As many of us return home for Christmas, we often dread the awkward moment when conversation turns to politics and current affairs over the Christmas turkey. But fear not: if you want to be able to correct the misinformation Uncle Barry is regurgitating from the Catallaxy Files, this handy guide should help.

Climate change

“Tony Abbott’s Green Army will do more than anything the carbon tax would have done for climate change.”

Except the project was gutted by Turnbull in MYEFO.

“We need to stop activist groups clogging up our courts with legal actions against mining projects just attempting to delay the inevitable.”

The Abbott government, and now the Turnbull government, is attempting to limit the ability for environmental groups to challenge ministerial approval of massive mining projects in court, despite the fact that in the 15 years the legislation has been in place to allow the challenges, only two have ever been successful.

“Andrew Bolt said …” Let me stop you right there. The next line is usually “there has been no warming of the Earth’s atmosphere for 18 years”. Perhaps we should leave this one to Waleed Aly.

Wind Farms

“Wind farms are damaging to your health.”

The Abbott-Turnbull government has spent more than $2 million establishing a wind farm commissioner. At one point the federal government even tried to get the states in on the hysteria around wind farms, only to find the states pushing back, citing numerous studies that say there are no health issues associated with wind farms. Indeed, the National Health and Medical Research Council found earlier this year that there was no evidence that wind turbines directly affect health.

The government under Turnbull has relaxed its ban on wind farm investment, but it is still committed to appointing the commissioner. If your relative asks “if it’s not a health issue, why is the government appointing a wind farm commissioner?”, we have no answer for you, except maybe  ” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”.

Tax and the economy

If the issue of whether Australian companies pay too much tax comes up, just direct them to the list the Australian Taxation Office put out last week highlighting that many Australian businesses with large annual turnovers pay little to no tax, including News Corp Australia, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

“The Coalition are better economic managers.”

One of the most frequent lines of argument in favour of the conservative side of politics running things is that they are, allegedly, better at managing the economy and the government’s budget. However, this is easily contested by just looking at the first two years of the Abbott government, in which unemployment rose, as did spending and the deficit. Revenue continued to decline as Australia kept paying for those tax cuts former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello brought in during the mining boom — which, you’ll notice, is no longer very boomy. The current government is against repealing any of those tax cuts.

Religion

“Halal funds terrorism.”

One of the most absurd debates that got an airing in Parliament during 2015 was over food labelling, specifically over food products that are halal-certified but not labelled as such.

Unsurprisingly, a number of the submissions to the inquiry made the claim that money taken from halal certification went to fund terrorist organisations. In its report the committee said it had very closely examined the claims and had spoken to a number of government organisations, including AUSTRAC, the regulator charged with monitoring counterterrorism financing, and found that “a link does not exist” between halal certification and terrorism.

“The committee defers to the view of agencies which are at the forefront of Australia’s counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering endeavours, which have access to classified intelligence and considerable resources, and whose evidence indicates that there is no direct link between halal certification in Australia and terrorism funding.”

Same-sex marriage

“Why can’t the people decide through a plebiscite whether gay people can get married?”

Poll after poll shows Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage. And even leaving aside the issue of asking the entire public to vote on the fundamental rights of their fellow citizens, plebiscites don’t come cheap — especially in these fiscally frugal times.

The Australian Electoral Commission has estimated that if a plebiscite were to be held at the time of the 2016 election it would cost an extra $44 million for staff at booths, additional ballot papers, and educational material, plus the cost of running the “for” and “against” ad campaigns. If the plebiscite were to be held after the next election, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised it will be, then that cost is $158.4 million.

Groups like the Australian Christian Lobby have said they don’t want to be called names like bigots during the campaign, yet they insist that there should be debate where all sides get an airing, despite human rights organisations and legal organisations pointing out that equally funded “yes” and “no” campaigns would mean taxpayer dollars would be spent on demonising LGBTI Australians.

Even Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson, appointed by Tony Abbott, has said that a plebiscite is “not an appropriate way” to resolve issues of fundamental rights.

As Bernard Keane has pointed out, if we are suddenly to decide all major political issues by plebiscite, maybe we should have one on tax reform, pensions, renewable energy, wind farms and penalty rates.

ABC bias

“The ABC is full of left-wing, latte-sipping inner-city sandalistas who hate conservatives and sneer at Catholics.”

When your Aunt Nancy makes this suggestion, feel free to point out that a review of ABC’s flagship current affairs program, Q&A, found that the program did not favour one side of politics over another.

Of course, this report has been dismissed by the chief ABC critic in Parliament, Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz, who said it was a “lettuce-leaf review”, which “unbelievably recommended more Greens appear on the program”.

Despite protestations from the far right of the Liberal Party that the national broadcaster leans too far to the left, the ABC remains the most trusted source of news and current affairs.

East West Link

“The Victorian government wasted $1 billion on nothing because they didn’t build the East West Link.”

This one is for the Victorians. Yes, it’s true that a recent report from Victoria’s auditor-general found the Andrews government spent $1.1 billion on cancelling the contracts to build the East West Link, as they promised they would do before the 2014 election. But the same report also revealed the cost of the road would have eventually blown out to $22.8 billion — not the $6.8 billion advertised by the Napthine government — and said the Napthine government had rushed to sign the contract before the 2014 election and agreed to terms that set Victoria up for the liability if the contract were cancelled.

A report from federal Auditor-General Grant Hehir ​also found that the Abbott government had handed over funds to the Victorian government too early in order to make the budget deficit look worse for the previous Labor government, and did so against the advice of public servants.

Immigration

“Australia can’t afford to take 12,000 Syrian refugees.”

Australia is already spending more than $1 billion each year on offshore “processing”, and has done for the past six financial years. At June 30 this year, 3302 people were in immigration detention, 2239 of whom were described as illegal maritime arrivals.

The number of people seeking asylum around the world dwarfs the number of refugees that Australia does accept, and the crisis in Syria has left countries with far less financial stability saddled with hundreds of thousands of refugees without resources to help them. According to the United Nations, by June this year there were 15.1 million refugees globally. Countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan and Ethiopa are hosting 500,000 refugees or more.

“We stopped the boats.”

Actually, no, we just don’t hear about them any more. This year Peter Dutton has been very effective at continuing Scott Morrison’s tactic of keeping mum on “on-water matters”. There have been incidents of boats attempting to make their way to Australia this year. Most recently a boat with 16 asylum seekers on board came within 200 metres of Christmas Island in November, and was then found stranded off West Kupang in Indonesia a week later.

The boat turn-back policy also contributes to tense relations between Australia and Indonesia, which says it endangers lives. In August, Peter Dutton said that more than 630 asylum seekers trying to get to Australia by boat had been turned around under the Abbott government. We’ve spent $2.5 million on life boats to tow asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

Domestic Violence

“One in three victims of domestic violence are men.”

This claim sounds legit because it’s got a statistic in it, but it’s been debunked by those working in the sector. In the special edition of Q&A following Hitting Home last month on the ABC, NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Fuller said that around 25% of victims of domestic violence are male, but in the case of that 25%, more than half of the offenders are men. Professor of Social Work Cathy Humphreys also referenced British data that shows that women are overwhelmingly the ones who report repeated incidents of domestic violence.

Finally …

“How’s your love life?”
“When are you going to find a man/woman?”
“Have you put on weight?”

For these ones, sorry, you’re on your own.

If you have been forced to cite every point on this list, please consider finding a new family.

Peter Fray

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