News & Current Affairs
15 April 2015
by Matthew Knott
Karl Kruszelnicki steps up concerns over 'flawed' Intergenerational Report
The man appearing on television screens across the country promoting the Abbott government's Intergenerational Report - science broadcaster Karl Kruszelnicki - has hardened his stance against the document, describing it as "flawed" and admitting to concerns that it was "fiddled with" by the government.
Dr Kruszelnicki, widely known as Dr Karl, has previously revealed that he had not read the full report before he agreed to front the taxpayer-funded campaign, which is expected to cost millions.
The Intergenerational Report - a snapshot of Australia's economy and society in 40 years - was criticised by Labor as a "highly political document" for, among other things, downgrading climate change from its own chapter in 2010 to three-and-a-half pages in 2015.
"As far as I can see, it's a flawed report,"
Dr Kruszelnicki told Fairfax Media.
He singled out the reduced focus on climate change in this year's report for criticism. "In no way am I endorsing the government's stance on climate change. I think it is incredibly short-sighted," he said.
Dr Kruszelnicki - who has appeared in advertisements for the report running prominently on commercial television, news websites and social media - has also tweeted comments criticising the government for cutting funding to the CSIRO. The report emphasises the value of scientific research and innovation.
Dr Kruszelnicki said: "The only reason I agreed to do it [promote the report] is because I was told that it would be independent, bipartisan and non-political.
"If it turns out to have been fiddled with or subject to political interference from one side of politics I would deeply regret playing any part in it whatsoever."
Dr Kruszelnicki said he agreed to front the campaign after reading extracts on the ageing of the population and the changing nature of work.
He said the independence of the document is now unclear.
The 2015 Intergenerational Report uses three scenarios for future budget projections: the Abbott government's planned policies; the government's legislated policies; and the policy settings in place in December 2013 (described by the government as Labor's policy settings).
The government has used the discrepancies between the different projections to hammer Labor's record as an economic manager.
"The document shows that we have halved Labor's debt and deficit going forward," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said when the report was released. "Debt as a percentage of GDP which would have been 120 per cent under the policies of the former government is about 60 per cent under the policies of this government."
Dr Kruszelnicki said there had been "curious" differences between Treasurer Joe Hockey and Treasury officials in their statements on the independence of the report.
Treasury deputy secretary Nigel Ray told Senate hearings last month that the the report's content was "a matter for the government" and Treasury secretary John Fraser has described it as "a document of the Treasurer".
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Mr Hockey said: "The IGR, as has been the case with the previous three documents, was produced by the Department of Treasury."
Mr Hockey's spokesman declined to release the cost of the information campaign.
"If we are to get the most benefit out of the IGR, it is essential the community is well informed and has every opportunity to engage in the conversation about our future," the spokesman said.
"The Intergenerational Report, which has been released by both sides of politics, presented an opportunity for that discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing our country."
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said: "You know Joe Hockey is struggling when even the person he paid to sell the Intergenerational Report has rubbished it.
"Joe Hockey needs to end this taxpayer funded TV and Internet campaign now.
"Mr Hockey also needs to come clean on the cost of the TV ad campaign."