It attests to the sorry state of politics after Tony Abbott that blatant falsehoods are no longer remarkable. Several porkies were told in last night’s leaders’ debate, with not a murmur from moderator Chris Uhlmann, ABC’s political editor, nor from his three “distinguished colleagues from the press gallery”.

Here’s a top 10 from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

1. Increasing employment

“Right across the board every element points to more growth and more jobs.”

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show work hours generated by the Australian economy have fallen significantly since the last election. April’s job figures show the decline has accelerated over the past three months to the lowest rate of hours worked per adult since September 1993.

2. High company taxes

“Our company tax rate is now the seventh-highest in the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development].”

It is quite dishonest to compare company tax without including corporate social security contributions. Within the OECD these vary from 7% to above 40%. Australia’s 9.25% is near the bottom. All imposts included, Australia’s corporate tax take is nowhere near seventh-highest.

3. Company tax cuts will work

“For every dollar cut from company tax you gets $3 going to labour, that’s to the employees, and $4 additional valuable in GDP.”

Not according to Melbourne University’s John Freebairn, who recently debunked this furphy:

“A reduction of personal income tax rates provides a more direct and explicit increase in household income, and a quicker gain, when compared with a reduction of the corporate tax rate.”

4. Labor is the high tax party

“Our opponents have nothing to say about the economy other than increasing taxes and denying tax cuts to business.”

The May budget papers show (Table 8, page 10-17) total tax as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) through the Rudd/Gillard years ranged from 20.5% up to 22.2%. That was the lowest on record. Since then it has risen to 22.5% in the year just ending, and it is budgeted to increase further every year over the forward estimates.

5. Labor is the high-spending party

“It’s the same old Labor — just spending.”

The budget papers also show (Table 1, page 10-6) only one administration since records were kept has cut spending in dollar terms — the Gillard Labor government in 2012-13. Since the change of government, spending as a percentage of GDP has increased every year.

6. Superannuation changes are not retrospective

“Can I just say that the changes we’re proposing are not retrospective at all.”

Chief executive of CPA Australia Alex Malley rejects this:

“The retrospective nature of these (superannuation tax) changes will grate badly with a lot more people than the tiny percentage the government is indicating.”

7. Export trade deals

“Everything we are proposing is driving economic growth, just as we drove economic growth with our export trade deals.”

As Crikey showed last month, Australia is in a record trade slump, with 13 consecutive months of trade deficits below $2 billion. Australia now is in the worst trade run of any of the 34 OECD countries.

8. Australia is cutting emissions

“We need effective global action to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions … And remarkably, we are seeing that.”

Not according to industry monitors Pitt & Sherry. Australia’s emissions fell steadily after the carbon tax was introduced in July 2012 until the tax was repealed two years later. That downward trend has now reversed, with emissions rising just as steeply since mid-2014 as they were falling before.

9. People smuggling

“There has not been a successful people smuggling operation for over 660 days. We have stopped the boats.”

Depends on the definition of “successful”. The boats are still arriving.

My background is not in politics

“I did not come into this role as a political activist … I came into this role as an adult, at 50, after a lifetime of working, building businesses.”

The record shows intense political activism from Turnbull’s student days onwards, including a preselection tilt in 1981. Just plainly false.

There are others. But 10 is depressing enough, so let’s leave it there.  And the less said about the dismal performance of the press gallery the better.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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