The Courier-Mail

Damned lies and the truth of fi­nan­cial sta­tis­tics

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TATIS­TICS can be both mis­lead­ing and alarm­ing.

One set of raw num­bers, es­pe­cially taken out of con­text, have the abil­ity paint a pic­ture that is far more op­ti­mistic – or bleak – than the un­der­ly­ing re­al­ity.

This would ap­pear to be the case with the Na­tional Ac­counts data re­leased in re­cent days, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to Queens­land.

At a na­tional level they showed Aus­tralia’s eco­nomic growth slow­ing to a crawl – only 0.2 per cent in the June quar­ter; barely a whiff of gov­ern­ment spend­ing and a hous­ing boom away from con­trac­tionary ter­ri­tory.

In Queens­land the mea­sures look, at face value, even worse.

Here the fig­ures show State Fi­nal De­mand, which mea­sures the sum of gov­ern­ment and house­hold con­sump­tion ex­pen­di­ture, com­bined with public and pri­vate in­vest­ment in fixed cap­i­tal, fall­ing for the fourth con­sec­u­tive quar­ter.

In trend terms, State Fi­nal De­mand in Queens­land was down 2.4 per cent year on year.

This fall was largely driven HE use of crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion as a weapon in Aus­tralian polit pol­i­tics has fast gath gath­ered mom mo­men­tum in rece re­cent years.

I It was once a de­vicedev com­mon mos mostly in the US, whe where op­po­nents sho shout “im­peach­ment”“im at the drop of a hat (or a pa pair of trousers).

H How­ever, Aus Aus­tralia is now a full­full-fledged impo im­porter of this dis­taste­ful tac­tic. dist

Royal com com­mis­sions, parl par­lia­men­tary inqu in­quiries and all ma man­ner of quasi­judi ju­di­cial con­coc­tions are now called by rul­ing ad­min­is­tra­tions to tramp tram­ple ad­ver­saries. The ev­i­den­tiaryevi bar such by a pre­cip­i­tous drop in busi­ness in­vest­ment, which was down 8.4 per cent in the June quar­ter and a whop­ping 28.3 per cent over the past year.

There is no doubt that many Queens­land busi­nesses are do­ing it tough, and are in­quiries have to hur­dle is mea­sured by the is­sue’s pop­u­lar­ity in opin­ion polls rather than any ac­tual proof a crime may have been com­mit­ted. A waft, usu­ally fanned by the sen­si­tive noses of con­spir­acy the­o­rists, will do.

The Ab­bott Gov­ern­ment has spent tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on such in­quiries. Its

aR probe into unions has un­earthed some out­ra­geous cases of bul­ly­ing and in­tim­ida­tory tac­tics de­ployed by the CFMEU but it has fallen short of ex­pos­ing sys­temic cor­rup­tion.

The for­mer New­man gov­ern­ment spawned a few in­quiries of its own. Its health look­ing for some clear di­rec­tion from gov­ern­ment when it comes to ar­eas such as tax­a­tion re­lief and in­dus­try pol­icy.

Out­side the min­ing sec­tor though, the pic­ture may not be rosy, but nor is it as bleak as the head­line num­bers might sug­gest.

The ma­jor com­po­nent of the plunge in busi­ness in­vest­ment was new en­gi­neer­ing con­struc­tion, which was down by nearly 50 per cent year on year.

This doesn’t mean in­vest­ment across Queens­land’s wider econ­omy has ground to a pay­roll probe pro­duced a use­ful road map for IT pro­cure­ment but largely served to just rewind and replay the colos­sal cock-up.

Amid the fer­vour of find­ing it­self in power, the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to in­dulge in its own royal com­mis­sion reck­on­ing.

In per­haps the most illde­fined and ill-ad­vised in­quiry to date, La­bor wants to probe do­na­tions ac­cepted and de­ci­sions made by the LNP.

In the space of 24 hours this week, Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk and her min­is­ters gave three ver­sions about what the in­quiry was all about.

It would mostly be trained on the LNP’s ap­proval of the Acland Stage 3 coal mine and owner New Hope’s do­na­tions. It would ex­tend to cur­rent and pre­vi­ous La­bor ad­min­is­tra­tions. But it may not in­clude union do­na­tions.

Through­out the LNP’s term, green groups and a par­tic­u­lar shock jock cre­ated a stink over Acland’s ap­proval halt, but rather re­flects the end of the $60 bil­lion con­struc­tion phase of the three gi­ant LNG plants in Gladstone and as­so­ci­ated in­fra­struc­ture.

Strip out this mas­sive spike and what you have is busi­ness in­vest­ment in Queens­land re­turn­ing to more “nor­mal” lev­els.

In fact, in terms of what the statis­ti­cians call “pri­vate fixed cap­i­tal for­ma­tion”, Queens­land is still in­vest­ing at lev­els higher than those pre­vail­ing prior to the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis.

This sud­den drop in ac­tiv­ity – from highly and drew a link with hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in do­na­tions.

The fact the vast ma­jor­ity of the money went to the Fed­eral Lib­eral Party, not the LNP, never mat­tered.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, there’s not a shred of ev­i­dence to show that proper ap­proval pro­cesses were sub­verted.

La­bor orig­i­nally planned to or­der the Crime and Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion to un­der­take a public in­quiry.

The prob­lem is they can’t, un­less they get the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee that over­sees the CCC to is­sue the or­der which would be a highly du­bi­ous de­ci­sion.

All the Gov­ern­ment can do and should do, is use the same av­enue open to ev­ery­one else; write to the CCC with what­ever ev­i­dence (if any) they have and al­low the ex­perts to make an as­sess­ment.

They seem de­ter­mined to do more, how­ever, no doubt driven by a de­sire to even the el­e­vated lev­els – and the shift to the pro­duc­tion phase of the re­sources boom was al­ways go­ing to oc­cur, re­gard­less of which side of pol­i­tics was in power, or what poli­cies they adopted.

Bear in mind also that the State Fi­nal De­mand fig­ures don’t take into ac­count ex­ports, in­ven­to­ries or ac­cu­rately re­flect de­mand at a lo­cal gov­ern­ment level.

For that we need to wait for the re­lease of Trea­sury’s state ac­counts data, which is likely to paint a far more nu­anced pic­ture.

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