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  • rmacculloch

TVNZ asked academics to "fact check" the leaders debate & the academics got it wrong

TVNZ asked academics at the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland to "fact check" statements made by the Leaders of Labour and National during the debates. The article does not say who are these academics. They found that Hipkins was right to say inflation is coming down. That's news to me - I thought the Governor of the Reserve Bank and Finance Minister had repeatedly blamed Putin and the weather for our high inflation - do the academics know both will be behaving themselves the next year?

The academics labelled 6 statements by Luxon as either "mostly untrue" or "false" compared to 0 by Hipkins. The "mostly untrue" statement they refer to is as follows:

• Foreign home buyers tax would bring in $750 million (Luxon) - in reality, it is estimated to be about $210 million.

I disagree with the academics understanding of "reality" - the reality they refer to is a non peer-reviewed, non published opinion by a bunch of three folks who asserted the number was more like $210 million - one of authors doesn't have an economics degree and another has been retired for seven years. How on earth can one label National's figures as "mostly untrue" when none of us has much idea where the truth lies on this matter, since it is very difficult to estimate and there is huge margin of error in any measurement?

Of the 5 "false" statements they list, one is about economics, my subject:

• No fruit and veg GST savings will be passed on to customers (Luxon) - Grocery Commissioner will monitor pricing to prevent this.

However the academics are themselves wrong - since the Grocery Commissioner's legal powers to enforce passing on the GST cut only apply when anti-competitive behavior is being practiced. If the elasticity of demand of fruit & veges is very high (that is, even a tiny drop in prices would lead to a large increase in demand) then barely any of the GST cut would be passed on to customers. Hence it is legitimate for Luxon to hold that view, unless the academics can produce evidence of their own elasticity-of-demand estimates across a range of such products that support their view (which they haven't done).

I suggest TVNZ be more careful when it "fact checks" our party Leaders and labels things as "mostly untrue" or "false". The only patently false statement I have heard these past days was the PM stating that the whole 100% tax cut on fruit and veges would be passed onto consumers, because he had appointed a "grocery commissioner". What a porker.



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