Friday, July 22, 2011

Telling lies in parliament

Rupert Murdoch stands to go to jail if he is found to mislead parliament during the recent enquiry into the phone hacking scandal in the UK. I assume the same law applies in Australia. However, it appears that the law does not apply to parliamentarians. They can and do intentionally mislead one another and the public by selectively quoting certain survey results, studies, and modellings that fit their agenda while rejecting those that do not.

A recent article in The Australian newspaper (Open your kimono and show us your modelling*) highlights the carbon tax deception by Gillard and Wayne Swan. The modelling is designed to mislead the public by underestimating the costs. Here are just a few extracts from the article:

"...the model does not provide for the mandated decommissioning of the Hazelwood and possibly Yallourn power stations in Victoria. ..... Treasury's modelling seems to defer the cost until at least 2025 and maybe until 2040. That conveniently reduces the estimated hit to electricity prices."

"...The modelling assumes emitters can borrow permits from the future. And borrow they do, on a scale that puts Greece to shame. By 2050, emitters worldwide have borrowed four years' global permit allocations from the future. Using Treasury's estimate of future carbon prices, that is equivalent to a net debt of $10.7 trillion in 2011 dollars, or 10 times Australia's current national output. And the total value of those net borrowings would rise at 6 to 8 per cent a year, far exceeding the growth rate of world incomes."

 "....without access to the model no one can say by how much. And that suits the government. For Treasury's modelling presumably reflects assumptions determined by the government, such as that all industrial countries have carbon taxes in place by 2016 or behave as if they did."

Surveys, studies, and modellings can be very misleading. They all have some commonalities: the result is fully dependent on the underlying assumptions, how the work is framed, and how the results are analysed. If not properly done, the result will be biased at best. Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan could be using a "biased modelling" approach to mislead the public. Ask yourself; should that be a jailable offence?


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