2019-04-30 by W.M.
Fact checking key claims of the 2019 federal election leaders’ debate
RMIT ABC Fact Check
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Scott Morrison during last night’s leaders’ debate in Perth. (Channel 7)
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten won the audience vote in the first leaders’ debate in Perth, according to host broadcaster Channel 7.
But was the more persuasive leader also the more accurate?
RMIT ABC Fact Check looked at some of the night’s key claims, and this is what we found.
Morrison: “What we’ve also seen is record funding in our hospitals, public hospital funding up more than 60 per cent.”
On record spending, Mr Morrison’s claim amounts to a fair call — though it doesn’t say very much.
Fact Check looked into public hospital funding in the month before Mr Morrison assumed the prime ministership, and found federal government spending was expected to be higher then than in any year since 1989.
That remained the case when health spending was adjusted for population growth and inflation.
But “record funding” is a claim most governments could make, because public hospital spending increases almost every year.
In fact, in the nearly three decades to 2016, total federal spending fell year-on-year just six times.
Morrison: “When we came to government there was an over 700 million-tonne deficit in meeting our Kyoto 2020 targets. And we have turned that around through the policies we’ve put in place.”
The Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria Latrobe Valley prior to closure. (International Power Hazelwood)
When Energy Minister Angus Taylor made this claim back in March, Fact Check found it to be misleading.
The claim has been repeated a number of times since by Coalition politicians, earning it the title of “zombie” — a claim that refuses to die.
Among other things, the figure of 700 million tonnes reflects an accounting assumption, rather than the result of any “hard work” on the part of the Coalition in reducing emissions.
Further, the 2012 emissions data used by the Coalition to claim that it had inherited a 755 million tonne emissions deficit was superseded by a report three months after the Coalition came to power.
It found that actual emissions under Labor in 2013 were significantly lower than had been anticipated a year earlier.
Shorten: “Out of pockets to see the doctor up 20 per cent, specialists nearly 40 per cent.”
The Medicare rebate freeze is not the only reason it is now more expensive to see a doctor. (Pixabay)
When senator Kristina Keneally made a similar claim earlier this year, Fact Check found her numbers broadly checked out.
Mr Shorten is actually understating the increase in costs to see a doctor — out of pocket costs to see a GP have risen by 28 per cent since Labor was last in power.
The cost for patients to see a specialist rose by 40 per cent over the same period.
Senator Keneally blamed the rise in costs on the extension of the Medicare rebate freeze, but experts told Fact Check this was not the sole reason.
They also blamed increased out-of-pocket patient costs on the rising cost of running a GP practice and the way in which general practice medicine was being funded overall.
Morrison: “I fashioned a policy to deal with [boat arrivals in Australia] and we fixed it.”
One of two asylum seeker boats that were intercepted near Christmas Island on April 11, 2012, sits next to a Royal Australian Navy ship. (Audience submitted: Mark Trenorden)
The Prime Minister has claimed previously that he is responsible for “fixing” the problem of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.
But when Fact Check examined a claim made by Mr Morrison back in 2014 that Operation Sovereign Borders had resulted in an 80 per cent reduction of boat arrivals in Australia, we found there was “more to the story”.
The big drop off in boat arrivals occurred when former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a regional resettlement arrangement with PNG that prevented those asylum seekers arriving by boat from settling in Australia.
Shorten: “We’ve seen the number of trainees and apprenticeships fall by 150,000.”
Apprenticeships are associated with traditional trades, such as metal fabrication, while traineeships relate to work in the services sector. (ABC News: Meghna Bali)
In a fact check published this week, ahead of the debate, we found a related claim by Mr Shorten to be misleading.
That was because he used “apprenticeships” as shorthand for both apprenticeships and traineeships — but the two are not the same.
Apprenticeships are associated with traditional trades, such as plumbing, while traineeships are typically associated with the services sector, such as retail.
During the debate, however, Mr Shorten clarified his statement, referring explicitly to both when referencing the fall.
While apprenticeships have fallen slightly since the Coalition took office (18 per cent), the fall in traineeships has been much sharper (66 per cent).
Taken together, that’s a 45 per cent drop in apprenticeships and traineeships since the Coalition took office, which is in line with Mr Shorten’s claim in the debate.
Shorten: “Our national broadband speed — we were in the mid 30s when this Government got elected, now we are 62nd in the world.”
Kazakhstan, Montenegro and Paraguay have faster internet speeds than Australia. (ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)
Mr Shorten is correct.
Fact Check looked at a similar claim made by the Opposition in 2016, and found that Australia’s position had slipped from 27th to 60th between 2013 and 2015.
Although Australia is moving towards faster internet speeds, experts said it is was being overtaken by other countries.
Australia’s position has slipped marginally since then.
In figures published by the Ookla Speed Global Index last week, Australia’s worldwide ranking for broadband internet speeds was 62nd, putting it behind countries such as Kazakhstan, Montenegro and Paraguay — and a long way behind Singapore, which has the world’s fastest internet speed.