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Spinning like a top

December 7th, 2009

The spin surrounding the Queensland mid-year budget review was interesting and a bit puzzling. All the initial spin was gloom and doom, in keeping with the government’s claim that the dire state of the budget necessitated asset sales[1]. But it turned out that the deterioration in the budget was entirely due to a couple of fairly arbitrary accounting entries for extraordinary items – a projected loss on land purchased for the failed Traveston Dam project and some federal government money that was not going to come in. The underlying picture was an improvement f $800 million a year. This more than cancelled out the deterioration between the pre-election economic statement in February and the post-election budget in June.

I was set to take this nonsense on but by the next day, Treasurer Andrew Fraser was singing a very different song, saying

Treasurer Andrew Fraser described the losses as a “mask” hiding a raft of stronger indicators, including a forecast of 1 per cent growth this year after the previous negative 0.25 per cent.

It is really hard to make sense of this

fn1. This claim doesn’t make much sense. In general, if privatisation is good (or bad), a change in the budget position won’t affect that. About the only case to the contrary is where public ownership provides services that are not paid for by users. In this case, asset sales are like an expenditure cut. But that doesn’t seem to be applicable in most of the cases we are looking at here,

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  1. James
    December 7th, 2009 at 21:33 | #1

    The most economical explanation is that Fraser thinks that the electorate has the attention span of a two year old. And because he thinks they have the attention span of a two year old, he is not worried that they will pay attention to those like Prof Q who call attention to those things one notices if one has a longer attention span, because they’ll forget what Prof Q said as quickly as they’ll forget what Fraser said last week.
    To be fair to Fraser and the electorate, the way the media pushes stories also subscribes to this two-year-old viewer theory, which makes it hard to act less like a two year old even if one wants to. Oh, look over there, a kitten rescued from a tree in the yard of tiger wood’s mistress tells all to our reporter up next after this budget update.
    Also, FIRST POST.

  2. nanks
    December 7th, 2009 at 22:01 | #2

    Who is going to make the big money from the asset sales? The only problem for the government is how to sell the sales. They’ll do that in the guise of jobs jobs jobs.

  3. David C (aka Smiley)
    December 8th, 2009 at 11:36 | #3

    I think that the Howard years have really spooked Labor at all levels of government. The mantra seems to be that if we act like “compassionate conservatives” we’ll keep hold of power for longer. As I’ve said before, that term is an oxymoron… at least based on the neo-conservative policy agenda.

  4. December 8th, 2009 at 15:11 | #4

    Courier Mail spins news of 79% opposition to fire sale to reveal its privatisation colours

    Many Queenslanders, appalled at their state Government’s blatant disregard for their wishes not to sell AU$15billion of worth of publicly owned assets, actually look to Rupert Murdoch’s Courier-Mail newspaper to stand up to what has to be amongst the most inept and despotic of state governments in Australia’s history. However, the dishonest spin encompassed in the title of the story “Asset Sale Anger on the wane”, together with the sub-heading “Christmas boost for Bligh”, reveals that newspaper’s true colours on that issue.

  5. December 8th, 2009 at 15:23 | #5

    I just heard on Fairfax radio that they’re dropping the asset sales with the exception of the QR coal train stuff.

    Weird move. Are they getting some feel for how hated they have become?

    Daggett!! We obviously will have to agree to disagree about Murdoch rags. You seem to wish for some miraculous redemption, whereas we take the view that “beneath contempt” and “beyond redemption” should be taken literally.

  6. December 8th, 2009 at 15:46 | #6

    Megan, I think you have misunderstood the intention of my article. if you read it, I think you will find we are at least 99.5% in agreement.

    Anyow, here’s one story about privatisation.

    It doesn’t look that wonderful to me. Given the large number of asssets they have already sold, without our permission, I would be in favour of holding onto everything the Queensland Government owns and against selling off, leasing or whatever of anything, even Government owned brothels and adult stores, should they exist.

  7. Alice
    December 8th, 2009 at 15:52 | #7

    @Megan
    You serious? About time they listened to the electorate. Five years too late is better than not listening which they have been doing.

    What asset sales are being dropped? I dont believe it Megan. There will be a catch or a bit of spin or a budgie flying media adventure – “Look people – there goes a budgie – quick sell it now”

    I have no hope they will reverse. We dont need state governments and if they keep privatising the way they have been we dont need federal governments either. We just need guns, gold and farmland.

  8. jquiggin
    December 8th, 2009 at 16:06 | #8

    @Megan
    I haven’t been able to find any report on this. Can you point to a link?

  9. jquiggin
    December 8th, 2009 at 16:07 | #9

    Ok, I followed the link provided by Daggett, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/08/2765357.htm

    and it’s just more spin. As the ETU guy says, a lease is a sale by another name.

  10. Alicia
    December 8th, 2009 at 16:08 | #10

    Poor fella my state. Frank Sartor handed NSW environment and climate change portfolio, Ian McDonald, forests and minerals. Vampires in a blood bank. They’ll continue to rort and rob NSW taxpayers and the environment for the next year egged on by the ventriloquist’s doll Ku Klux Keneally.

    2010 is already a disaster zone.

  11. December 8th, 2009 at 16:28 | #11

    Sorry, yep it is just spin.
    Fairfax radio made it sound as if they had dropped the sales rather than just re-branded it.
    Seems “the deal is done”, premier’s decision is final, no further correspondence will be entered into, etc..
    And yes Daggett and James, the Murdoch medium is playing its usual spinning game.

    Does anyone know where to get those bumper stickers: “Is That True, Or Did You Read It In The Courier-Mail?”?

  12. Alice
    December 8th, 2009 at 17:46 | #12

    @daggett
    This is just what makes me sick about Murdoch – who is running the country anyway? Who has some responsibility to print the truth. The sooner that damn old codger upends and karks it like a dead budgie the better –

    Murdoch has been manipulating the truth for decades (and by that I mean the truth of what the electorate really wants)…Im sick of it and sick to death of Murdoch! Old B.

  13. December 8th, 2009 at 19:35 | #13

    Alice, do you believe it is hopeless or do you think that something could be done about it?

    They are always keen to hear ideas and suggestions for anything that can be done about Murdoch over at http://www.stopmurdoch.blogspot.com/ (some ideas are set out in the earliest posts).

  14. gerard
    December 8th, 2009 at 19:47 | #14

    this reminds me that the other day I caught a moment of “Stateline”, our left-wing biased ABC was having an interview with Anna Bligh. great opportunity to ask about the fake reasons given for the asset sales, I’d have thought. Instead, the toughest questioning was “Do you take it personally when negative things are said about your government’s policies?” If this is the public broadcaster’s standard what do you expect from Murdoch?

  15. nanks
    December 8th, 2009 at 19:48 | #15

    @Megan
    encourage the paywall – that’d drop the online readership. On the other hand he’ll probably bundle online news with TV/movies or some such.

  16. Alice
    December 8th, 2009 at 20:10 | #16

    @Megan
    Megan – its hopeless but every day he prints crap he loses readers and every day he loses readers he loses advertisers and everyday he loses advertisers they are moving online…..
    Murdoch isnt even doing himself a favour – have you seen his papers?? getting skinnier and skinner. People are switching off to his right wing BS. Meanwhile he makes noises about suing google for lost revenue.

    Trouble is, he thinks he still can manipulate the vox populi mindset. He’d sell more papers if he bothered to deliver decent real representative views out there…..but there is such an disconnect people are dropping the papers is my bet. They dont even feel they can identify with his tripe any more. He is a right wing idiot and he thinks he can rule how people think. He cant. Not for long. The shift just happens without him.

  17. December 8th, 2009 at 22:52 | #17

    Alice, true story:

    “Courier-Mail” story about how Maleny locals were embracing the new Woolworths despite previous protests. I happened to be in Maleny that day and noticed that there was, literally, nobody in Woolworths. Went into the locally owned IGA and it was full of locals. Asked the lady at the cash register about the situation and she said that her daughter worked at the Woolworths and, remarkably, staff had been told to park out the front to make it look like people were in the Woolworths supermarket so it didn’t look like it was not open.

    Having observed this, went back to Brisbane and mentioned it to “Courier-Mail” reading relative. Relative said, honestly, “No that’s not true, the Maleny locals have embraced the new Woolworths and they are all shopping there.”

    That is the power of Murdoch’s mono-media control. It is very serious. It is a terrible mistake to think that Murdoch cares more about money than he does about power and control.

    The power comes first, the (tax-free) money follows later.

    He doesn’t care about losing readers, he only cares about losing influence. That’s part of the reason why, having ridiculed and ignored the ‘Walk Against Warming’ event in the last few years, News Ltd has now become a sponsor. Murdoch’s lead PR man [Greg Baxter] is the same man who worked for James Hardie while they were spinning their way out of responsibility for asbestosis victims.

    Nice people these are not.

  18. JJ
    December 9th, 2009 at 07:51 | #18

    One of the things that i find most intriguing about the recent sale clarifications is that they seem to be at odds with the previous justifications.

    Part of justification was that the private sector could generate extra value from the assets. An IPO for QR with government retaining 40% and a preference for Qld Mum and Dad investors will see the organisation run largely as it is now. There wont be any immediate push for major management reform to improve return. Through Board positions some more experienced investors will push for reforms over time but these will only flow back to government through their share ownership.

    Then with Abbot Point Coal Terminal, the new owner will be required to complete the X50expansion but not to undertake the X80 and the X110 expansion. So the government’s previous justification about having future infrastructure spend obviated seems incorrect. The State will retain the obligation for X80 and X110 (~$3.6bn), which previously it advised would be required within 5 years.

    So all this extra value wont arrive and all the savings of future spending wont arrive either. Makes you wonder how many tens of millions of dollars are being spent on the advisers to generate such quality advice (rumors of over $500,000 a week for the whole advisory team, plus significant success fees for the banks)

  19. nanks
    December 9th, 2009 at 08:20 | #19

    @JJ
    hard to go wrong by following the money trail – now and into the future. The spin will be derived from current perceptions of what’s running in the public mind. As general concerns change so will the spin. I would be thinking that, to the ALP marketeers, the GFC has dissipated as a major public issue. Hence the need to change tactics. And Qld voting patterns don’t support the view that the voters have a long memory .

  20. Alice
    December 9th, 2009 at 09:59 | #20

    @Megan
    That Maleny episode was a shocker Alicia. A friend of mine lives there and the great majority in that lovely town did not want Woolworths. Woolworths is a small town gobbler of other smaller businesses. The locals just need to keep on “not shopping there” until Woolworths packs its bags and goes but as for the Courier Mail – misrepresenting the real story (lying) – this is par for the course in Murdochs media and yes he does want the power to keep putting paper bags over ordinary Australian’s heads in the interests of him and his big business mates.

  21. paul walter
    December 9th, 2009 at 11:40 | #21

    Alice, #18 “… Who’s running the country, anyway”.
    Bwaahh!
    Do you not remember that scene in the sequel to “Rosemary’s Baby”, and the driverless bus?
    BTW Megan, no sh-t, Fairfax has deterioratede very badly, and particularly since John Fairfax and his brownshirt Mc Carthy took it over. The bumper sticker of course says it all, as to the tabloids.
    And Gerard, “Stateline” in SA altho useful, is also heavily sanitised.
    ……………………………………………..

    For some reason, when Labor got in 2007, it either couldn’t, or wouldn’t and hasn’t, moved to reverse the damage done to public broadcasting during the Howard era. Instead, we got Conroy.
    Of all the policy turnovers the one to do with failing to ensure maintainnence of a free media and press is one of the most disturbing; it’s as though a REAL Labor government was never elected!
    Since Labor would never got up again if it had not been for the remnants of a free press and media who stuck to their guns during the last decade.
    McKew as much as Garrett, has fallen in my estimation.

  22. Alice
    December 9th, 2009 at 11:50 | #22

    @paul walter
    Deteriorated? They are a pack of liars!

    Today’s front page of the SMH is crowing about a fabulous result for Higgins and Bradfield for the liberals, with strong swings to liberals from labour voting booths and liberal gains bla bla bla bla until you feel nauseous at the SMHs gall and BS.

    Not one mention of the massive green gains from labour voters. Not a word. Not a word…just a pack of lies.

    Yet more evidence of Murdered Media. Utterly biased one eyed manipulative and decrepit media in this country. They think people are fools. Yes bring on the DD so people can vote them out resoundingly again (nationalise Murdochs empire in this country and – send him and his crony editors back to the US)!

    Outrageous.

  23. gerard
    December 9th, 2009 at 12:46 | #23

    Today’s front page of the SMH is crowing about a fabulous result for Higgins and Bradfield for the liberals

    Yes, “Howard’s battlers coming home” as described by the Poisoned Dwarf and Dennis Sham-I-Am. Australia’s wealthiest suburbs certainly have a lot of “battlers”.

  24. gerard
    December 9th, 2009 at 13:15 | #24

    And while we’re on the subject of Murdoch, did you know that 120 percent of the public believes scientists falsify global warming data, according to Fox?

  25. paul walter
    December 9th, 2009 at 13:50 | #25

    Appears to suggest an outbreak of multiple personality disorder, Gerard.
    Obviously some voted twice?

  26. Ian Gould
    December 10th, 2009 at 18:56 | #26

    Paul, it looks more like some idiot combined the “somewhat opposed” and “very opposed” numbers and listed that as “somewhat opposed” and then ran the very opposed” separately.

    Fox lies a lot, they also make a lto of dumb-ass mistakes.

    So many that it’s sometimes difficulty to deduce whether a particular falsehood is due to malice or incompetence.

  27. Alice
    December 10th, 2009 at 21:00 | #27

    @Ian Gould
    You have a point there Ian but regardless whether its due to malice or a dumb ass mistake it always seems to come out in favour of some dubious nutty liberal idea like example above doesnt it?

  28. Alice
    December 10th, 2009 at 21:01 | #28

    @Ian Gould
    Good detective work!

  29. December 11th, 2009 at 15:58 | #29

    Anti-privatisation candidate confronts Queensland Treasurer

    As mentioned elsewhere, an exchange between myself and Treasurer Andrew Faraser and myslef on Sunday 20 November. Whilst I made mistakes and allowed Andrew Fraser to get away with what I believed to be dishonest debating ploys that I should have anticipated, the recorded exchange remains the most comprehensive public debate of which I am aware so far. Here it is.

  30. Alice
    December 11th, 2009 at 18:41 | #30

    @daggett
    So Andrew Fraser attends a debate on the privatisation (get this) “organised by the local chamber of commerce” at whch 40 people were present and considers this enough public consultation and transparency??

    Am I going mad? Get Fraser out along with NSW Labor. How to is on again – front page SMH – how to sack NSW Labor. Could everyone please sign???? …next Fraser. Do the same in QLD. Enough with the mindless “Chamber of Commerce” supported privatisations. The government should govern for the people – NOT the Chamber of Commerce. Idiots.

    My blood is boiling. Boiling.

  31. SheilaN
    December 12th, 2009 at 02:06 | #31

    The ‘debate’ at the Chamber of Commerce was just a pretend one, as James Sinnamon makes clear in the actual films, which I shot and edited and have just published on you-tube. He was asking for a real one and he got it and I filmed it.

    The first, in three parts, is 30 November debate on privatisation between Andrew Fraser and James Sinnamon, anti-privatisation election candidate for the recent elections who constantly raised the privatisation issue and got the bum’s rush from the mainstream press.

    The films are called, “Privatisation and the Right to Govern”, Parts 1, 2 & 3.
    The third one goes into the link between privatisation and Government encouragement of overpopulation.
    You can view them all here:
    http://www.youtube.com/QueenieAlexander2000

    Or you can access these films with an article discussing them at https://candobetter.org/node/1684

    There is also another film of a speech where Sinnamon gives a candidate’s speech and predicts the sell-off of QR. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC4qGs0epUg

    Ironically the speech was recorded before the election, of course, but never released by Dave ZWolenski (of a Dave in the Life – SBS).

    The debate between Fraser and Sinnamon is the only one of its kind and the public has precious little to hang on to and organise around, so please let people who are interested know that there are films now that show that the government has not got the right to sell anything off.

  32. December 12th, 2009 at 10:33 | #32

    Thanks, Alice and SheilaN.

    I have been more accustomed to my posts attracting little interest on this blog.

    Now, in the last few weeks that they seem have I have been, I have been remiss in not acknowledging those responses.

    (The following is adapted for a post to Larvatus Prodeo.)

    Actually, the Brisbane Inner West Chamber of Commerce is not quite the club of mega-wealthy that that Alice imagined it to be. They seem to be mostly smaller to medium businesses and do not have a huge amount of funds. As one example, they seemed only able to hire a modest venue for the debate and they charged the public $5 to cover costs. They could have organised the debate better, but it seems they acted out of good intentions.

    Nevertheless, apart from that, of course, I agree with your point.

    Those who share that anger should sign the e-petition I mentioned earlier which calls for the resignation of the Queensland Government and new elections.

    I also commend, for NSW residents, a petition, that Alice seemed to allued to, calling for a referendum in NSW that would establish the right of the NSW public to force incompetent and despotic and unpopular governments such as the current Kenneally Labor Government to the polls.

    The article in support of the referendum has flaws, for example:

    The failure to privatise the power industry – an attempt undermined by Labor’s union allies – has kept the budget on the edge of crisis.

    What rubbish! In fact, it is past fire sales that have brought NSW to where it is now.

    Nevertheless, the referendum is well worth supporting.

    If we don’t have the right to get rid of such unpopular and monumentally incompetent Governments as those now ruling in NSW and Queensland, then our country is effectively no better than one of those infamous corrupt Third World tin-pot dictatorships.

    James Sinnamon

    Brisbane Independent for Truth, Democracy,
    the Environment and Economic Justice

    Australian Federal elections, 2010

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