ABC ‘catches’ Lambie telling fibs

Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie says Australia isn’t spending enough on defence.

“Australia’s defence spending as a ratio of our GDP (1.5 per cent) is the lowest it’s ever been since pre-World War II when aggressive, anti-democratic, totalitarian governments in Germany and Japan caught us napping,” she said in a press release on August 19.

ABC Fact Check investigates how much Australia spends on defence.

Okay – let see how that works out.

Defence spending was 1.71 per cent of GDP in 2013-14, and is projected to be higher in 2014-15.

In 1938-39 it was 1.5 per cent. The lowest it has been since then is 1.62 per cent in 2002-03 and again in 2012-13.

Defence spending as a ratio of GDP is not the lowest it’s been since before World War II.

Senator Lambie is incorrect.

Strictly speaking I suppose 1.71% > 1.62%. That is a difference of 0.09% – is that even a rounding error?

Well probably not – but it gets worse. The first thing to note is that the ABC claims that Australia spent $27 billion in total on defence is 2013-14 and that makes up 1.71% of GDP. Well, not according to the Budget Papers that report Australia only spent $25.665 billion on defence in that year (BP1 pg. 6-17). The next question is, “What is GDP in that year?” Well I can reverse out two numbers either $1.579 trillion or $1.582 trillion. Okay – so lets split the difference and say the Australian economy was $1.58 trillion in 2013-14. That means defence spending according to the Australian government via its own budget papers was 1.62% of GDP in 2013-14, not 1.71% as the ABC claims.

Now where does Lambie’s 1.5% figure come from? Well she has taken the figure of $22.84 billion (BP1, page 6-16) and divided that by the estimate of GDP. Using my estimate that comes out at 1.445% of GDP and with a generous round-up that’s her 1.5%. That calculation doesn’t take net capital investment into account.

So, um, Jacqui Lambie is in fact correct. Well, okay, if you insist, partially correct; defence spending is at all time equal lows since WWII, but not the lowest.

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44 Responses to ABC ‘catches’ Lambie telling fibs

  1. John Williams

    Just reinforces the point I make continually.
    Politicians are not leaders.
    They are clerks.
    And to paraphrase Packer ” they are a bunch of fucking useless wankers”
    Actually I believe that is what he said.
    Just don’t quote me.

  2. Bert

    I don’t agree Sinc. The fact is Defence spending has increased in real terms since WW2. Comparing it to GDP is a cop out which you would condemn in any other part of Government spending. Why should Defence spending be compared to GDP? Peter Costello said in one speech that those who advocate a fixed percentage to GDP spending on Defence are effectively condoning a Government increasing the ratio by driving the economy into a recession (ie: reducing GDP while holding the numerator constant).

  3. Roger

    Meanwhile, the LDP believes that “primary responsibility for the defence of Australia’s landmass should be transferred to a part-time force” (LDP Defence Policy, para. 17).

  4. Sinclair Davidson

    Bert – I’m happy to agree that comparisons to GDP can be very misleading. I’m simply crunching the numbers that are in dispute and forming an opinion on the accuracy of what Lambie said and then what the ABC said.

  5. A great proportion of defence spending is on defence bureaucracy.
    A great proportion is also spent on over-priced union boondoggles like home-made submarines.

  6. The fact is Defence spending has increased in real terms since WW2. Comparing it to GDP is a cop out which you would condemn in any other part of Government spending

    Defence spending is typically benchmarked against GDP, not just here but internationally.
    You can argue that there are better ways of doing it, but that’s how it’s done.
    Lambie was right to use GDP as the benchmark.

  7. Bert

    Yes, Defence spending is usually stated as a percentage of GDP. But it is misleading. What matters are the resources provided to Defence. And in that there can be no doubt – real spending has increased.

    If GDP rises by 5% and CPI rises by 2% and Defence spending rises by 3% than it cannot be argued that Defence spending has been cut, although it has fallen as a percentage of GDP.

  8. Notafan

    Will Lambie hate the Abc with a passion now?

  9. Andrew

    Obviously misogynists at the ABC. Isn’t that right Frightbat Jenna?

  10. Clam Chowdah

    You warmonger! What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

  11. Defence is the single most important function of state.
    We don’t expect much of our rulers but we expect them to protect us from foreign invasion.

    (and before various dickheads pipe up with “how likely is that?” the answer is that I wasn’t talking about how likely it is, I was making the clear and irrefutable observation that it’s the fundamental function of state, any state).

  12. Baldrick

    Is this why we (taxpayers) pay millions to run TheirABC’s FactCheck unit? FME.
    Rabz mantra needed badly.

  13. Chris M

    Will Lambie hate the Abc with a passion now?

    Well the smart thing for Abbott to do now is to placate her by transferring the entire ABC budget over to defence.

  14. Andreas

    You warmonger! What the world needs now is love, sweet love.

    That, and cultured reason.

  15. C.L.

    Wow, the ABC ‘fact checkers’ are really going for the big guns.

    Next up, Brynne Edelsten…

    Her diary not in fact bedazzled.

  16. JC

    So we got your fact checking for free while their ABC costs the taxpayer around $10 million a year.

  17. In fairness it might be said that the ABC has caught a much bigger fish in the PUP telling fibs as much I am surprised to admit it.

    I caught a portion of Media Watch just now. An interesting exposure of a dangerous inexactitude for and by Mr Palmer about an imaginary group of pensioners in his electorate that Mr Palmer has been telling all week while attacking government budget policy. The ABC figures are much harder.

  18. C.L.

    Yes, I saw that.

    That fat imbecile misrepresented 15 percent of a weekly pension for 15 dollars.

  19. JC


    Don’t rely on anything Media Watch says. Anything. They’re just fucking liars and taxeating cheats.

    It’s not a given that fatso is lying, because we don’t know what deal the four old gals (if they do exist) have with the nursing home. What incidenals are they being charged for over and above the basic rates. Lots of homes have different things that they charge for.

    For instance, some places have haircuts built into the cost, others have free foot care. Others don’t.

    Palmer may have been right to cite those four birds and the Media arseholes could have lied or got it totally wrong. I wish Palmer is wrong/lying, but you just don’t know and can’t rely on one single thing their ABC says.

  20. JC


    the best outcome is the find out both fucked it up or get it entirely wrong, so they both come out with shit on their faces.

  21. JC

    Interesting their ABC is going after PUP, no? It’s not because they supported the junking of the carbonic tax, is it?

    Look, don’t get me wrong as I don’t want to sound as though I’m defending PUP, as I despise them more than anything except perhaps their ABC, the Greenscum and Liars.

  22. C.L.

    Media Watch got it right.

    Nursing homes are prevented by law from leaving any less than 15 percent of the fortnightly pension with the recipient. That’s a hundred and thirty bucks or something like that.

    Clive obviously saw “15” and thought it meant 15 bucks a week.

  23. JC


    Are you sure about that, because I thought the actual cut-off isn’t laid in stone. You can have regular services taken out and they charge it up to the account.

  24. JC

    They can’t charge more for the basic prescribed government sanctioned services, but they can hit you for other services like physio , hair, feet etc.

  25. JC

    Anyways, I watched Ray Donovan this evening and felt better for it. Peoples, don’t watch Q&A!

  26. Ant

    Would Lambie prefer soldiers well hung rather than well armed?

  27. C.L.

    Media Watch got the dope on this from the aged care outfit.

    Anyway, Palmer claims these four old birds pool their $15 and go off on an outing with $60.

    Cab to the city, chocolate and coffee and a movie. Cab home.

    On $60.

    Palmer the idiot hasn’t noticed the price of such things since the 1970s.

  28. Media Watch got the dope on this from the aged care outfit.

    There’s a problem already.
    I’m going to stick my head up over the sandbags & say Clive is likely to be closer to the actual number than is Media Watch.

  29. C.L.

    Let’s not be childish.

    Palmer is wrong. End of story.

  30. wreckage

    Pool their $15 and buy dinner and a drink each, coming to about $15 a piece if they’re careful.

    Or they could go to a movie, provided they get a lift there and don’t want dinner.

    I spose if they got a lift, they could see a movie, and get a cheeseburger and a coffee from maccas on the way home.

  31. C.L.

    Media Watch video and transcript are up:

    … Aged & Community Services Australia emailed Clive Palmer to tell him the story could not be true, because nursing homes are not allowed to leave so little money in pensioners’ pockets.

    Residents of aged care facilities keep 15% of their Age Pension (not $15). That means a Single Pensioner would keep $126.42 a fortnight.

    — Heather Witham, Aged and Community Services Australia, 20th August, 2014

    Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield … and two leading pension organisations all assured us that the pensioners would have far more than $15 …

    So the four ladies have about $500 to spend.

    Let’s say two cab fares (to and fro) amount to $80. Four coffees and cakes in the city: probably $60-80. Four movie tickets (with pensioners’ discount): I’m guessing here – another $80? Snacks? $50. They’ve still got about $200 in the kitty. No worries.

  32. Much as I appreciate the gut appeal of the Steve at the Pub response I’m sticking with first response.

    The figures are wrong. $60 as opposed to something like ten times that? Sure there are nursing home charges but which ever way you cut it $400 is a pretty good night on the town even in Maroochydore.

    Here it is if you missed it.
    Can’t be right even if the old gals turn out to be hiding out Finks bikies in disguise.

  33. Robert O.

    And the late Kerry Packer made the comment as to why should he pay an iota of tax more than should to support the spongers of society.

  34. Diogenes

    Maybe they should move to Melboring…

    A DANDENONG disability pensioner admits he was stunned to become ­Melbourne’s newest millionaire after sensationally snaring almost $3 million playing Keno at his local pub.

    Friends say Kenedi, who quit work after injuring his back 13 years ago and does not want his surname revealed, is a true “Aussie battler” who has been living off a meagre pension since 2001…

    The part-time punter had been back from a trip to Macedonia for only a day when he dropped into the Jim Dandy Hotel and outlaid $50 on fifty $1 10-number Keno games and then went to play a poker machine.

    HT BoltA

    Wish I could afford a flight to Macedonia (or anywhere OS for that matter) and a $50 flutter.

  35. Tel

    Yes, Defence spending is usually stated as a percentage of GDP. But it is misleading. What matters are the resources provided to Defence. And in that there can be no doubt – real spending has increased.

    What matters is that you have enough to discourage anyone thinking about taking over the place.

  36. Toiling Mass

    Aussiepundit raises a significant point.

    It is not just how much is spent, but what it is spent on.

    Apart from an enormous bureaucracy, there is money spent on gender re-assignment, caucey-bits enhancements, various social re-engineering programs etc.

    Before WWII there was a much narrower focus for the armed forces. Now ‘defence of the realm’ is much lower, somewhere between the ‘Muslim King Penguin Outreach Program’ and the ‘Taskforce for Sustainable Tigermoth Maintenance’.

  37. Des Deskperson

    ‘Defence is the single most important function of state.’

    Precisely, and that’s also precisely why it has always been so difficult to tackle waste and inefficiency in Defence, it’s role and function. and hence its budget, are more or less unassailable.

    As I’ve argued before, Defence doesn’t need more money, it needs less!!

  38. Rococo Liberal

    Can some of the experts here explain to me this % of GDP stuff?

    I note that ALP types use it all the time when talking about the huge debt they left us.

    Surely the % of GDP is a meaningless measure; the Government doesn’t have access to the GDP. They can only get some of it in taxes. WOuldn’t the better measure be % of government revenue or spending?

    By measuring government actions by GDP aren’t you promoting the idea that somehow the State is all important, rather than a mere tool of the people and the market?

  39. Kaboom

    Rococo, building solid gold pyramids to honour each deceased Prime Minister would also increase the GDP…

  40. Rococo Liberal

    Thanks Kaboom

    Methinks that such pryamids would be of more use than most government spending.

  41. .


    Our defence is tasked already largely to the reserves. Our full time defence force really consists of a few special forces and commando battalions with barely enough, poorly supplied small air and surface fleet and few too many submarines. We have in theory a large land army but deployment times have a huge lag.

    The problem is we spend too much on shit that boondoggles unions and don’t have enough weapons platforms and munitions, particularly long range, high capacity PGMs.

    If you cut the bureaucrats, rationalised the process of training and deployment and bought proven, off the shelf technology, not only would the LDP be proven right, the nationalists would get everything they wanted bar conscription.

    What the mission of the ADF is now, cannot said to be carried out in practice. They are used like a secondary RFS/CFA or SES. This is straight up silly.

  42. .


    A welathy nation need not spend as much on GDP.

    The truly wealthy can cap their GDP at a low level. Once the US had second and third strike nuclear capability (and SDI), I’d assert that anymore defence spending would be wasteful, as if GDP went up, it would do no good to buy an ever increasing amount of thermonuclear arms. There is a level of satiating consumption in defence.

    This is also why the free rider argument about defence and compulsory taxation is invalid, at least in part.

  43. Sinclair Davidson

    %GDP is a convenience for comparison and standardisation. Like all conveniences it is useful for some purposes and not others.

  44. Justin


    Isn’t all this % of GDP spending argument a bit of a con? And not just in defence.

    Surely the appropriate amount to spend depends on the strategic and financial resources at hand.

    Spending as a percentage of GDP is completely arbitrary.

    Worse still in a booming economy it works like a wealth tax allowing defence to spend up big.

    Of course in down times the percentage spend if maintained would look impressive even though the same dollars are being spent.

    The constant use of % of GDP measures of government expenditure as though there is some magic number just seems to blur the lines of spending and accountability and create fictions of fiscal responsibility.

    What are your thoughts?

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