to do from 1978 onwards.

The best governments for increasing jobs were, in order, Hawke, Turnbull, Howard and Keating. The two worst – by a fair margin – were Fraser and Morrison. See mauve chart, below.

(Graph supplied)

Falsifying Labor’s record

Minister Ruston claimed:

“Mr Albanese hasn't held an economic portfolio and the statistics and history show that the Labor Party don't have a great history with managing money.”

Both quite false and easily disproven. While Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in the Rudd Government, Anthony Albanese won the 2010 Aviation Minister of the Year award for his impressive restructuring of that industry. Two years later, he became International Infrastructure Minister of the Year, making him one of the most decorated ministers in Australia’s history. (Few Australians know of these accolades because the mainstream media refuses to report significant events which reflect well on Labor.)

Infrastructure was critical in generating the world’s best economy from 2009 to 2013. More than 150 independent authorities have affirmed Labor is not only good at managing money, but was best in the world.

Disastrous economic outcomes under Morrison

Minister Ruston then asserted:

“I think [ours] is a very strong platform to go to the electorate with, to say to them we have a strong track record and we have got a plan to make sure we have a strong economy.”

The opposite is true. The Morrison Government has the worst record on jobs of any government since the hapless Fraser years. It has the worst record of any OECD nation on the expansion of government debt. It took Australia into the worst recession since the 1930s, after several quarters of per capita recession before COVID-19 arrived.

As regular IA readers know, the number of all-time worst economic outcomes since Morrison became Treasurer in 2015 now exceeds 60.

Ruston continued:

“We always have lower interest rates, we always have lower unemployment rates, we always make sure that people have more of their taxes left in their pockets.”

Each of these is quite false. The highest interest rates since records begun were under the Fraser Coalition Government in 1983. During the Global Financial Crisis, only two developed countries kept interest rates in the optimum band between 2.5 and 4.9% — Mexico and Australia under Labor. Since the Coalition has regained office, interest rates have fallen to disastrous lows.

The taxation porky pie is the easiest to refute, as the budget papers show tax collections as a percentage of GDP for all years since 1969. Taxes have always been lower under Labor. See blue chart, below.

(Graph supplied)

Ruston concluded:

“The other thing I would say is there are a lot of long-term, nation-building projects that are in our budget...”

Of course there are. That is what Coalition ministers have said about every budget since 2013. But how many projects have actually been delivered? Fewer than by most governments since records have been kept.

So with all these blatant deceptions in just one brief interview, professional fabricators Morrison and Frydenberg must be nervous. It looks like Ruston is after the Liberal Party’s top job.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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