Stenography and journalism

For some unknown reason, and in diametric opposition to all the available evidence, the media seems to think that because the federal government tells them that they are ‘superior economic managers’ of our economy, it is actually true. I suspect the mainstream media think this because their proprietors want to keep the public funds flowing into their coffers by way of subsidies, grants, government advertising and tax cuts. 

In a wonderful article for Michael West Media (if you haven’t subscribed, you should), based on the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database for April 2022, Alan Austin has demolished the equine ordure of the Coalition as ‘better economic managers’1. Here are a few highlights:

GDP. In 2011 Australia was 12th on the list of nations (over 250,000 population). After Labor lost office it dropped to 14th and is now at 13th1.

GDP per capita. In 2012 and 2013, at the end of Labor’s last term in office, Australia was ranked 6th, behind only the small rich nations Luxembourg, Norway, Qatar, Switzerland and Macao. Now we are ranked 11th1.

Unemployment rate. In 2012, Australia’s unemployment rate as measured by the IMF had us ranked 25thof 106 countries. Under the Coalition, this fell to 45th in 2019. Now we are ranked 31st1.

Inflation. In 2012, Australia was ranked 6th with an inflation rate of 1.69%. In 2021 we were ranked 50th1.

Government structural balance. This is a measure of the sustainability of revenue, spending and savings. The IMF measures it for 80 countries. In 2013 when the Coalition gained government, we were ranked 43rd. In 2021, Australia was ranked 74th1.

Government gross debt. Among rich OECD countries, in 2012 and 2013, Australia was ranked 4th. In 2021 we were ranked 18th among the OECD countries1.

In addition to this ‘better economic managers’ drivel, Morrison and Frydenberg have stated that the Australian economy and the ‘post-Covid recovery’ is one of the best in the world. This is also equine ordure. Australia’s growth rate in the December quarter (of 2021) was 3.4%, giving an annual growth rate of 4.2%, ranked 28th in the OECD, whereas it has often placed in the top ten in recent years2.

As I related in a previous article on an online conversation, someone complained to respected journalist Katharine Murphy that she had said the Liberal Party’s traditional strength is economic management. She, astonishingly replied with “It’s a reflection of public opinion….” I and many others were rather surprised at this, to say the least3. Is it a journalist’s job to repeat the drivel the punters are told to believe by the Murdoch media and the Liberal Party or actually to report the facts? Or is it their job to get at the facts and relate those. The facts tell us that the ‘good economic managers’ mantra is not true.

If someone as respected as Murphy can be so unconcerned about repeating such nonsense, what can be said of other lesser … um … ‘journalists’ who simply repeat Coalition talking points, use Coalition epithets. This includes people like Samantha Maiden (Murdoch) and Fran Kelly (ABC) who used the ‘retiree tax’ lie when referring to the Labor Party’s franking credit refunds policy at the 2019 federal election4.

The Liberal Party’s characterisation of the Gillard government’s very effective Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) as a carbon tax, and many in the media followed in calling it a carbon tax. At the time, the Murdoch bias was clear in that 77% of articles in Sydney’s Daily Bellylaugh, 70% of articles in Brisbane’s Courier Fail, 62% of articles in Melbourne’s Hun (Herald Sun), and 44% of articles in The Australian referred to the CPRS only as a tax. Only 29% of articles in Melbourne’s The Age and 37% of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald referred to the CPRS only as a tax5. Others in the media using the term included Greg Jennett6 and Andrew Probyn7  (I don’t watch commercial television so I have little idea what is said there). In addition, it was referred to as a carbon tax on the ABC’s Facebook page8. Even Peta Credlin (Tony Abbott’s keeper) acknowledged that the CPRS was not a carbon tax after she and the laughably incompetent Abbott had been deposed9. It makes you wonder why supposed professional journalists used such a misleading name. Is it because of laziness, or complicity?

When in opposition during the 2013 election campaign, the Liberal Party referred to the then Labor government’s ‘debt and deficit disaster’. That was when the net debt was less than $200 Billion10, or about 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the budget deficit was $23.5 billion11. Prior to the 2019 election (and prior to Covid-19 arriving), net debt was just under $400 Billion, or about 19% of GDP, while the budget was still in deficit to the tune of $5.3 billion12. As shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers stated in late August of 2018, the Coalition government had doubled Australia’s debt. It was pretty close to the truth, as a fact check by The Conversation showed that it had risen by 95%13.

Of course, there was no reference to a ‘debt and deficit disaster’ from the government nor, more disturbingly, from the mainstream media in the lead up to the 2019 election. During the 2022 election campaign, when it looked like Labor were going to win, Phillip ‘Dorothy Dixer’ Coorey of the 9 Media said that electing Labor would lead to greater debt and deficit14.

 Now, perhaps funniest of all, the Murdoch budgie cage liner, The Australian, has a story entitled “We need to hold Labor to account on the debt and deficit disaster”15. It was not meant to be satire, but could easily pass for it. To call people who write this stuff journalists, is an insult to real journalists. The media in Australia is in a parlous, partisan state and needs to be fixed. It should start with the Murdoch media being broken up and sold off.




  • Jon says:

    Of equal concern is the significant decline in Australia’s international standing on corruption.

    “The recent drop is due largely to Australia’s failure to establish a federal anti-corruption commission, a promise made prior to the last election.

    The failure to reform Australia’s foreign bribery laws and take greater action to regulate lobbying, donations, and the revolving door between big business and politics were also cited by Transparency International, as were lax financial regulations, which allowed Australia to be used as a launching pad for corruption in the region.”

    I don’t know if they take into account the dangers of mainstream media bias – they should, even though it would be difficult to score – but that would diminish Australia’s rating further.

    • admin says:

      I first wrote about our decline in Transparency International’s ranking in early 2018 (corruption in Australia) and as part of another rant in January this year (Earning respect). The decline has been significant and rather quick. How you would quantify media bias is a difficult problem, but in a recent rant, I referred to a study the UTS (I think) did looking at the number of stories on political parties and of course the Murdoch media was almost as biased as was possible.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    The problem with journalism is that there are very few in the profession nowadays who actually have a clue, about anything, but all of them think they are so bloody smart.

    • admin says:

      I think they have a very inflated opinion of themselves and I suspect this comes from their association with those in power. The narcissism seems contagious. I have no problem with people having a high opinion of their abilities as long as there is a valid reason for it. I look at some of the current crop of journalists and people like Laura Tingle, Katharine Murphy, Karen Middleton, Malcolm Farr, Michael West and numerous others are as good as any, but some are just hopeless and they make me wonder how well journalism is actually taught. Some of he lesser lights in the game seem to think if they quote one Liberal and one Labor person, then it’s job done; never mind the veracity of what they are told. I think this is why Morrison got away with so many lies for so long. To me it reeks of abject laziness or fear of being cut out of the drop by politicians they have called out for lying.

    • admin says:

      Excellent and excoriating piece. That is what the oligarchs and their system want; the status quo. That is what the Tories and the Liberal Party are all about; maintaining the inequality system. Reading that piece just made me angry.

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