Sorting spin from lies as the election cranks up

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DURING the Federal Budget week Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, along with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, were putting their best foot forward to attract voters’ support in the light of the upcoming election.

Michael Moore.

Scott Morrison was demonstrating his real strengths from his pre-politics career as a marketing guru. In the lead up to the Budget he, and his colleagues, had the community convinced that this year would finally bring us into the black. It would have been good if it were true; unfortunately, it was not even marketing spin. It was a lie!

The truth is Josh Frydenberg delivered a deficit Budget with the “promise” of coming into a surplus in the not-too-distant future. Even worse, his political colleagues have now adopted the lie as their slogan: “back in the black”.

Gilding the lily! Some see it as good marketing or great salesmanship. The reality is that it is dishonest. It is one thing to put a positive spin by emphasising the best possible achievements. It is another to attempt to persuade the community of good work based on something that is simply not true.

Cartoon: Paul Dorin

Across Lake Burley Griffin on Budget day hardly anyone noticed when Chris Steel, Minister for City Services, Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Roads, stood in the Assembly to sing his own praises. He was putting a positive spin that was not a lie. Mr Steel waxed lyrical in a “Ministerial Statement” in the ACT Assembly about his achievements after only six months as a Minister.

Improved recycling was a key message with a target of diverting 90 per cent of waste away from landfill by 2025. Green bins have been delivered to the Canberra community within budget and more than a year earlier than promised. He expressed pride in the 16 million containers returned through the deposit scheme ready to be recycled with minimal contamination. A positive spin!

To his credit, Mr Steel addressed the China National Sword Policy, which has the intention of cutting “foreign waste including plastics, industrial waste, electronics and other household waste materials”. He informed the Assembly a significant portion of plastics are being trialled to be recycled into asphalt and spread on to “one million square metres of road”.

Interesting was the statistic he identified that in every tonne of asphalt “we will reuse 800 plastic bags, 300 glass bottles, 18 printer toner cartridges and 250 kilograms of reclaimed asphalt”. A positive spin!

Bill Shorten wanted to sell his message on Medicare. He targeted cancer to make the message more appealing and better understood.

“It’s something that touches every community, and most of our families,” he said.

Everyone knows prevention is better than cure and expenditure on prevention has been constantly cut. However, Labor knows the impact of a debate on Medicare and, in the election context, has decided on selling this message.

As the Federal election campaign starts in earnest it will be important to distinguish between political spin and the facts. Smooth salesmean do have an appeal. Just as there is ample evidence that Tony Abbott and the conservative side of Australian politics copied many of the tactics of the Tea Party in the US with a focus on opposition for opposition’s sake, this spin is simply political tactics.

It is reasonable for Australians to fear the possibility that, like the US, we might also be landed with a leader whose prime focus is on marketing his own message. However, our future should really lie with truth, honesty and integrity.

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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