JOHN MENADUE. The dumbed- down tax ‘debate’ and the Canberra Press Gallery.

In the ‘debate’ over tax and the attacks on Bill Shorten, not one member of the Canberra Press Gallery could be bothered to explain to us that with dividend imputation the difference between a 25% and a 27% tax rate for a small company is infinitesimal.  

The Canberra Press Gallery is incessantly feeding us with politics and personalities. What about them getting occasional background briefings from senior and well informed public servants on policy issues

The gallery has gone AWOL in helping us to understand major policy issues and not just taxation. The failings include:

  • How we are likely to be saddled with a fifth rate energy policy as we face the existential threat of climate change and increases in energy prices. The problems began with Coalition defeat of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2008 and the end of the Carbon Tax. The gallery ignores the numerous obstacles the Coalition has placed in the path of good policy for a decade and focuses instead on the coal lobby, divisions in the Liberal Party and the lack of a bipartisan policy as if the ALP is equally responsible for the mess.
  • How the Iraq War has brought terrorism to Australia and refugees to our borders. The gallery treats terrorism and border control as discreet stand alone issues .A few hot headed young terrorists are here because John Howard sent out troops over there and they are still there. Anti terrorism has become a scam. Industries have sprung up to capitalise on the deliberately promoted fear. Domestic violence is a much more serious problem but our media sees only terrorists
  • The disastrous NBN and Malcolm Turnbull’s complicity with Tony Abbott to roll out a second rate system.
  • Cooperating with our security services in running the anti-China narrative. Just think of the Vanuatu beat up!
  • Unwillingness to admit that they were wrong in accepting the Tony Abbott line that he stopped the boats. He did not.
  • The widespread erosion of our liberties through legislation and power seeking by ministers and officials. We are seeing signs of a pre-fascist or pre-police state. Where is the media in all this?
  • We are now witnessing the prosecution of persons who pointed out foreign interference by ASIS in bugging the East Timorese Cabinet room. At the same time the government is pressing legislation on foreign interference in Australia. Can’t the gallery see the double standard in this.
  • Following the government line that the ALP is conducting class war when in fact it is the powerful who are conducting and winning the class war with alarming increases in inequality.

The tax debate is just another example of media failure.

In this blog on 2 July 2018, Ian McAuley ‘How political opportunism and poor journalism brought us a dumbed-down tax debate”, described quite clearly how the Canberra Press Gallery has just not understood the important policy issues involved in the tax ‘debate’. Has the gallery heard of something called ‘dividend imputation’ which dramatically reduces the effective tax rate?. And that our effective company tax rate is one of the lowest in the world.

The outcome as Ian McAuley describes is that with dividend imputation, the difference between 25% and 27% tax rate for a small company is infinitesimal.

And the public seems to know this better than the media ,the Coalition and the nervous nellies in the Labor caucus who don’t understand their own policy and became easy pickings for a gallery with no interest in facts and analysis .

Newspoll told us a few days ago that the public supported Bill Shorten’s decision to scrap the legislated tax reductions for companies with turnover between $10 million and $50 million. The poll found that 52% of voters supported Bill Shorten’s captains call (supporters included 72% of Labor voters, 64% of Greens, 54% of One Nation and 35% of Coalition voters).

Only 37% of voters opposed Bill Shorten’s plan. 11% were undecided.

The personal campaign conducted by Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann against Bill Shorten, encouraged by the gallery, was over a ‘captain’s call that the majority of voters supported. And either way there would have been marginal impact on companies.

The undermining of our democracy by the Murdoch media and the performance of our Canberra Press Gallery in recent years, points to the public benefits that we could get from a thorough public review of the performance of our media.

The banking royal commission has shown the way.

The tax ‘debate’ is just another instance of how badly we are being served by our media. We have a serious problem and it is getting worse.


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7 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. The dumbed- down tax ‘debate’ and the Canberra Press Gallery.

  1. Nic Stuart says:

    Sorry, I realise I’m now only having a conversation with myself, yet again I can’t stop.

    Today it’s Chris Kenny reporting that the Press Gallery is ‘an island’.

    Kenny has his own ‘real world’ critique of the Gallery. He, just like you John, slams it for failure, it’s just that he finds different reasons to proclaim the Gallery’s ‘failed’. Much of his column is given over to its abysmal coverage of the climate change issue – it’s just that he attacks from the other side. He also asserts the Gallery ‘fails’ to cover immigration properly . . . ditto.

    It’s too depressing to go on . . .

    • Rosemary O'Grady says:

      Never say Die – Nic. That’s: the only way to win is never to give-in.
      You are part of a marvellous craft: occasionally noble, often hilarious, sometimes dull but rarely that, utterly necessary to a society floundering with technological overload and social change absent any comprehensible theory other than market-capitalism. People might ‘slam’ you at times – but it’s only because they know they need you – so much!

  2. Nic Stuart says:

    Dear John,

    I was going to reply to this post and thought the better of it. Alas, the desire gnawed and gnawed away at me all day, but I couldn’t work out what I should say.

    Until tonight, when, this evening, I saw Trump was at Great Falls, Montana, blasting away at his usual foes: Hillary Clinton; Elizabeth Warren; and, of course, the “fake news media . . . really bad people”.

    Don’t you agree? Because that’s what your post implies. It assigns blame and failure yet without wondering ‘why’ this might be happening.

    First, a disclosure. I am, however inadequately, a member of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in my role as a columnist for the Canberra Times. Like most of the journalists up there, I can only dream of the sort of remuneration that a senior manager of, for example, News Limited might attain. Pay peanuts and you get, well, me – and I suppose some, perhaps many, of your readers may feel that’s enough to fully explain the poor quality of journalism today.

    I, obviously, don’t think that’s a full explanation.

    Nor is it enough to fulminate and pontificate about how much better it was “back in my day”. I fear the assaults on the media, from both you and Trump, further destabilise the institution and disillusion those journalists who are, quite genuinely, attempting to report accurately what’s going on. I’m not calling for you to stop complaining, mind you – simply requesting you assign the blame to the appropriate party.

    Sure, target (if you feel the need) the output of some members of the Gallery. But are they really to blame, or is it the demands of Sydney editors and perhaps the lingering influence of overseas proprietors. And how about the effect of the internet? In the old days we never had a problem with the different products being served up by, say, the Mirror and the Australian. Why are we now surprised that the internet is having a similar, ‘dumbing down’ effect? And finally, the paper I write for (the Canberra Times) is the last to maintain a Public Service Reporter, Marcus Manheim. If your readers want more of this, why don’t they read more of his reports? They’re online. That way the editors could see, from readership figures, that this really is the sort of stuff that people find interesting.

    Unfortunately, not enough readers do. No doubt many find, just as I do, that there’s not really enough time in the day to get through the (a) mainstream media, (b) quality contributions like “Pearls and Irritations”, (c) other general blogs (including reports on policy issues, such as Australian Policy Online, (d) specialist material in my area of intrest (strategic policy, and the umpteen international and defence blogs I need to keep up with), etc, etc.

    Yes, blame individuals like me by all means, but recognise the difficulties we labour under. Yes, blame ‘the gallery’, but recognise it’s not nearly as autonomous as you suggest. And finally, if journalism has deterioriated so much, accross the globe, there must surely be some reason that it’s ‘failing’.

    Do you really think journos turn up for work each morning intending deliberately to produce crap?

    Are they really doing this simply because they’re fascinated with the minutiae of the fight?

    You’ve accurately pointed out where the Press Gallery is failing us. Surely the reason isn’t just simply – as you seem to be suggesting – crap journalists?

    Might there be other contributing factors that are responsible for giving us the media we deserve?


    Nic Stuart

    • Rosemary O'Grady says:

      Dear Nic
      One feels for your frustrations. The sub-text (we used to say: reading between the lines) is: inadequate quality editing. It’s the Amsterdam syndrome (Ian McEwen).
      On any given day I can pick up The Age – to steer clear of The CT – and take a blue pen to almost every News article. Frustrating? So I don’t (pick up The Age) – except that, thereby, I miss a lot of Not Quite Hopeless journalism. Pity?
      Whatever it is that goes on in daily editorial meetings (I perceive all the subs have been retired) – it’s not deeply-grounded leadership about what’s news for the nation.
      One small example: the recent State funeral of Sir Laurence Street … well-covered in Sydney; not mentioned (unless I missed it and I was looking) – in The Age. That was a national story, not just a state story. No mention of Jessie Street Snr. despite online (SMH) pics of Young Jessie at the Opera House. But mountains of chat about Harry M Miller… This might seem trivial. It’s not Economics – or is it? We are being fed the easiest, laziest, most-available, increasingly slangy, and sleazey, increasingly pre-masticated comment(former politicians, often the very people who got us into the soup, and ‘personalities’) in place of news. That much of this emanates from that capital of narcissism is bad luck for the federal Press gallery, and a challenge. You can siphon-up this garbage and spread it around; or you can take a stand and challenge your managers. Your job, for example, ought not to be to peruse the day’s blogs! You might remember John Hartigan’s advice of some years ago: get out in the streets (and pubs or cafes) with a notebook. Write the Country, not the technology.

  3. Richard Ure says:

    At least the ABC has given air time to Michael Pembroke’s warnings about the US’s continued practice of bullying under several presidents And now Trump is floating the idea of attacking Venezuela. How many of us know the US was mercilessly bombing North Korea during the two years in which the Armistice was being negotiated. We continue to rely on this rogue state for our security at our peril, yet the wisdom of continuing to do so is not questioned.

    And on the GST part of the tax debate, the time is overdue to admit the GST is not a state tax despite John Howard’s sales campaign. How can it be a state tax when it is levied in exactly the same way at the same rate in all states?

    Add the GST to the Commonwealth consolidated revenue and distribute it under common arrangements to all revenue. This will be one thing less for the states and Commonwealth to grandstand about; one less pork-barreling opportunity which only serves politicians’ ambitions.

  4. Philip Bond says:

    This point to the quality of those given the position in the Canberra gallery. Politics is their focus, economics and commerce is the game.

  5. Don Macrae says:

    My impression as an outsider is that many if not most journalists writing about politics are ignorant of economics and are captive to a few memes, like the excitement of backflips, internal party conflict and any opportunity to embarrass a politician. The result as this article points out is that Bill Shorten surprising his colleagues with this insignificant announcement sweeps aside the monstrous and substantial abuses of democracy and the planet that have settled on the landscape. Could it be that the media needs help, even if they don’t know it? Would you, John Menadue, be a good person to lead a group dedicated to flooding the media with the sort of exciting press releases they really need?

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