We know The Australian aggressively promotes a partisan agenda directed at non-conservative political parties but is it too much to expect them to at least keep their story straight between items in the same edition?
The Oz is engaged, and has been since it became clear there would be a hung parliament, in a campaign of delegitimisation of any result other than an Abbott government — preferably a majority one via a new poll. It’s also been running a complementary campaign to the Coalition’s to smear Treasury as partisan. Jennifer Hewett combined the two today in a confected attack on Treasury, Finance and PM&C, based on the Coalition’s notes from their meetings with bureaucrats and the independents, the gist of which is that “politicised” — Hewett’s word — bureaucrats misrepresented the Coalition’s costings and the independents not merely bought every word but rushed to tell the media.
The entire basis for this attack on senior public servants? “The minutes reveal the officials told the independents the mining tax would not hurt the resources boom — contrary to most market opinion — and that the opposition had broken budget rules.”
Quelle horreur. Move aside, kids overboard, there’s a new example of egregious public service politicisation in town.
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In fact, both were factual statements. The opposition indeed broke Charter of Budget Honesty costing rules, by factoring in second-round employment effects in costing its employment participation policy. The Guidelines for Costing Election Commitments address this quite clearly. Perhaps Hewett should read them. “As with existing arrangements individual costings may take account of direct behavioural responses, but will generally not incorporate second round effects. The costing will focus on first round effects and the direct budgetary consequences of policies.”
As for the mining tax not hurting the resources boom, well the people to ask about that might be BHP, Rio Tinto, Xstrata and the MCA who backed the new version of the mining tax. Or the investors who have made money from local mining shares that have substantially outperformed the ASX 200. Or the foreign investors who have watched their shares in overseas miners like Vale and Anglo-American wallow in recent months while Australian miners have forged ahead.
Indeed, Hewett might have checked with the miners interviewed in today’s AFR, who complain at length about the skill shortages from too many mining projects going ahead at once –including Don Voelte, who is actually pleased the second train to Woodside’s Pluto project has been delayed so they won’t have to compete with Chevron for labour.
Not that Hewett is a stranger to attacking bureaucrats. Her previous effort in February involved a contemptible attack on two public servants whom she alleged had stymied Stephen Conroy’s NBN plans because they were in a relationship. The Oz has since quietly taken that piece offline, presumably in response to threats of legal action.
But having suggested Treasury public servants were somehow lying when they said the mining tax wouldn’t harm the industry, The Oz also today ran an Andrew Burrell story saying the mining tax would raise far less revenue than forecast, based on a report from a mining industry consultancy that has been campaigning against the tax (and, oops, the possibility of Greens control of the Senate) for months.
So which is it, folks? Does the mining tax raise too much money, or not enough? Or is The Australian so hell bent on attacking anyone linked to a Labor government that it doesn’t care about the most basic consistency?