Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Back on 3 September 2010, 12 days after the election, Laura Tingle wrote:

There are two possible explanations for how an opposition presenting itself as an alternative government could end up with an $11 billion hole in the cost of its election commitments.

One is that they are liars, the other is that they are clunkheads. Actually, there is a third explanation: they are liars and clunkheads.

But whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern.

Then this:

But what is more extraordinary is that now, having been caught out, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are continuing to try to bluff their way through, suggesting there is nothing more than a gentlemanly difference of opinion between them and the bureaucracy.

The brazenness of the three men only becomes really clear when they claim the bureaucrats’ document actually proves the budget would be $7 billion better off under the Coalition.

There is no other term for any of this except “complete bullshit”, to use one of Abbott’s favourite terms.

Ever since those three brazen bullshit artists have been rubbishing the institutions that called them on their incompetence and/or perfidy.

On Tuesday this week Treasury and Finance issued the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) in which the charter of budget of honesty requires them to identify “all other circumstances that may have a material effect on the fiscal and economic outlook”. Laura Tingle explains how Treasury and Finance have used the modelling at their disposal to project receipts and payments over the next ten years. The results are inconvenient to the common view that we are headed down the crapper. You see they found that receipts are going to pick up in the out years, so that in ten years time net debt will be restored to around zero.

They used two scenarios, one of which gives you this graph:


Tim Colebatch explains that the PEFO numbers have actually improved by $209 million in the last week and a half, mainly because Treasury now expects the emissions trading scheme and the mining tax to raise an extra $680 million between them over the next four years.

That’s $680 million extra the LNP will have to find. This should put and end to all that garbage about numbers being manipulated in the Treasurer’s office. Colebatch points out that the public servants are putting their integrity ahead of their job prospects, should the LNP win.

Tingle says that the PEFO figures represent the best estimates of the public servants charged with overseeing the budget process, the same public servant Abbott and company would have to rely on. She takes a look at where the PEFO numbers leave the LNPs budget task and finds that, at best, $25 billion more in ‘saves’ will be required.

Labor’s fiscal plans are now there for all to see, requiring a small matter of several pieces of legislation to implement. By the way, this makes a complete fool of Peter Hartcher, who couldn’t understand at the debate that Labor’s plans were already out there in all the detail he could ever ask for. He says that “neither man would level with the voting public on how he would repair the nation’s public finances” and that Rudd was somehow running away. Arguably what disappeared was Hartcher’s credibility as a serious journalist.

Different messages come at times from Abbott, Hockey and Robb. Commenter Paul Burns picked up on TV that we’ll see the LNP’s costings two days before the election. That is most definitely not plenty of time for proper scrutiny.

Also I fear they are going to use the reputation of the Parliamentary Budget Office to add to their credibility. I’d expect the public servants there would have to accept whatever assumptions given, whether unrealistic, wrong or just bad policy. For example, they may well quantify savings in advance from their proposed audit of public services.

Nevertheless Mark Kenny makes a reasonable comment on what passes for debate so far in the campaign. One would have to wonder whether scare campaigns about the GST and the ancient $70 billion shortfall figure add to Labor’s credibility. If you are looking for scary Abbott’s promise to bring back the industrial relations pendulum to the centre would have sent shivers down the spine.

Note: This post has been copied from Larvatus Prodeo. For comments thread go there.