Flat White

The self-interested inconsistencies of the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit

19 July 2020

5:00 AM

19 July 2020

5:00 AM

Two years ago the opposition was pushing a the-government-has-cut-funding line for aged care. It was a lie, of course, and, to their credit, the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit called it (well “misleading” anyway).

The overall level of Commonwealth funding provided for aged care has increased on an annual basis for at least the past decade.

As experts noted, this result is hardly surprising, with Australia’s ageing population leading to growing numbers of aged care recipients, increased care requirements, and higher care costs.

Analysis by RMIT ABC Fact Check shows funding has increased across a range of measures: in nominal dollar amounts, in real terms (after adjusting for inflation), as a proportion of total expenses, and as a dollar amount per aged care resident per day.

As some experts contacted by Fact Check suggested, rather than representing a cut, the decision to carve out $1.2 billion of “efficiencies” could rather be characterised as an attempt to better target aged care funding, with spending continuing to rise in real terms.

Fact Check deems that an adjustment to future spending does not represent a “cut” when the overall level of spending continues to rise.

(Emphasis added).

But wait, there is more. The same outfit now look at their ABC funding.

After the ABC announced the loss of 250 jobs in its five year plan, the state of its funding was once again thrust into the national debate.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher dismissed allegations of cuts to the budget of the national broadcaster in a press conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He said the ABC’s funding is laid out in the budget papers, and is increasing every year.

If you look at the numbers in the budget papers, the ABC’s funding is rising. It’s all laid out in the budget papers.”

Is the ABC’s funding rising every year? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.

So – let’s go to the Budget Papers. Luckily Fletcher has a handy tweet.

To be clear – as far as I can see all those numbers are going up. But what does the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit say?

However, when Mr Fletcher referred to what was “laid out in the budget papers” he neglected to mention that ABC funding is projected to decline in nominal terms in 2022-23, at the beginning of the next cycle.

I would hope so – I would have them “projected to decline” to zero, but that’s just me.

But what has the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit done? It has pulled numbers and decisions that are yet to be made out of its own backside. No doubt sometime in the future cuts could be made. The fact is, right now, cuts have not been made. Then we have a long cock and bull story about the costs of transmission. Like the ABC expects to be able to transmit its anti-Australian propaganda for free.

Long story short – the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit very quickly changed its story. Increased funding for aged care is not a spending cut, but increased funding for the ABC is a spending cut.

For completeness: the journalist who wrote the fact check, Matt Martino, is an ABC employee and not an RMIT employee. So an ABC employee has fact-checked a true statement – finding it “Misleading” – on behalf of his own employer and then passed it off as being “independent”.

Sinclair Davidson is a professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, and an academic fellow at the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. His book co-authored with Chris Berg, Against Public Broadcasting: Why and how we should privatise the ABC, is available for purchase.

This piece originally appeared on Catallaxy Files

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