Tony Abbott’s set-piece interview on 7.30 last night was a bizarre spectacle. Fresh from an announcement on Syrian refugees that was, at least in part, in answer to strong community sentiment and was mostly well received, the PM should have been relaxed and comfortable.

Instead, he fell back on the combative mode that we know so well from his time as an attack-dog opposition leader, and rehashed old talking points in reply to Leigh Sales’ questions.

Here at Crikey we’ve noticed that at least one of Abbott’s pre-election slogans — “we’ll repay the debt” — has been dropped from the repertoire, and that another — “we’ve stopped the boats” — is being wheeled out more often and in ever stranger contexts (last night it was in response to a question from Sales about what the government is doing to fix the economy).

But there is a new slogan, too: “Bankruptcies [are] at record lows.” This one has been used a few times in the last week as a measure of the Abbott government’s economic competence.

The only problem is it’s not true. Perhaps they were a couple of months ago, but way back in July the Australian Financial Security Authority announced that bankruptcies had surged more than 9% in the June quarter, which we now know was marked by very low economic growth. The rise comes after four successive and often sizeable falls, so the PM might have been right early in the year — but not now. In any event, it’s not much to boast about — bankruptcies were at record lows under Julia Gillard, too.

It might be time for the Prime Minister’s Office to workshop some new talking points.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey