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Get fact 2017: The year that was in fact checking

by December 21, 2017 General

And there was no shortage of claims to check.

Here’s our wrap up of the facts and furphies of the year.

Government claims

The Government was out in force pushing its legislative agenda this year, which gave us the opportunity to clarify the facts on a number of key issues.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed that bank levies of the kind proposed by the Government were “common right around the developed world”, mentioning Europe in particular.

Fact Check looked at the arrangements in other developed countries, and found that many European countries had indeed introduced bank levies, but that they differed in their primary aim from the Government’s proposal.

Furthermore, other parts of “the developed world” did not follow the example of Europe, so Mr Turnbull’s claim was found to be exaggerated.

On another of the Government’s big legislative priorities, cutting the corporate tax rate, Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed that if the Labor Party doesn’t support the Government’s plans, they “will leave Australian businesses stranded on a tax island — uncompetitive with the United States, with the United Kingdom, with Singapore”.

Fact Check found that if Labor agreed to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent as the Government plans, Australia would still continue to compare unfavourably with Singapore and the UK, where tax rates are lower.

And Mr Morrison made his claim after the Republican administration in the United States announced its plan to reduce the company tax rate from 35 per cent — above Australia’s rate — to 21 per cent.

Furthmore, the corporate tax rate was not the only factor influencing investment in Australia

Nonetheless, Mr Morrison accurately pointed to a widening gap between Australia’s company tax rate and the corporate tax rates of many other countries.

Fact check found his claim close to the mark.

Opposition claims

Fact Check also tested a number of claims made by the Labor Party.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s claim that Mr Turnbull announced a tax cut for millionaires and a tax hike for workers in the budget was found to be over the top.

Fact Check found that Mr Turnbull had not made any “announcement” about millionaire tax cuts in the budget.

Instead, the temporary budget repair levy, brought in by the Abbott government, was scheduled to expire, and would require the passing of new legislation to make permanent.

There was a tax increase in the budget, in the form of a Medicare levy hike, but this increase would apply to most people, including so-called “millionaires”.

In April this year, the Government proposed an overhaul of the citizenship test, including the introduction of a new separate English language test.

Opposition spokesman for citizenship and multicultural Australia Tony Burke claimed that the test would require a university-level standard of English.

Fact Check spoke to language testing experts and conducted research on the IELTS English competency bands required both to enter university, and to pass the new test.

Experts in the field were also contacted for their opinions, and Mr Burke was found to be correct. The policy was later shelved by the Government.

Same-sex marriage

Arguably the biggest issue in the national debate was whether to allow same-sex marriage.

Late in the year, the Government launched a non-compulsory postal survey of Australian voters, before the Marriage Act was finally amended by Parliament in December.

The postal survey gave Fact Check the opportunity to check four claims on the subject — two from the no campaign, and two from the yes campaign.

Minor parties

And speaking of same-sex marriage, who could forget Queensland MP Bob Katter’s response to a question on the subject, in which he declared he would spend no more time on the issue “[b]ecause in the meantime, every three months a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in north Queensland”?

Figures from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection showed that since 1985, there had been one fatal attack every three years, and that the two most recent fatal attacks occurred in March and October of this year — seven months apart — so Mr Katter was wrong.

We checked a number of other claims from the minor parties, which you can explore below.

The Golden Zombie

Fact Check awards the Golden Zombie for the inaccurate claim of the year which refused to die.

There were a number of strong contenders in 2017, including:

But we couldn’t go past Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s claim that “Malcolm Turnbull has announced a tax cut for millionaires,” which was repeated ad nauseam by members of the parliamentary Labor Party. We still find it to be over the top.