Treasury makes arithmetic errors?

Laurie Oakes writing in the Herald Sun:

There had been another stark example of Turnbull being let down a day earlier, when Treasurer Scott Morrison introduced legislation for proposed Budget savings that turned out to contain a $100 million error.

Someone, presumably in Treasury, had added up a series of figures and got the sum wrong. The blunder was not picked up by Morrison or his office, but Labor shadow treasurer Chris Bowen spotted it very quickly.

Turnbull was not at fault. The PM can hardly be expected to whip out a calculator and check the maths before Bills hit the parliament. But the incident undermined his attempts to demonstrate he heads a competent government, just as losing a series of divisions in parliament greatly weakened his claim that a slim majority does not equal instability.

An arithmetic error is a pretty embarrassing mistake to make. Yet we all know that it is an easy mistake to make and more importantly that it would have been a mistake. The problem for the government is that it is a mistake everyone understands.

Unlike, say, the stimulusgate (pdf) “mistake” where Treasury dropped observations from their regression model until the data confirmed their analysis. Or the FuelWatch “mistake” where the ACCC analysis suffered from omitted variable bias. Or the corporate tax forecasting “mistake” where it turned out that Treasury wasn’t forecasting the corporate tax base at all. I could go on – there was the carbon tax modelling, the mining tax modelling, the 2012 return to surplus, the plain packaging modelling, and so on.

The problem is that Turnbull is going to be crucified for an actual mistake simply because people can understand the error. Previous government have gotten away with actual falsehoods because the issues are complex.

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27 Responses to Treasury makes arithmetic errors?

  1. jupes says:

    The blunder was not picked up by Morrison or his office, but Labor shadow treasurer Chris Bowen spotted it very quickly.

    Wow.

    If you are being beclowned by that tool, then best retire to the backbench and not seek re-election.

  2. Steve says:

    The problem with Treasury’s superannuation Ministers advisers is that it has been a decade since there have been any of them that have actually worked at the coal face, ie in the private sector. Hence the clueless solutions being offered, not to mention the bizarre silo approach to savings. Savings simply do not operate in a vacuum, regardless of how much various Ministers are given lines to trot out lines about how evil it is for hard working Aussies to desire leaving inheritances for their family.

  3. Tel says:

    If you are being beclowned by that tool, then best retire to the backbench and not seek re-election.

    Too much coincidence.

    Sack all of Treasury (seriously) and hire from outside the bubble. In the words of Trump, “What have you got to lose?”

  4. mem says:

    Ah but Turnbull is having a run of mistakes.In fact he seems to be specializing in them. And as we all know if the message keeps on being repeated eventually it sinks in and becomes the persona. I mean if you were running a business and needed a new CEO would you take the chance of employing Turnbull?

  5. Combine Dave says:

    If you are being beclowned by that tool, then best retire to the backbench and not seek re-election.

    Turnbull must resign at once.

    He’s the leader of this error making, vote missing clown show of a government.

  6. H B Bear says:

    The last Treasurer who didn’t take anything emanating from Treasury at face value was Costello. Since then they have all been lead around by the nose by the Wombat Whisperer and his disciples.

    ETS modelling and RSPT anyone?

  7. ACTOldFart says:

    Treasury seems error-prone, and has been for years, as Prof Davidson has repeatedlt demonstrated. But we are also seeing it in other major agencies, such as the ABS,s Great Census Stuff-Up, the Electoral Commission losing crucial votes forcing a new election, and so on.

    Is there a systemic underlying reason for this litany of stupidity? Are all those workplace gender equity and diversity programs, and their baleful influence on recruitment and promotion, coming home to roost?

  8. Roger says:

    If you are being beclowned by that tool, then best retire to the backbench and not seek re-election.

    Quite obviously Bowen is not the tool here. The tools are in Treasury. And Morrison has be-clowned himself. He is not up to the job.

    Neither is PM Maladroit, it seems.

    “Stable government”…whenever shall we see that again?

  9. Entropy says:

    ETS modelling and RSPT anyone?

    I was wondering if anyone was going to mention that one: the rolled gold, arse clown assumption by Treasury that there would be a truly global, international emissions trading scheme in which all our major trade competitors and trade partners would be active members. This end of the rainbow scenario was to be in place by: wait for it: are you ready? Don’t laugh now: 2016.

    There was no sensitivity analysis or alternate scenario modelled where this pipe dream didn’t happen. Right then I knew Treasury was hopelessly corrupted.

    The ignorant wankers probably are either blaming hating the real world for having the temerity to not conform with their model, or muttering darkly of the role that Tony Abbott played in all this.

  10. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Lately the government has been having trouble counting to 76.
    I can see why 6,100,000,000 might be hard.

  11. Mike of Marion says:

    I’ve just heard that Costello has been admitted to hospital with a serious injury

    Hurt himself grievously laughing so much at this excuse for a government!!

  12. Snoopy says:

    Chris Bowen couldn’t find his ears without assistance. It was obviously leaked.

  13. Pyrmonter says:

    @ jupes, @ Roger

    … at least it wasn’t the still more insufferable Tony Burke.

  14. Rabz says:

    Is there a systemic underlying reason for this litany of stupidity?

    Yes. They are absurdly overpaid to do way too little and what they do produce is monumentally incorrect rubbish.

    S.I.D.
    F.T.A.

  15. miltonf says:

    Canberra is an abomination.

  16. Habib says:

    If a drooling window-licker like Bowen (or at least his flunkies) can pick this up when not one of the government members, staffers or public servants did shows the diabolical level of their incompetence and unfitness for office. Stupidity mixed with cupidity is a dangerous combination.

  17. slow&easy says:

    Habib, there may be an other explanation, but it leads to ridiculous theories.
    Still, I can’t see Bowen being able pick up dog turd, let alone a mistake like this.

  18. No Eynestine says:

    I once had a professor of economics tell me “They are a pretty bright bunch up there in Caberra.” In response to a querie I had about GDP and why this is not examined against balance sheet. This was in the Guillard years. I later found out that he also advised treasury. Lol.

  19. Ross B says:

    Turnbull was not at fault. The PM can hardly be expected to whip out a calculator and check the maths before Bills hit the parliament.

    Notice how Turnbull is never himself at fault for anything? No buck ever stops at his desk.

    If anyone in any field out in the rest of the planet made a $100m mistake their feet wouldn’t hit the ground. In Canberra – it’s just fine.

  20. Andrew says:

    A reminder: Bowen was the Treasurer who announced a doubling of motor vehicle FBT that caused memos to be sent to Detroit and Tokyo closing down the car industry. He knew that this would result in an announcement after the election – it was becoming embarrassing that Ford closed during the Gillard term, and he needed all the others to close to cause a distraction. He shouldn’t be given oxygen.

    And no, I don’t mean that metaphorically.

  21. Andrew says:

    And yes as Snoopy says it was rigged. They left a typo in – plausible, “hit the wrong key” stuff and tipped off Bowen.

  22. Rayvic says:

    But is not Treasury a professional outfit?

    If so, it should not be making any mistakes.

  23. Dr Faustus says:

    But is not Treasury a professional outfit?

    As Entropy points out above, regarding the ETS:

    There was no sensitivity analysis or alternate scenario modelled where this pipe dream [the 2016 Global ETS] didn’t happen.

    That was either a massive and unforgiveable modelling blunder – or arrogantly partisan participation in the ETS decision. Probably the latter, but either way, a systematic professional failure on the part of Treasury and certainly not a ‘thick finger’ calculator error.

  24. Steve says:

    Yes Andrew, Bowen was, & will continue to be, a disaster. The Salary Packaging melt-down that he & Gillard unleashed was an unrivalled fiasco.

  25. 1234 says:

    Ha, ha, ha. To quote a former LNP PM, we will be a government of no excuses! Previous governments have got away with actual falsehoods – oh really – boo hoo! Whoops, Morrison underestimates revenue, sorry “earnings”, again. The LNP is in power now, not Labor. Stop excusing them.

  26. JohnA says:

    ACTOldFart #2137681, posted on September 4, 2016, at 6:06 pm

    Treasury seems error-prone, and has been for years…

    Is there a systemic underlying reason for this litany of stupidity? Are all those workplace gender equity and diversity programs, and their baleful influence on recruitment and promotion, coming home to roost?

    No, it’s the impact of 30-40 years (at least) of dumbing down the curriculum and churning out students who cannot think – for themselves or for anyone else. Students who cannot see the ill-logic of a quota scheme replacing promotion by merit.

  27. Mother Lode says:

    Bowen had to have been tipped off. He showed no acumen and just repeated the Treasury line when he was Treasurer – nor for the duration of that entire vaudevillian government he repeatedly pratfell in.

    Treasury would far prefer Labor in. All they need do is issue reports from time to time telling the government that sunny tomorrows can be summoned just by increasing spending and gifts to favoured clients and they will never have to be right.

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