News National You’re being robbed to fund the Coalition’s election advertising

You’re being robbed to fund the Coalition’s election advertising

Scott Morrison has something to smile about at last. Photo: Getty
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How do you feel about paying for particularly misleading advertising aimed at winning votes for the Coalition?

Having ditched its biggest donor (Malcolm Turnbull), the Coalition has taken the standard trick of stealing taxpayers’ money for an election campaign to a new low.

Governments of both flavours routinely produce “information” ads in the run up to an election, promoting or “explaining” one government initiative or another.

No, it’s never classy. Yes, it’s always an abuse of the power of incumbency. And politicians wonder why we respect them less.

But the Morrison government has taken that abuse to another level of propaganda altogether.

Perhaps bowing to the dictum of “When telling a lie, tell a big one and keep telling it”, Prime Minister Morrison, the former marketing guy, is using your money to try to give you the impression his government is spending more on infrastructure. It’s not.

Oh, the radio ads sound impressive, suitably voiced with all the conviction of faked sincerity. The reality is that when he was treasurer, Mr Morrison’s two budgets have cut federal infrastructure investment.

As I reported at the time, Mr Morrison took a Joe Hockey smoke-and-mirrors trick and amplified it.

Mr Hockey’s first budget boasted a “record” federal transport infrastructure investment of $50 billion.

It was a con job, political spin, and most of the media fell for it. It was achieved by thinking of a big number – $50 billion sounded about right – and adding up the number of years of reduced infrastructure spending necessary to get there.

In Treasurer Hockey’s case, the fine print showed the $50 billion was to be spread over six years – an average of $8.3 billion a year.

Whatever Joe could do, Scott could do 50 per cent better in his first budget: A “record” $75 billion!

But this time the fine print was over 10 years – an average of $7.5 billion each year, a nominal cut of 11 per cent a year and more than that in real terms.

The trick worked well in his first budget, so Mr Morrison trotted out the same number last year – $75 billion over 10 years – and most of the media again swallowed it.

Even a moment’s thought delivers the realisation that no increase in the annual spend means the real value has been reduced. There actually has been inflation in construction costs.

So with the subterfuge working well and plenty of obvious construction under way in the key cities, the Coalition’s spinners are now making you pay for radio advertising that says the federal government is spending big on infrastructure.

The average punter might not know state governments are paying for the vast majority of that construction.

What the government is making you pay for is advertising that tells you the federal government funds some infrastructure. This is not new.

Next: Federal government funds the army; federal government funds old age pensions; federal government is headquartered in Canberra.

In something closer to reality, “next” is a similarly voiced radio ad lauding the coalition’s income tax proposals. It’s naked electioneering with your money to tell you there will be tax cuts for all.

What you’re not being told is that Treasurer/Prime Minister Morrison’s key initiative is a radical flattening of the tax scale to primarily benefit the top tier of income earners, eroding the progressive nature of our tax system that has played a key role in preventing income inequality from worsening.

And this is before Josh Frydenberg’s election budget.

There’s more work in the offing for the voiceover bloke.

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