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Fact-checking Australia's likely next PM

By Alan Austin - posted Monday, 29 July 2013


Tony Abbott's latest speech confirms fact-checking in federal politics remains a faraway fantasy.

At a time when good faith would seem pretty important, the man who would be Australia's leader frequently makes statements contradicted by the evidence.

This despite so-called fact-checkers at Channel Seven, the Conversation and coming soon to the ABC.

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Mr Abbott's address to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne on Monday of last week contained about twenty readily identifiable falsehoods. Some are well-worn favourites from earlier speeches. Plus fresh ones as well.

Here's a top twelve.

1. "The Howard/Costello Government … presided over what now seems like a golden age of prosperity – that's been lost."

On most indicators, Australia is much wealthier now than 2007 – despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Indicators include income per person, pensions, superannuation, productivity and personal savings – all much higher now.

Plus interest rates, inflation and tax levels – all lower. This is affirmed by international credit ratings, the value of the Aussie dollar and quality of life indices – all much better now.

2. "By contrast, the Rudd/Gillard Government has not just failed to continue this bipartisan legacy of [economic and workplace] reform; it's reversed it."

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Nonsense. Heritage Foundation's economic freedom index reflects progress in freeing capitalists from government obstruction. Its latest survey ranks Australia first among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations and third in the world. Australia's current score is higher than the Coalition ever achieved.

3. "GDP growth per head has been just one third of the Howard era."

This is a subtle porky, but a porky nonetheless. The essential dishonesty is denying the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC) which devastated economies and reversed GDP growth worldwide.

The average annual increase in Australia's gross domestic product was 3.65% during the 11 Howard years. Then down to 2.44% under Labor. So it is not down to one third, more like two thirds.

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nīmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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