Politicians facing re-election -- especially those behind in the polls -- utter all sorts of nonsense. But normally they avoid throwing around the word "recession". The R-word has a psychological potency that can inflict significant damage. This week, however, Scott Morrison, the mugging, smirking, empty man in the Lodge, has been throwing it around with abandon, insisting that Labor would drive the economy into recession. Not even getting humiliated by David Koch on the subject a couple of weeks ago deterred him. Now that reckless talk has turned around and bitten him after the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) confirmed that the economy slowed dramatically in the second half of 2018, and deteriorated further after Morrison became prime minister last August.

Growth slowed nearly to stall speed in the December 2018 quarter, at just 0.2%, after 0.3% in the September quarter. We'll now need heroic growth in the current and next quarters to meet even the government's lowered GDP forecast of 2.75% it made in MYEFO at the end of last year.