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The wall of Ruddspeak

By Julie Bishop - posted Tuesday, 8 June 2010

George Orwell's novel 1984 depicts a futuristic totalitarian regime characterised by wars, oppression and public mind control.

In the fictitious superstate of Oceania, the ruling Party attempts to control not only the speech and actions but also the thoughts of its citizens by changing facts and rewriting history to fit Party propaganda and destroying any dissenter from the Party line.

The latest episode of spin-doctoring by the Rudd Government with its $38 million advertising campaign to correct, as a matter of "national emergency" the "misinformation" in the public debate over the super tax on mining profits, could be a chapter straight from 1984.


Having campaigned on an "absolute undertaking" to ban publicly funded advertising for the three months before an election unless there was bipartisan agreement, Kevin Rudd has broken yet another solemn promise to the Australian people. According to Kevin Rudd before the last election, government advertising is "a cancer on democracy".

The Prime Minister's claim that the government taxpayer funded advertising campaign on a mining tax is a matter of national emergency simply beggars belief.

A tax that is still the subject of "consultation" with the mining sector, a tax that is not to be imposed for another two years, requires "national emergency" measures? The only emergency is a political one for Kevin Rudd.

There is nothing to prevent the Prime Minister from calling press conferences to correct any misinformation he claims is being raised about the mining tax. He can make speeches in the national parliament to justify, defend and argue his case. After all, the government has the ear of every journalist in Australia.

Why exactly does the government need to resort to taxpayer funded advertising when it has access to all the free media coverage it could wish for? The answer is that its arguments are simply not credible.

The ultimate irony of course is the fact that it is the mining sector that has had to defend itself from the misleading claims of the government and not vice versa.


The government claimed the additional 40 per cent tax will apply to "super profits". Not true. The threshold is any profit in excess of the long-term bond rate (currently under 6 per cent) or the risk-free rate of return, which is not a super profit by any stretch of the imagination.

The government claimed that mining companies are "foreign owned". Not true. Many mining companies are Australian-owned or have a majority Australian ownership. Even the Big Australian, BHP Billiton, singled out by the government in its xenophobic rant against foreign companies, is 60 per cent Australian owned.

The government claimed these foreign companies are taking their profits offshore. Not true. Over the past decade mining companies have reinvested about 75 per cent of their cash generation back into Australia through royalties, taxes and capital development, with shareholders receiving 25 per cent.

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First published in the National Times on June 2, 2010.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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