No, the government doesn’t care about reducing carbon emissions and no, the economy is not strong
This week highlighted a number of massive problems we have in this country.
The most obvious of course is the horrendous intrusions on freedom of the press. But a close second is the revelation about how poorly we debate and treat issues of the economy and climate change.
Everything you need to know about how we rate the importance of climate change is how the latest economic national accounts and greenhouse gas emissions data were released.
On Wednesday at 11:30am EST precisely, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the national accounts, detailing the entire production within Australia’s economy during the first three months of 2019.
On Thursday at no set time – but six days after it was required by Senate order – and after the headline figures had been given to the Australian for soft coverage, the government released the inventory for Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions during the last three months of 2018.
Let’s be honest, the way these figures were released is perfectly in keeping with the contempt our prime minister and his government regard action on climate change. For him the climate crisis is just an opportunity to say some soft soap marketing spin when out among the people or in front of microphones and to then reveal what he really thinks by appointing Angus Taylor as minister for “emissions reduction”.
It was no shock to anyone that our emissions are rising. They have been rising ever since the carbon price was removed – marking the LNP’s “emissions reduction fund” as a phrase of mendacity.
Any suggestion that the LNP cares about reducing emissions is a lie. They don’t, they never have, and they never will until forced to do so by voters.
After this election they will feel no such compulsion.
And so the lies and spin will continue, whether it be in the renaming of ministerial titles or the releasing of emissions data when it best suits – such as the day after the State of Origin and while the media is focussed on AFP raids on the ABC and News Corp.
This is not news; it is abundantly clear that the LNP was re-elected off the back of a fistful of lies.
There was of course the big lie about death taxes, but underneath it all was the foundation lie of the campaign – that Australia’s economy is strong.
It is not – it is as weak now as it has been any time since the GFC.
The foundation was set before the election began when Scott Morrison suggested that: “We have a plan that has been keeping our economy strong”.
The economy is not strong; they didn’t have a plan.
Just how lacking in strength is our economy? In the past year the economy grew more slowly than it has for a decade. All that is keeping us out of a recession is population growth, as the past three quarters have seen GDP per capita decline in seasonally adjusted terms. When did that last occur? Try 1983.
Household disposable incomes since 1959 have grown on average by 3.2% in real terms, but in the past three years they have grown on average by just 0.9% – the worst growth since 1988.
On a per capita basis, household living standards are below not just what they were at the 2016 election, but also when the LNP came to power at the 2013 election.
None of this is at all surprising to anyone who was paying attention. But for far too long the media and in turn voters have swallowed the line that the budget surplus or deficit is the indicator of anything remotely close to economic management.
We spend too much time obsessing about the budget and GDP growth and too little time obsessing about household living standards. We spend too much time concentrating on unemployment and too little time on underutilisation – which is higher now than when the LNP won office in 2013.
We have a government that produced a budget which forecast a budget surplus in the next financial year and which allowed them to go to an election suggesting that was the defining economic measure by which it should be judged. And it worked.
And now, three weeks after the election, the Reserve Bank has cut rates to record lows because the economy is stuttering to a halt.
It is time for action, and yet the treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s performance at the press conference announcing the figures does not fill one with confidence.
Rather than a man with the details of our nearly $2tn economy at his fingertips, he comes across more like a small-town accountant who, after reviewing your work expenses, pauses uncomfortably too long before telling you he thinks they might be tax deductible.
A week like this brings into very sharp relief the importance of elections. Had the ALP won three weeks ago the narrative would have been about changing the direction of both the economy and emissions. Instead, we are told nothing is wrong and all will be fine.
And we have three long years before any chance that a different story gets told.