Factual lies: How the Turnbull gang negative gears the truth

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The Prime Minister repeatedly told the public before the last election that Labor’s policies on housing affordability would be like taking a “sledgehammer” to the property market. He lied and the media knew it (Image screenshot video by @bowenchris)

“Labor … have put out a policy that is so ill-considered and so dangerous that it has to be responded to.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, ABC 7.30, 21 March 2016.

A document released under freedom of information this week showed Treasury had advised the Government two years ago that the impact of the Opposition's pre-election housing affordability policies – that is, relaxing negative gearing and capital gains tax breaks – would be “relatively modest”.

Despite this, the Prime Minister repeatedly told the public Labor’s policies would be like taking a “sledgehammer” to the property market. His treasurer, Scott Morrison, also said the changes would “crash” confidence in the economy. Other ministers made similarly outlandish claims — and continue to make them to this very day. 

No-one should be surprised by this. Because the Treasury advice precisely matched what almost every credible economist has long been saying.

Was anyone shocked about the dishonesty and hyperbole of Turnbull and his ministers on this topic? About their brazen chutzpah? No. Because it is exactly what the Coalition have done so many times before. It is, for example, what they did with the so-called “carbon tax”. Remember Abbott saying pricing carbon would “wipe out Whyalla” and be a “wrecking ball” and “python squeeze” on the economy? Barnaby Joyce talking about $100 legs of lamb? What happened to the “debt and deficit disaster”? We have seen them blame the South Australian blackout on windfarms, despite a severe storm causing the powerlines to fall down. Say that coal can be cleaned.

The list is endless, but point is: it doesn’t shock anyone and causes barely a flicker in the media because everyone knows this is what conservative politicians do.

Get caught in a lie? Don’t worry, just lie some more — but make the lies even more outrageous. And, as your opponents stammer, froth at the mouth and go all red-faced at the gall of someone lying with such utter disregard for the facts, make a new statement, even more absurd than the last. You see, while the media chase this newest idiocy down the rabbit hole, the first – comparatively less ridiculous − claim will pass into the public consciousness almost unchallenged. And soon, with enough repetition from enough MPs, this lie will gain the status of “fact” and be reported by the media as such.

The process, as political editor Dr Martin Hirst explained in a recent IA podcast, is called “factualisation” (though might be better called factualiesation).

PODCAST: Dr Martin Hirst discusses factualisation with managing editor Dave Donovan

Once set, factualisation is hard to shake. If you alert public to the lie, many will either disbelieve you or be highly sceptical. Some many even become quite hostile and call you a liar. And even if you do manage to convince a member of the public, they will often just shrug their shoulders and say: “Well, both sides do it.” And they are right, both sides do lie, sometimes. The difference is that when the progressive side of politics lie, unlike the conservatives, you can guarantee they will get saturation coverage in the media — like Julia Gillard did with her so-called “carbon tax lie” (which really wasn’t), or the recent Sam Dastyari witch hunt.

Why does the media appear to have different standards for the two sides of politics? Why don’t they correct the record when the Government lies? From what I can tell, it is because it is the path of least resistance. 

It is no secret that, because the Liberal Party of Australia is the party of business, corporate commercial media interests habitually side with conservative politics — because it is in their business interests. So, a journalist who consistently embarrasses the Government by exposing its (usually) pro-big business lies and cover-ups is unlikely to be very popular with their corporate paymasters. On the other hand, a journalist that exposes the party of unions, or the party of those annoying environmentalists, is likely to be lauded by his or her bosses. Attacking the Liberals in the commercial media, in short, is a bad career move.

This is an excerpt from the latest weekly Independent Australia subscriber only editorial. Subscribers may read the rest of this article in the IA members only area.

You can subscribe to Independent Australia for as little as $5 a month HERE.

You can also follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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