It’s a well-established rule of thumb that the prime minister lies more when he’s under pressure. And once again that has been on display in an election campaign where some early success has given way to increasingly dire polling.
Last year Crikey published a dossier of Scott Morrison’s lies and falsehoods, shining a spotlight on the prime minister’s habit of misleading the Australian people. But with the election just days away, and the mistruths coming thick and fast, we’ve decided it’s time for an update. That’s why we’re publishing a new dossier of campaign lies and falsehoods, featuring 12 new examples from the past six weeks.
Only 12? We’ve lifted the bar a little for the campaign when the rhetoric gets heated, attacks fly both ways, and politicians adopt any position to get themselves out of a scrape. We’ve also kept the “lie” and “falsehood” categories to help identify the moments when the PM must know he is deliberately misleading voters.
For example, in Morrison’s attacks on Anthony Albanese’s support for a 5.1% increase in wages for low-income earners, he’s been all over the place. Until Albanese expressed his support, Morrison had been agreeing that workers should get higher wages, that higher wages were on the way, but that the government had no “magic wand” to make wages rise. (That in itself is a separate falsehood.)
But then Morrison warned that in government, Albanese’s support for wage rises would drive up inflation and interest rates. That is, Morrison has been completely inconsistent and has wholly misrepresented Albanese. But that’s regulation campaigning hyperbole, not lying or misleading.
But what is also different now is that some journalists have been increasingly willing to challenge Morrison’s lies. With previous lies and falsehoods, journalists would sometimes follow up a lie at a later date. But now some are pushing back hard against him during the same media conference.
For example, it was repeated questions from journalists on Morrison’s lie about adolescents being subjected to gender reassignment surgery that eventually forced him to admit that such surgery couldn’t happen. This represents a significant change from his time as prime minister from 2018-21, when journalists appeared to let him lie with impunity, before Crikey and journalists like Dennis Atkins began pointing out Morrison’s systematic use of lying.
Morrison also remains unique among politicians. Other prominent leaders such as Albanese, Josh Frydenberg and Barnaby Joyce have all engaged in typical election rhetoric, but none have strayed beyond that into deception territory.
The nearest was Frydenberg tweeting about the level of tax to GDP under Labor (he claimed it was 25.9% — it has never been 25.9% ever, and the highest it ever got to was 24.2% under John Howard; the highest it ever reached under Labor was 21.7% before the financial crisis). But Frydenberg seems to be claiming Labor would have raised taxes to 25.9% of GDP if it could have, so we’re calling that campaign rhetoric, not a lie.
And Albanese has certainly been guilty of misrepresenting, if not lying about, the benefits of his housing policy, which involves a Commonwealth copy of existing state schemes in which the government takes an equity stake in a home with low-income earners. Such a scheme, like Morrison’s superannuation-for-housing scheme, would simply push up demand for housing, albeit in a smaller and more targeted way (just 10,000 places a year) than allowing people to raid their super. Again, however, it’s campaign rhetoric, not lying.
Saturday could herald a whole new three-year term of Morrison lies, or bring to an end the career of a man who has made deceiving voters the very centre of his political persona.
He’s not leaving anything on the field in terms of deception — right to the very end.