In the Liberal Party’s campaign headquarters early on Tuesday morning, newbie volunteers would have been laughing and slapping their thighs in disbelief.
“Who’d have thought it could be this easy!” they’d tell each other.
No, not over Anthony Albanese’s unemployment rate gaffe (well, yes, over that, too) but because of the journalists who had swallowed Scott Morrison’s nonsense “1.3 million jobs pledge” and given it headline status.
It was straight #ScottyfromMarketing gold – a meaningless and (hopefully) false number, presumably concocted because it was a little bigger than the last nonsense job growth promise by Josh Frydenberg.
That wily old huckster Joh Bjelke-Petersen, back in Queensland’s White Shoe Brigade days, used to call such interactions with the media “feeding the chooks”. Chooks are still eagerly pecking any scraps.
With a moment’s thought or judgment, the Monday night “drop” of Mr Morrison’s speech would have been binned or treated as a joke instead of turned into Tuesday morning headlines.
A quick check of the Australian Bureau of Statistics would have shown Mr Morrison was actually promising weaker jobs growth over the next five years than over the five years before COVID-19.
And remember Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg are both claiming the next five years will be all milk and honey, the good times rolling, while history shows our economy was lacklustre over the five years before COVID.
Quick facts: The ABS says there were 11.671 million people employed here in February 2015 and 12.995 million employed in February 2020 – an extra 1.324 million in work.
Even in the latest five-year period, including all the disruption of the pandemic, there were 1.322 million more people employed in February 2022 than in February 2017.
Also remember that people increasingly are working more than one job to make ends meet, so “promising” 1.3 million new jobs over the next five years is rather pathetic given that our population is continuing to grow.
The inanity of bothering to report Mr Morrison’s non-news is underlined by the budget papers promising less-than-flash economic growth after the current calendar year and employment growth of 1.5 per cent. Nothing there to write home about, let alone to the editor.
A further moment’s thought might consider that the Morrison government actually isn’t proposing much to sustainably lift growth anyway.
The sugar hits drop off quickly, the much-advertised “infrastructure investment” growth is meagre in real terms, and the investment that counts in the longer term – higher education – shrinks in real terms.
In any event, jobs growth numbers, barring major catastrophes, tend to reflect population growth with participation rates being a bit of a swing factor.
Immigration and population expert Abul Rizvi has noted that the budget forecasts net migration in 2022-23 rising to 180,000; 213,000 in 2023-24 and 235,000 per annum thereafter. That means total net migration over the next five years of 1.1 million.
That extra demand of itself drives more jobs and provides the means to fill them, arguably most of the “promised” 1.3 million.
And if a journalist was to get pernickety, Mr Morrison isn’t actually talking about “more jobs” – he means people qualifying as “employed” in a survey week. The number of jobs is a different, considerably larger figure thanks to people doing multiple jobs and always has been.
If there really were only 1.3 million new jobs over the next five years, we would be going backwards.
But don’t let facts confuse the chook yard.
Who needs to? Just think of a number that sounds big and it gets a headline run.
Yep, who knew it could be so easy.