Today saw the release by the QLD Premier’s Office the latest quarterly Renewal Program Achievements report for the first quarter of 2014 (although much data relates to the period up to Dec 2013). At first glance there appears to be much to celebrate with good news stories abounding in the fields of health, transport, education and red-tape (you can download the full report here).
The report generally makes comparison between data available for March 2012 (when the LNP took over) and the most recent available; as it should. However, there are a few interesting occasions when that rational approach is not taken and instead data is “cherry-picked” to suit the narrative. This is, I guess, inevitable when politicians are involved but is nevertheless not something that we intend to let slip past without comment. In particular we have taken a close look at the claims made within the document with regard to improvements in the labour market and tourism. This is what we found:-
When considering the labour market the report slips from its usual term of reference (i.e. since Mar 2012) and rather uses a convenient (for the report) 12 months to Dec 2013. Using that time frame it claims that QLD led the nation in new jobs created in the 12 months to Dec 2013. This is true (although the 44,400 claimed has since been revised down to 40,200). However, if we apply the normal “since Mar 2012” reference point used within most of the report the story is rather different. Jobs created from Mar 2012 to Dec 2013 are:-
QLD slips down the list to fourth.
The report also uses the 12 months to Dec 2013 when considering the unemployment rate and highlights the fact that QLD was the only state to see a decline in the unemployment rate in that period. That also is true; although the 0.2% reduction has since been revised to just a 0.1% reduction. Again, using the more realistic data since Mar 2012 we see changes in the unemployment rate are:-
Although QLD no longer shows as the “best” state its performance is certainly much better than the national average and is beaten only by the 2 territories (whose data is Trend not seasonally adjusted and therefore liable to be less volatile anyway). The “since Mar 2012” data is good for QLD so why has the report cherry-picked to try and make it look even better. Do the pollies not trust Queenslanders to understand that in an environment where national unemployment has risen by 0.8% that a 0.4% increase is a good result?
When it comes to international tourism the report reverts back to the “since Mar 2012” protocol. However, rather than looking at the state as a whole it chooses to focus largely on TNQ. The reason for this is obvious; the surge in Chinese visitors to Australia has had a massive positive effect in the Far North. As the report points out, Chinese visitors to TNQ were up 64% (from Mar ’12 to Sept ’13) and up 38% to QLD. What the report doesn’t note is that international visitors to Australia were up 7.1% from Mar ’12 to Sept ’13 but they rose only 6% in QLD (and have actually fallen in the most recent data for Dec ’13). The Chinese effect in TNQ meant that total international visitors to the Far North were up 15% in the period. International tourism is certainly on the up in QLD (due largely to the Chinese) but the state has lagged the nation as a whole since Mar ’12 and our share of the international market has fallen from 35.4% to 35.0% over the period.
When it moves onto domestic tourism the report reverts back to the “year to” protocol (in this case Sept ’13); and the reasons are obvious. Again the report focuses on TNQ and shows a healthy 13.6% increase for the year to Sept ’13. That’s a great result for the Far North when we consider that domestic tourism nationally was up 4.1% over that period. What the report leaves out is the fact that domestic tourism to QLD grew just 1.9% over that year to Sept ’13. Indeed, if we return to the “since Mar ’12” basis we see that domestic tourism nationally was up 3.6% while to QLD it actually fell 1.1% (TNQ was +5%). Again what we see is the Far North doing well but QLD as a whole has again lagged behind the nation since March 2012.
It’s clear that there are some genuine good news stories in the report. However, once again, we are disappointed (although not surprised) by the blatant, clumsy manipulation of data to support (or enhance) a narrative. When will politicians realise that the electorate are not all fools and that a genuine, truthful explanation is the better route to take rather than trying to pull the wool over their eyes?