Coalition resorts to deceptive ‘black hole’ stunt

Opinion 2We might remember when Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister he claimed he was going to respect the intelligence of the Australian people. Recently, his Treasurer and his Finance Minister thought they could get away with treating the Australian people like fools.

His Treasurer and his Finance Minister started out at the beginning of a media conference, all puffed up like helium balloons and by the end of the media conference, you’d watched the air run out of them completely.

What they did in that media conference, was start out with their graphics, claiming they knew the numbers, having invented policies Labor hadn’t announced, having ascribed numbers to the Labor Party that were an invention of their own offices.

Having done that and created the pretty graphic, by the end of the media conference instead of holding to the figures that were on that graphic, they were saying:

“Oh well maybe the figures are somewhere between $67 billion and $32 billion.”

Not a bad range. Not a bad range of where they might miss. We watched the two people who were meant to be in charge of accuracy in numbers for our nation, basically blindfolded throwing darts at the Labor Party. It was an extraordinary media conference. And it was riddled, riddled with a litany of errors.

Now, let’s make no mistake here. Joe Hockey had a reputation for making errors. Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann, they’re not stupid people; they know exactly what they’re doing. These are not accidents from the two of them. They know the information they are giving the Australian people is wrong. They intend to give it anyway. They believe they can get away with it. Have a look at just how wrong some of the information was they gave out.

There are a number of different foreign aid announcements which have been made during the life of this term. They dealt with some of them, such as the UNHCR, as specific line items. The one for additional foreign aid was announced in final form by Tanya Plibersek. The amount of that announcement was $224 million. But how much did the Treasurer of Australia and the Finance Minister for Australia want to turn that figure into? They presented a figure of $224 million, got out the liquid paper and said “Oh look, its $19 billion.” When asked “how could you get it so wrong?” they said “But Labor’s got this policy of getting foreign aid to 0.5% of GNI” so they’ve plugged those numbers in. Forgetting that on their own 2013 election policy documents, they claimed the same thing. The exact same claim.

Tanya Plibersek made clear our foreign aid policy. Yet, they have turned a figure of $224 million and presented it to the Australian people as $19 billion. If their argument is, as we heard during that media conference, Tania Plibersek made a comment that could’ve implied that a year ago, and therefore that’s what they’ll rely on, well then it’s quite OK for the Australian people to rely on comments Malcolm Turnbull has made recently, that he believes in a 15% GST. That he believes a 15% GST should be extended to food. That Malcolm Turnbull believes the States should levy an income tax. That he believes government schools should not be paid any federal funds. Those comments were all made much more recently than the comment on which they chose to make their $19 billion lie.

It’s not the only one they’ve got hopelessly wrong. Two superannuation measures which we’ve said are out for consultation at the moment and we’ll make further announcements later, appear as definitive announcements totalling $10 billion.

The Ipswich Motorway is on the list of their Labor black hole. Having forgotten they have promised the same $200 million. The exact same measure is one of theirs. Yet they’ve thought they could put that in a Labor policy document only as though that represents the fiscal gap.

Can I give a hint to the Treasurer and the Finance Minister and their Prime Minister, who’s the person we used to know as Malcolm Turnbull? During this election campaign, Liberal Party policies will be announced by the Liberal Party. Labor Party policies will be announced by the Labor Party. The government doesn’t get to do both, and today, that’s exactly what they tried to do.

More extraordinary, is at the same as they’ve got Barnaby Joyce running around the country telling people the Backpacker Tax they’ve got nothing to worry about, it will be gone, and yet they’ve kept every dollar of the Backpacker Tax in PEFO. They then ascribe to Labor, as they we’ve made it a final decision, to get rid of it altogether, when Chris Bowen as Shadow Treasurer has made clear we are still consulting with the sector.
Yes, the Government’s made a mess of this. Yes, we’re worried about the impact on agriculture, on tourism, on hospitality. But that doesn’t mean they can suddenly invent Labor’s policy announcements for us and ascribe them to some fictitious black-hole story.

We have made clear; we would do what no opposition in living memory has done. That is, we would announce our improvements to the Budget bottom line well in advance of announcing expenditure. We’ve made clear, over the medium term; there will be more improvements to the Budget bottom line than spends.

We’ve made that clear and we have kept to those principles rigidly.

Tony Burke MP, Shadow Minister for Finance

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