The Australian Financial Review is a mildly conservative newspaper owned by Fairfax that is normally fairly even handed in its commentary and reporting (notwithstanding recent editorial changes that have seen a former Murdoch/News Ltd warrior, Michael Stutchberry, join as Editor in Chief).
Today’s issue of the AFR understandably focuses on the Labor leadership ructions, but crosses the line with an opinion piece by Luke Malpass (an “independent” economist) who grossly misrepresents the achievements of the Labor government under Rudd. While it is fine to be on one side or another of the Rudd/Gillard challenge, Malpass simply smears Labor. Presenting his smears as some kind of non-partisan “look at Rudd’s negative policy legacy”, in reality Malpass (and Stutchberry, who presumably commissioned or green-lighted this opinion piece) is simply acting as the Murdoch/Liberal Party talking-point echo-chamber.
According to Malpass, Labor’s (and Rudd’s) failures were:
- Pink batts
- Industrial relations reforms and the creation of the Fair Work Act
- The mining tax
- The national broadband network
- The education revolution and the Gonski Review!
- Health reforms and increased Federal funding for hospitals; and
- The carbon pollution reduction scheme.
This list of “negative” legacy demonstrates that Malpass is simply pushing a nasty, conservative partisan line aimed at bolstering the Liberal Party-driven narrative about Labor. It shows that Luke Malpass is an ignorant, small minded hack who is clearly either uninformed about the things he writes about, or is purposely trying to mislead and deceive the readers of the AFR.
Malpass lies about the home insulation scheme under Rudd, citing house fires and deaths associated with the scheme as proof of its failures. The truth is that house fires and deaths due to shonky wiring and ceiling insulation actually decreased as a direct result of the pink batt program:
What we found was that under every possible scenario, the government insulation program – far from increasing the rates of fire occurring from installing insulation – actually reduced the rate of fires and likely reduced the rate in a quite substantial manner.
Malpass also lies by trying to link the Fair Work Act to the recent jobs figures data. He tries to imply (without flat out saying so) that the Fair Work Act has caused flat employment numbers in Australia (he writes: “there were no net new jobs created” in 2011). Of course, what Malpass ignores (following the Liberal Party talking points) is the fact that there is a global recession, Europe and the USA are in crisis. In fact, there were 43,000 new jobs created in 2011 and has nothing to do with the Fair Work Act. Jeff Borland, professor of economics at the University of Melbourne:
What happens to employment is primarily a reflection of what is happening to demand conditions in the Australian economy. Presently, major influences on demand are the mining boom, consumer sentiment, and demographic change.
The two faces of Australia’s mining boom are apparent in employment outcomes in 2011. The boom continued to cause growth in mining employment, with 41,400 jobs being added. But the high exchange rate for the Australian dollar that the boom has caused, by making it cheaper to buy from importers and on-line sellers, harmed the manufacturing and retail sectors, which together lost a total of 72,000 jobs.
Luke Malpass shows his nasty conservative partisan stripes in his criticism of the mining tax, trying to smear Labor with accusations of “intimidation” of mining companies — some of the largest, wealthiest international and domestic corporate bullies in the world. He also lies about the mining sector’s role in “saving” Australia from the global financial crisis. Malpass calls a policy of asking foreign mining companies, who make billions in profit from Australia’s minerals, to pay their fair share “class warfare” — demonstrating that he is little more than a conservative mouthpiece with no credibility. In fact, the mining sector did not save Australia from recession, the Keynsian, social democratic policies of Rudd and Swan did, by stimulating the economy and the consumer sector, which represents 70% of the economy. Ken Henry, the secretary of the treasury put this lie to bed:
[Ken Henry] disputed assertions that the mining industry saved the country from recession last year, saying that 15 per cent of jobs were shed from the sector in 2009.
“These statements are not supported by the facts,” he said.
“Had every industry in Australia behaved in the same way, our unemployment rate would have increased from 4.6 per cent to 19 per cent in six months.”
Luke Malpass repeats almost verbatim the line from Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull about the national broadband network. He says the NBN “has never been subjected to a cost benefit analysis”, when the truth is that most major national building programmes are never subject to such analyses. Imagine of the telegraph, railway or copper telephone networks had been put to a cost benefit analysis! It is impossible to forsee or value unknown future benefits that could arise from such infrastructure. When the telephone networks were created, no one could have valued the benefits from the Internet, video calling or fax technology. In truth, the national broadband network is an essential infrastructure upgrade that will be creating untold value in decades to come and calls for a cost benefit analysis are mischievous at best:
When people tell you that we need a CBA [cost benefit analysis] on the NBN to determine whether it should go ahead, they are either being deliberate mischief makers (like, say, Malcolm Turnbull who would understand the reality, but needs to run political lines) or they are just simply ignorant – and that includes the media commentators and some surprising arsehats from the financial sector who bloody well should know better.
Luke Malpass attempts to smear Labor’s record on education and bizarrely calls the Gonsky review (released recently) the “most extensive part” of the education revolution. Apart from mentioning the laptops in schools (digital education revolution) program, this entire criticism of Rudd’s “negative policy legacy” is entirely absent any facts or assertions of fact — demonstrating again that Luke Malpass is simply smearing Labor and Rudd with the same tired, partisan Liberal Party talking points. The truth is that Labor has invested more in education, whether primary, secondary or tertiary, than any other government in history.
The same can be said for Luke Malpass’s nasty attempt to smear Rudd and Labor over health. Offering no assertions other than vicious smears about the health reform program under Rudd and Gillard, Malpass shows that his entire opinion piece is nothing more than a reheated Liberal Party press release. The truth is that Labor has invested more in health and hospitals than any other government in Australia’s history.
Finally, Luke Malpass criticises Rudd over the carbon pollution reduction scheme. Malpass shows that he is either grossly ignorant of what was happening back in 2009/2010 or that he is just repeating the lines from the climate change-denying Murdoch press and Liberal Party extremists. Putting a price on carbon has had majority support amongst Australians from 2006 (when it was the policy of both the Liberals under Howard and Labor under Rudd) until just very recently, where it is about 50/50 (depending on the poll and the question). When Malpass says “the carbon price became electorally very unpopular” he is engaging in fantasy wish-fulfillment. In fact, the carbon pollution reduction scheme and the current clean energy future policy are popular with voters when it is explained in a factual, neutral manner.
Luke Malpass is presented by conservative Murdoch warrior Michael Stutchberry as an “independent” economist. In common parlance, independent is synonymous with non-partisan.
In fact, Luke Malpass is a former policy analyst for the extreme right-wing Centre for Independent Studies. He is not independent at all, despite previously working for an organisation with the name of CIS (it’s like the Liberal Party calling themselves “independent” — a name intended solely to deceive). If Luke Malpass purposely didn’t declare this when writing for the Australian Financial Review, he is guilty of unethical deception. If Michael Stutchberry was the person who chose to present Malpass as “independent”, then he is showing that his editorial decisions are aimed at narrow, partisan, conservative smearing of Labor built on a foundation of lies.