Monday’s bizarre Fairfax-Ipsos poll suggests most voters think the Coalition runs the economy better than Labor. It claims Scott Morrison’s approval as Treasurer is 42%, against his disapproval of just 38%. That, according to Fairfax, is “a vast improvement over Joe Hockey’s position … when his disapproval exceeded his approval by 25 percentage points”.
There are two responses to this. The first is to recall all the evidence that Australian opinion polls are rigged. Clive Palmer memorably admitted paying pollsters for the results the Liberal Party wanted when he was a state director.
The second is that if there is indeed any deluded soul who still believes the Coalition is competent in economic management following the dismal Howard/Costello period and now the disastrous Abbott/Turnbull years, then that is due entirely to the mendacity of the mainstream media.
The reality is that the economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further — except for the very rich — since Scott Morrison replaced him.
So here is a Crikey challenge for enthusiasts of Australian politics, economics and media: how many of these 40 verifiable facts you can find reported in any mainstream news outlet?
Record-low wage rises
Annual wage growth is now 1.9%, the lowest rate ever recorded.
As a proportion of Australia’s total income — gross domestic product (GDP) — wages are now the lowest since records began in 1959.
Household disposable income
This fell again in the latest data, after a substantial fall the quarter before. Disposable income is now just $29,640 per household, well below the 2013 level of $31,650.
The decline over the last six months for the nation was a staggering $20.4 billion, the steepest percentage drop since the 2002 recession.
Australia had the highest median wealth in the world during the Labor years, recorded at US$219,500 per adult in 2013. It has declined each year since and is now US$162,815, ranking third globally.
Through the Labor years Australia’s economic growth was in the top three in the developed world. For some quarters in 2009 and 2010 it was the highest.
Only three countries of the 35 members of the OECD — the rich nations’ club — averted deep recession during the GFC: Australia, Poland and Israel.
Of these, only Australia also avoided widespread unemployment and recession-related deaths.
Australia’s annual growth, after four years of the Coalition, is now 1.8%, ranking 25th out of those 35 countries.
August figures showed the jobless has been above 710,000 for nine months now.
The last time that happened before the Coalition was elected in 2013 was in 1997.
Monthly hours worked per adult per month
In July, this tumbled to 85.04, bringing to 15 the months below 85.10 during the 22 months since Malcolm Turnbull installed the current ministry. The lowest this reached through the Labor period was 85.70.
Of the 46 months since the 2013 election, this has been below 85.70 for 41.
Percentage of workers with full-time jobs
Now down to 68.4%, compared with 69.8% at the 2013 election. The lowest this reached during the Howard, Rudd and Gillard years was 69.70% — even through the global financial crisis (GFC).
Number of months below 69.00% under Morrison is 21 out of 22.
Workers with at least one part-time job but needing more hours to survive now number 1,129,100.
In September 2013 this was 950,500. So it’s up 19% — against a 5.9% population gain.
Unemployed for more than a year
Now 166,200. That’s up 22.4% since 2013, compared with the 5.9% population rise.
For 41 months straight this has been above 155,000. This never exceeded 136,000 during Labor’s entire regime.
Average weeks the jobless spend looking for a job
Four years ago this was 38.6. Now five weeks longer at 43.9.
Labour productivity advanced from March 2011 onwards with 17 consecutive quarterly rises, but came to a shuddering halt in June 2015 after Joe Hockey’s second failed budget. It is now just 102.2 points — below 2014 levels.
Budget deficits and surpluses
After 11 deficits in 12 years, Australia’s economy was returned to structural and headline surplus in 1987 by the Hawke Labor government. It remained in structural surplus for the next 18 years, and achieved headline surplus 13 times.
The Howard government pushed the economy back into structural deficit in 2006.
The highest budget surplus ever delivered in Australia was $19.75 billion in June 2008, after Wayne Swan had been Labor treasurer for seven months. (Former treasurer Peter Costello had budgeted for a surplus of only $10.6 billion.)
Only once in history has there been a run of four deficits deeper than $37 billion. That was under the Coalition during the 2014 to 2017 global trade and profits boom.
Gross borrowings added by the Rudd/Gillard governments were $211.3 billion in 69 months. That is $3.06 billion per month, during the worst global economic crisis in 80 years.
In its last financial year, 2012-2013, Labor added $1.95 billion per month.
Gross borrowings added by the Abbott/Turnbull governments were $231.9 billion in 48 months. That is $4.83 billion per month, during the strongest global recovery since the 1950s.
In its latest financial year, 2016-2017, the Coalition added $6.71 billion per month.
After committing to cut net debt by $30 billion, the Coalition has doubled it from $161.3 billion to $325.1 billion.
Interest on the debt
Interest paid in Labor’s last financial year, 2012-13, was $8,285 million, or $22.7 million each day.
Interest paid in the Coalition’s last financial year, 2016-17 was $12,248 million, or $33.7 million daily.
Interest to be paid on the debt, according to Treasury, if Coalition policies continue, will be $15,506 million in three years’ time, or $42.5 million daily
For July these were just 18,299. That is below July last year and July 2015. It is below the average monthly approvals for the last three financial years — 19,155.
Building and construction investment has declined for three financial years in a row. First time ever.
Total construction for the financial year to June was $192.3 billion. This is the first year below $200 billion since 2010-11, at the depths of the GFC.
Tax revenue during Labor’s last four years averaged 20.6% of GDP.
Taxes over the four Coalition years were well up, averaging 21.7% of GDP.
Taxes for the next four years, 2017-18 to 2020-21, are projected by Treasury to average 23.0% of GDP — if Coalition policies continue.