Politics Analysis

The ABC continues to falsely trash Labor’s economic credentials

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(Cartoon by Mark David | @mdavidcartoons)

Through its deceptive "fact-checking" the ABC has continued to spread Coalition disinformation, though help may be on the way, Alan Austin reports.

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

THE ABC/RMIT/Murdoch/Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) so-called "fact check" unit is at it again, trying to deceive its audience into believing Labor mismanages the economy.

Last Wednesday, the ABC published a fact-checking analysis titled:

'Angus Taylor says personal income tax increased by a "record" 27 per cent in the first 18 months of the Albanese Government. Is that correct?’

That claim by the Coalition’s Shadow Treasurer was extracted from a malicious January opinion piece which contains – according to our count – nine obvious lies. It was published in The Australian, a Murdoch-owned newspaper that seems to exist primarily to disseminate falsehoods in service of the mega-rich.

The ABC assessed Taylor’s claim as 'overblown'. It wasn’t. It was patently false. That arguably violates the ABC’s charter.

Fact-checking failing badly

If the ABC wanted to warn its audience of the Liberal Party’s deception, it could have selected Taylor’s oft-repeated claim that Australia has "the most entrenched inflation in the world". That is also manifestly untrue. Australia’s current inflation rate of 3.4% compares with 4.7% in Norway, 4.9% in Mexico, above 6% in Poland, Czechia, India, South Africa and Russia, and above 10% in much of Asia and Africa. It is above 100% in Argentina, Lebanon and Venezuela.

Instead, they chose the more obscure claim that Labor snatched record levels of income taxes in its first 18 months.

Their analysis showed the claim was ridiculously false, with several earlier governments having increased personal taxes by much more, namely those of Menzies, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and Howard.

So why didn’t the ABC call out Taylor’s lies? Tragically for Australia’s taxpaying workers, the ABC has joined the mainstream media’s campaign to sell the false narrative that the Coalition is better at running the economy than Labor. This incorporates the absurd furphy that taxes are higher under Labor.

The manifest reality

All available data – from the Treasury, the Bureau of Statistics, the Finance Department, the Tax Office and elsewhere – proves conclusively that the Coalition has always taxed the majority of Australians more than Labor.

Last December’s 'Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook' prepared by Treasury and Finance shows total federal taxes collected as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) from 1999 onwards.

Overall, taxes are clearly lower under Labor:

(Source: Treasury mid-year economic and fiscal outlook | budget.gov.au)

This chart shows all taxes — on incomes, on profits and superannuation yields, the goods and services tax (GST), excise duties, fringe benefits tax and others. When we examine taxes levied just on wages, the picture is more emphatic. The Coalition’s tax imposts are much heavier than Labor’s.

It is too soon to judge the Albanese Labor Government, which came into office less than two years ago. But the forward estimates show a decreasing trend, with tax cuts for all employees scheduled for July this year.

ABC fact check’s long history of failure

As long ago as 2014, Independent Australia criticised the ABC’s fact checkers for favouring the Coalition. Since then they have routinely found Coalition falsehoods to be merely "not the full story" or "spinor "oversimplified". Simultaneously, they have slammed reasonable statements from Labor as "misleadingor "splitting hairs".

Critics have long suspected the Institute of Public Affairs – which campaigns stridently against Labor and has a strong presence at RMIT – to be behind this. At least one senior RMIT academic writes for both Murdoch publications and the IPA.

Ranald Macdonald in 2020 demonstrated that an RMIT/ABC fact check described Liberal Party claims about ABC funding cuts as ‘misleading’ when they were actually blatantly dishonest.

Last June, the ABC analysed a perpetual Coalition lie, in an article titled ‘Angus Taylor says Australia's core inflation is higher than all the countries in the G7. Is that correct?’.

No, it wasn’t correct.

All the data shows it was more blatant dishonesty:

(Source: Trading Economics Inflation Rate - World | tradingeconomics.com)

But instead of castigating Taylor’s claim accurately as a ‘malicious lie’ or ‘pants on fire’, the ABC connivingly said it ‘checks out’.

Huh? How did they manage that?

By using at least two dodges. The first was to cherry-pick a small grouping of countries in which Australia is not a member — the G7. As has been noted before, it is just as deceitful to claim Australia is doing better – or worse – than G7 countries as it is to match Australia against the seven Balkan states, the eight nations of French West Africa or the seven countries ending in "stan". Australia belongs to none of these.

The other dodge was to select the obscure "core inflation" – which leaves out food and energy prices – instead of normal headline inflation or, better still, examining both.

All country comparisons must be made with alike nations. Australia must therefore be ranked within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the G20 or the UNDP highly developed nations. Australia is a member of all of those. Had the ABC done this, Taylor’s lie would not have ‘checked out’.

Do we have telepathic powers? 

The first draft of this essay closed with an impassioned plea to the incoming ABC administration to sever ties with RMIT immediately as a high priority.

Imagine the delight of reading the next morning that this decision has now been taken. From July, fact-checking will be done internally by a unit called "ABC News Verify" headed by former Seven Network investigative journalist Jo Puccini. Thus far, it appears Murdoch personnel are not involved.

Australia wishes them every success and trusts that this is a more positive move towards restoring the people's broadcaster to the people.

*This article is also available on audio here:

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

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