Still from the Liberal Party ad (Image: YouTube)

The Liberal Party is running a snappy advertising campaign on TV and social media called “Look at the facts”. Overprinted at the top is the claim “Australia’s recovery is leading the world”.

The 30-second video makes nine assertions. According to my count, one is correct, two are substantially deceptive and six are blatant lies. Here’s my examination of each claim.

‘Australia’s recovery is leading the world’

The first graph depicts “GDP compared to pre-COVID”, indicating this refers to economic growth. But claiming Australia is still a leader on this metric is quite false.

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For country comparisons, economists use annual GDP growth, which is recorded for all advanced economies four times a year. We have the numbers for the 2021 December quarter for the 59 very highly developed countries listed by the UN’s Development Program (UNDP). These include all OECD members and most International Monetary Fund advanced economies. Australia’s modest 4.2% annual GDP growth ranks 43rd out of those 59 economies. Nowhere near leading the world.

The UK, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Greece are all above 6%. Ireland, Israel, Malta, Chile, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and others are above 9%.

The fine print in the Liberal chart says “Dec 2019 to Dec 2021”. Hmmm. So it picked an odd two-year time interval for which there is no readily available global database. Why? Could it be that its December 2019 starting point was a particularly disastrous low, with Australia then in a per capita recession — before COVID?

Even if we take that weird two-year interval, Australia still lags badly. Yes, Australia’s GDP rose 3.39% from December 2019 to December 2021, so that figure is accurate. But the others appear fabricated.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis clearly shows the US rise was 10.6%, not 3.2%. Similarly, data for France shows GDP increased 4.27% over the two years, not 0.9%. UK data shows a 5.91% lift since 2019, not a decline.

Damningly, the chart leaves out all advanced economies with higher growth than Australia’s. These include Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Taiwan, Chile and Turkey.

Of course, we can see why it would go with the falsehood “Australia’s economy is leading the world”. The truth — Australia ranks 43th out of 59 advanced economies — doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

But why would it falsify the data when it knows the economics writers at The Australian Financial Review and The Australian will eviscerate it for the blatant deceptions? Oh, wait…

‘Through the pandemic we’ve had fewer deaths … than almost any advanced country’

That was once true, but not since the bungled vaccine rollout and the disastrous mismanagement of federal nursing homes.

Australia has lost 4434 lives to COVID this year at a rate of 170 per million. That ranks a dismal 18th among our 59 advanced nations.

The graph in the video above compares Australia with cherry-picked countries close to the epicentres in Europe and the US. A more valid comparison, I would argue, is with advanced nations far from those countries, and using current figures.

‘Less debt than almost any advanced country’

Just an absolute barefaced falsehood. The IMF shows general government gross debt as a percentage of GDP for all 59 advanced economies. Easily accessed. In 2012, Labor’s last full year, Australia’s debt was 27.5% of GDP and ranked ninth in that list. Not bad. By 2021, debt had ballooned to 62.1%, ranking a miserable 30th. Hence, 29 advanced economies now have less debt than Australia.

‘And more jobs growth than almost any advanced country’

Untrue. When the Coalition won office in 2013, Australia’s jobless rate ranked sixth among OECD member countries. (These are the 38 big free-enterprise economies among the 59 advanced nations.) Australia now ranks a modest 14th, having been overtaken by eight more nations.

The Liberal graph again compares Australia with seven non-comparable nations and ignores the advanced economies beating Australia. These include Norway, which improved employment by 3.11%, Argentina by 3.3%, Cyprus 3.7%, Israel 4.1%, New Zealand 4.3%, the Netherlands 4.5%, Denmark 5.3% and Malta 5.9%.

‘The Liberal government is building a stronger economy…’

No it isn’t. In 2013, Australia had the world’s best performing economy. It now ranks well outside the world’s top 20. “All-time worst” economic outcomes since Morrison became treasurer in 2015, as reported by Crikey and others, now number 60.

‘… With lower taxes’

This would make Donald Trump blush. Last month’s budget papers showed that from 1969 onwards tax to GDP has been much higher under the Liberals. The highest-taxing administration was John Howard’s. Morrison’s was second highest.

‘… Lower unemployment’

Yes, the headline jobless rate is lower. But you could argue that is due to migration shifting into reverse, to thousands of “workers” on one hour or zero hours a month, and to the blow-out in the public service — not a strong economy.

‘… More apprentices’

Apprenticeship numbers have recovered slightly in the past year, but from a low base. Relative to population, apprentices in 2017 and 2018 were the lowest in two decades.

‘… More funding for health and other essential services’

This claim is correct. But that’s due to higher population and the larger budget relative to 2013, not sound management.

There we have it. Nine bold claims under the shameless heading “Look at the facts”. Eight of them are easily disproven by current data from the government’s own departments.

Two questions arise: will any mainstream economics reporters do their job and expose these? And will the whoppers succeed again in returning the Coalition?

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Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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