Luke Malpass in the AFR grossly misrepresents Labor’s record under Rudd

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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.

8 responses to “Luke Malpass in the AFR grossly misrepresents Labor’s record under Rudd”

  1. Clive Rivers Avatar
    Clive Rivers

    I have read your comments re Luke Malpass and couldn’t agree more. This man is an idiot, he advocated that the NZ Govt close down all the railway system and put the traffic onto the roads amongst other things. he is totally negative and is a pain with all his outrageous statements both in Australia and here in New Zealand. Congratulations to being amongst the many who think he is Bonkers..
    Clive Rivers.

  2. Greg Avatar

    Like Clive, I have read your comments re Luke Malpass, and I disagree with you. Luke Malpass is right. You are wrong. If you think you have evidence that proves roof fires or deaths went down because of the govt’s roof batt program, you are bonkers – there is of course no such evidence. The number of roof fires and even more-so, deaths, is so small that any recorded movements since the batt program don’t prove anything. Likewise, employment numbers by themselves don’t prove anything about the Fair Work Act – a grasp of good economics is all you need to know that the Labor party’s and the unions views on IR will cause unemployment. Govt spending money cannot save us from a recession – Keynes was wrong (I don’t care how many Keynesian economists you can find to say the opposite, Keynes was obviously wrong). The Labor govt spending money on wasteful things like pink batts, school halls and the NBN did not (and could never) avert a recession. Finally, the idea that there is some sort of anthropogenic climate change problem is ludicrous. You might like the tax because of it’s redistributive aspects (ie because you are a socialist) but the climate change reasons that are trotted out are simply ridiculous.


    1. Alex Avatar

      Hi Greg, thanks for your comment.

      Sounds to me like you have neo-liberal/conservative economic and political views and thus are unwilling to accept any view other than your own. Your comment on climate change certainly demonstrates this, and suggests that you’re probably on the fringes of political/economic debate.

      There’s no doubt that Luke Malpass is either deliberately lying to, or incompetently misleading, his readers.

      As for my assertions (on the pink batt program or job creation), I’ve linked to credible sources and I encourage you to click on those links in the main article.

      1. Greg Avatar

        Thanks Alex. Your observation that I have a liberal economic and political view is correct (but certainly not conservative). However, how does my comment about climate change demonstrate that? Surely this climate change stupidity is rightfully about science and logic. You are really highlighting the point that the socialist types that are on board with it are probably so because as good socialists it suits them (without need to consider the logic of the idea). To be a socialist pretty much by definition ensures one does not have the rational thinking ability to realise this climate change stuff is rubbish. Also, it is not that I am unwilling to accept any view other than my own – a better way to put it is taht I am unwilling to accept a view that is ridiculous and obviously wrong.


      2. Alex Avatar

        Hi Greg, thanks for replying.

        I assume that you checked the links re: pink batts, Fair Work Act, etc and found that Luke Malpass was lying about their negative effects.

        On climate change, I’m breaking my rule about wasting time trying to convince a climate denier that global warming is real, but for the benefit of other readers, here’s just two links:


        CSIRO – I’m sure you’ll accuse Australia’s most respected scientists of being politically motivated, but for everyone else, their reports conclusively show that the current evidence says we are experiencing significant global warming (and other climatic changes):

        The Vatican appointed Pontifical Academy of Sciences has released a report on global climate change demanding in the strongest possible language that humans act decisively to avert a coming crisis. “We call on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially reversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants,” says the report. (Direct link to the report, PDF.)

        I’m sure no one would accuse the Vatican (especially this Vatican) of being left-wing or socialistic.

        These are just two reputable, independent sources who say that the evidence points towards global warming caused by anthropogenic carbon pollution. As someone with a Masters Degree in Public Policy and Management, focusing on climate policy, I’m convinced that the evidence is overwhelming and certainly sufficient enough to want to act now.

        I will await to see if you read these two sources, and whether your “rational” liberal economic mind is open to information and data that doesn’t accord with your preconceived views. I hope you will see that the evidence shows that climate change is here, real and a significant threat to our society.

    2. Steve Avatar

      I am amazed how qualified you are to speak with such authority on so many subjects. You must be a professor in Economics and hane a degree in Climatology. Wow you are a clever boy. Now off to read your books on JFK being shot from the grassy knoll and why man didn’t go to the moon in 1969.

      1. Alex Avatar

        Hi Steve,

        Thanks for the comment. Without wanting to blow my own horn, I do have a Masters of Public Policy and Management, focusing on climate policy and economics. So I’m at least as qualified as Luke Malpass, who appears to not have any understanding of economics or climate science.


      2. steven littlewood Avatar
        steven littlewood

        I’m confused by the comments “Steve” makes.

        Surely the conspiracy theorist nut jobs in this issue are the people who believe the UN/CSIRO/universities/Western governments are all colluding on a massive scale to impose a global tax and One World Order (e.g. Angry Anderson’s ranting at the anti-carbon tax rally)? Those who are “believers” (I also “believe in gravity and electricity) are the ones simply following reason and rationality.

        Re: Luke Malpass you are correct. Sadly there has been a lot more of this kind of rubbish in the Fin since Stutchbury took over.

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