Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The value of the ABC's Factchecker

I really like the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Fact checker activity. This proclaims itself in these terms:

ABC Fact Check determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate.

I find it very useful. It is not without it's own weaknesses, but it does provide a useful starting point for further analysis. Consider this piece from 18 November, CSIRO job cuts: Greens MP Adam Bandt turns to spin. It begins:

A hiring freeze at the CSIRO could mean a quarter of staff are let go within a year and it's all because of the Federal Government's anti-science bias, Greens MP Adam Bandt says.

As it turns out, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is not part of the public service, It's numbers don't count in public service numbers and hence in the staff cut targets. But wait, there is more.

While not formally bound, the CSIRO is following the public service approach. However, one factor here is that the job cuts are linked to the increased "efficiency dividend" introduced by the former Government. This led Robert Burgess to write on Business Spectator that Mr Abbott does not need new draconian measures to achieve his target cut in public service numbers. In fact, the cuts already underway will more than deliver the target!

Interesting isn't it? This then leaves a new question open. If the cuts made by the Labor Government would in fact deliver Mr Abbott's job target, what is the significance of Mr Abbott's changes? How do we disentangle them?  

Do have a browse of the various fact checker analyses. You may find them interesting. 


In today's Financial Review, a very agitated Treasurer Hockey provided an answer to my questions in the second last paragraph. Well, he wasn't answering me intentionally, I doubt that Mr Hockey has time to read this blog, but he has answered them. In The real scope of Labour's deceit is coming to light, Mr Hockey appears to have discovered a real problem. It can be broadly summarise this way:

  1. The "efficiency dividends" imposed by the previous Government that the Coalition accepted equates to 14,500 public service job cuts.
  2. The Coalition did not realise this when they did their analysis and proposed 12,000 job cuts, building the savings into their proposals. This actually meant 26,500 job cuts.
  3. You can't easily cut 26,500 jobs, so there is a new budget gap, compounded by the need to pay redundancy payments to people losing their jobs from the Labor cuts.
  4. It's all the fault of perfidious Labor.

Given that I have been attacking efficiency dividends as a blunt instrument, given too that you could work out cuts in public service numbers must be involved, I fear that I am not as sympathetic as I should be.           

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