Aug 2, 2011

Stutchbury, Quiggin and the fallout from the ‘recession of 2009’

Economists in glass houses ought to be careful when accusing others of bias ...

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Australian’s Economics editor Michael Stutchbury has used an award to John Quiggin by the University of Queensland to launch an extraordinary personal attack on the economist. In a piece today, Stutchbury accused Quiggin -- an "unedited blogger" -- of "Green Left Weekly polemics" and, while being careful to say Quiggin "no doubt deserves his distinguished fellowship for his theoretical work", suggested it was a "puzzle" that the Economics Society chose to award him a distinguished fellowship. Quiggin responded briefly on his blog, including noting that Stutchbury had told him he had been directed to write the piece. Joshua Gans weighed in against Stutchbury at his blog. What appears to stick in the News Ltd craw is that Quiggin has been vocal in pointing out its partisan and deceitful coverage of public policy on issues such as climate change. "The Australian supports putting a price on carbon over Tony Abbott's direct action," claimed Stutchbury. "But the journalistic default should include some scepticism over whether scientists can accurately predict the climate decades ahead." This is the too-cute-for-words figleaf employed to cover The Australian’s long war on climate science and its systematic promotion of climate denialism and rent-seeker media releases. And then there’s stimulus spending. "The budget stimulus contained some of the worst government spending programs in the nation's history," opined Stutchbury. In fact The Australian’s hysterical BER coverage has been repeatedly discredited as independent inquiries by the ANAO and the Orgill Review endorsed the program as having negligible complaints, supporting tens of thousands of jobs (albeit in the construction industry, routinely vilified by The Australian) and delivering much-needed infrastructure. But since Stutchbury raised stimulus, let’s examine his own performance on the GFC (out of good taste, we won’t cover one of the more alarming moments in his earlier editorial career). "Get over it. The Australian economy is in recession right now, even if all the statistical dots are yet to be joined up. The question now is how deep and how long," he declared in March 2009. "The answer is that the economy will contract further over 2009 and probably won’t get properly off the floor until 2010." This "recession of 2009" as he termed it was only a few months after Stutchbury had actually urged Australians to save their stimulus handouts rather than spend them. But having declared Australia was in for a long recession -- "the Rudd government’s quick efforts to pump-prime the economy with budget handouts and the Reserve Bank’s rapid interest rate cuts had no hope of resisting the full impact of the global crisis" -- just a few weeks later, in July 2009, he was demanding that the government wind back its stimulus. How did Stutchbury address that particular contradiction? Well, he claimed, it was all because exports to China had saved our bacon, and had nothing to do with stimulus – which people had spent rather put in the bank like Stutchbury wanted. Alas, Stutchbury’s claims were in the process of being disproved even as he was writing -- the GDP figures for that quarter later showed exports making a trivial contribution to economic growth. In any event, the mining industry was laying off people in the thousands over the course of 2009. But by that stage Stutchbury was all aboard the Coalition’s "wind back the stimulus" campaign on the basis that it had been too successful, rather than having no hope of resisting the full impact of the GFC. Plainly, Stutchbury, even if he was directed to prepare an attack on Quiggin (the now-standard self-defence for News Ltd journalists writing rubbish), is proud of working for an "agenda-setting newspaper". The newspaper's agenda happens to be one of rank partisanship against the party in office. In launching an attack on Quiggin's credibility, Stutchbury has brought a water pistol to a gunfight.

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8 thoughts on “Stutchbury, Quiggin and the fallout from the ‘recession of 2009’

  1. paddy

    Quote of the day Bernard. 😀 😀

    [In launching an attack on Quiggin’s credibility, Stutchbury has brought a water pistol to a gunfight.]

  2. Joceyln Tan

    Two things strike me in this. One is the persistence of people at The Australian in writng about themselves. It is most odd. The second is the nature of this “debate”, which is set amid the amazing situation in Washington.
    Stutchbury is an economist. Yet his rhetoric aligns his thinking with people who’ve now demonstrated that they don’t care at all about reality, about responsible behaviour or civic interest. They care about bludgeoning people they disagree with.
    And while Stutchbury would not accept the point, hacking a PMs phone is just a step away.

  3. jimD

    Quiggin is very smart. Stutchbury is not. End of story.

  4. Gavin Moodie

    Is the Australian’s position ‘of rank partisanship against the party in office’ or of rank partisanship against Labor?

    Should Abbott gain office will the Australian continue to support his inanities or will it start to disown him?

  5. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    TOP reminder of what it’s all about here in the ‘clever’ Aus.
    Top story, top exposé BK.
    (water pistol without any water even – can’t afford it)
    And 3 cheers for the award winning Quiggin.
    A message to the ‘Australian’ (take that either way) – school kid science that the big time boys that will rule our world, tell us what we will do, like , accept want proven, proven, proven when their kids can show them the proof (let go of old man (dad), it doesn’t want to stand up……….
    The message, the science that their kids know……..
    We are making too much (more than ever) CO2 and it can’t escape to space, its got nowhere to go, its accumulating (another scientific term that needs proving), it must change our world dad, you know after you’ve gone and scientist have some frightening ideas of what that could be……………..
    Just cut back as much as you can you dag called dad (anyway your water pistol is empty, you are going to let your boss down).
    The environmental principle is simple ? when you know you are polluting cut back at least if you can’t stop or the place will be a mess when you’ve gone.
    I don’t want to bury you with your hand still on it dad.
    Now that’s science. Disprove that you pricks.

  6. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    CORRECTION to above — Posted Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 3:44 am

    Should read….. the ‘it’ is important
    ………when their kids can show them the proof (let go of it old man (dad), it doesn’t want to stand up……….

  7. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    @JIMD — Posted Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 4:42 pm
    That’s true but it’s not the End of Story because it’s not Stutchbury’s inadequacies at issue it’s his purpose and his bosses.

  8. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    @JOCEYLN TAN — Posted Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 4:17 pm
    You’re right (correct) of course but I love the “……They care about bludgeoning people…”
    They’re merciless, beyond the pale.

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