Mathias, the fast talking snake oil salesman

Definition: Gish Gallop

Named for the debate tactic created by creationist Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it.

On this mornings AM program the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, got a bit of a scare when he made a statement that included “getting rid of the carbon tax, getting rid of the mining tax which, incidentally, delivered $50 billion in savings over the decade”. Michael Brissenden tried to interrupt at that point and I think Mathias thought he was finally going to challenge this unlikely claim. He panicked and went for a Gish Gallop to try and cover his tracks.

But he needn’t have worried. Brissenden has never challenged it before and I doubt he has ever considered how bizarre that claim actually is. In fact none of our media have pulled up Mathias, or Tony Abbott for that matter, when they have made this claim before.

On the face of it, we seem to have a magic pudding situation where the sums don’t add up in the real world. If you want to make an unlikely claim then you should be pushed to explain it.

Mathias was going flat out this morning but if it was his intent to come away unchallenged then he must have forgotten that the AM program produces a transcript as well as the audio stream. This means you can examine the claims at your leisure and suddenly those casual word fillers can be examined closely.

The Mining Tax (to use his deceptive wording) is actually a Super Profits tax and designed only to generate money when mining is in a boom which it currently isn’t. This rewording was very important because the Liberal Party wanted to protect those who finance their election campaign and killing off a Super Profits tax would be a bit too obvious. Luckily for Mathias and co, the media use the term preferred by the Liberal Party and it looks like they have managed to manipulate the discussion away from the more descriptive term.

Of course it doesn’t help them explain how removing taxes can improve the Budget bottom line but with a compliant media they have not had to worry. It seems our media have about the same level of financial expertise as Joe Hockey.

Another deceptive tactic often used by Mathias is to claim Labor would have had such and such a debt level. I would hope that as Finance Minister he would appreciate that the Economy is a fluid beast that often requires tweaking even between Budgets. The failure of some of his predictions are a clear indication that it effects all governments regardless of party. The magical disappearance of the Black Hole even after the Budget was gutted in the Senate is a bit of a giveaway too. Some of his dreadful ideas for dealing with “the sky is falling” Economy, turned out not to be necessary after all.

Should we judge Mathias as deceptive or ignorant on financial matters. It’s a tough choice but on balance I guess I prefer him being a snake oil salesman rather than inept. Best that he knows he is bullshitting rather than being totally clueless.


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