Politics Analysis

Scott Morrison has ten key election messages — nine are not true

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

In his pitch for re-election, Scott Morrison is hammering several talking points that the facts overwhelmingly refute, as Alan Austin reports.

IN THE FINAL leaders’ debate last week, Prime Minister Morrison looked straight down the camera at Australian voters and said:

“It took the Coalition six years to clean up the fiscal mess from the previous Government. We got the budget back into balance.”

He managed an impressively straight face for two such blatant whoppers. Simultaneously, his opponent, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, rolled his eyes with a pained half-smile and countless economists and others shouted “Liar!” at their TV screens. The moderator, Channel Seven “journalist” Mark Riley, steadfastly refused to point out to viewers what he knew to be the case — that Morrison’s claims were false.

Worst fiscal deterioration in the developed world

Australia’s fiscal position through most of the Labor years was the world’s strongest. Budget deficits were among the lowest in the OECD. Australia’s debt was third lowest through most of Labor’s term. Credit Suisse recorded Australia’s median wealth per adult as the world’s highest from 2009 to 2013.

The jobless rate ranged between fourth and eighth-lowest in the OECD for most of Labor’s term. Australia gained its first AAA credit rating with Fitch in 2011. The Aussie dollar soared.

All key outcomes have slumped since 2013. The jobless ranking has tumbled to 14th. Budget deficits have deepened disastrously. The debt blow-out is greater than in any developed country except Costa Rica. See green chart, below.

(Data source: International Monetary Fund)

“Economic management is critical for the future of the country”

This is the one key message which is true.

“The Coalition manages the economy better than Labor”

All the data from the OECD, the IMF, Credit Suisse, the World Bank and elsewhere refutes this comprehensively, as IA has reported continually.

In collaboration with IA, the website FriendlyJordies: The Facts now has a documented list of more than 160 independent economists, world leaders and other authorities who have affirmed Australia’s Labor Party managed the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) better than any other government.

“Australia’s economic recovery is leading the developed world”

We now have annual growth numbers for gross domestic product (GDP) for the 2021 December quarter for all 59 very highly developed countries listed by the UN’s Development Program. Australia’s modest 4.2% growth ranks 43rd. Nowhere near the leaders.

Under Labor, Australia’s GDP growth was mostly in the world’s top ten and number one in 2009.

COVID recession versus the GFC

Morrison claimed in all debates that “Australia has gone through the most difficult period since World War Two” and “The COVID recession was 30 times worse than the global financial crisis”.

These are ridiculous assertions. The early 1980s global downturn and the early '90s oil price shock recession all lasted longer and caused much more damage. The GFC was vastly worse than all these.

Through the GFC, only one developed country averted a negative quarter of annual GDP growth — Australia. Twelve nations copped between one and five reversals. The majority suffered between six and 14, while four economies copped more than 14. See GFC chart, below.

(Data source: Trading Economics)

In contrast, the COVID-19 recession was over within a year for all OECD members except Austria. See COVID chart, below.

(Data source: Trading Economics)

Yes, the negative quarters in the COVID recession were deep. But the snap-back was rapid. France, for example, suffered a 13.5% quarterly decline in the 2020 second quarter, the worst in recorded history. But it recovered fully next quarter with a thumping 18.6% gain, wiping out the losses instantly.

Or we can look at jobs. France already has a lower jobless rate than it had in December 2019, before the pandemic. Impressive. But it still has not restored jobs lost through the GFC. This is true of 15 developed economies, mostly in Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Spain, Austria, Luxembourg and Turkey. All of these have regained the jobs lost in the COVID recession but have not yet fully recovered from the GFC.

Allowing Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to get away with the ludicrous lie that his challenge was “30 times worse” than Labor’s is one of the more craven failings of Australia’s current crop of corrupt mainstream economics reporters.

“The Coalition has always delivered lower taxes”

Senior ministers routinely assert that Labor is the party of higher taxes, an allegation that has been false since records began. To his credit, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers bluntly rebutted Josh Frydenberg in the recent Treasurers’ debate at the National Press Club.

Chalmers said:

“Well, the Treasurer has just lied to you. In every way that you measure tax in the Budget, this Government has taxed more than the last Labor Government. That’s just a fact. They have taxed more in total, they have taxed more as a share of GDP, they have taxed more per person and they have taxed more adjusted for inflation. So that’s a lie. And we need to call it out when we see it.”

Incidentally, Chalmers should not have had to do that. Media organisations, especially the Press Club, should themselves alert audiences to blatant deceptions. Every minute a candidate spends fact-checking furphies is one less minute to advance his or her policies.

“We are investing heavily in infrastructure”

No, they aren’t. Spending has declined substantially under the Coalition. The strongest infrastructure investment relative to population was by Kevin Rudd, closely followed by Julia Gillard. Following, in order but well behind, have been Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Morrison and John Howard.

“We have one of the lowest COVID death rates in the world”

That was accurate in the early months of the pandemic, but not now. Australia’s death toll for 2022 is 206 per million, ranking 142nd out of 224 countries — nowhere near the lowest. In the Asia-Pacific region, well away from the epicentre in Italy, only South Korea has had worse outcomes this year. See grey chart, below.

(Data source: Worldometers)

“Labor is weak on national security”

All the evidence is to the contrary. Under the Coalition, relations have deteriorated with China, other trading partners, the Solomon Islands and most other regional neighbours. The Coalition has slashed the aid budget. They sold the Port of Darwin to China, which is emerging as a potential adversary. They squandered more than five billion dollars on an abandoned submarine contract with other waste and procurement delays confirmed.

When we analyse the Coalition’s central narratives carefully, the opposite of their assertions is almost always the truth.

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

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