The worst fact check ever?

AAP has done what is arguably the worst fact check of recent times. They seem unable to distinguish between what is a fact and an opinion.

National MP Simeon Brown said on TV:

“When we were in government we increased renewable energy from 65.4 percent to 81.9 percent. In the last three years this government has increased it by another 0.5 percent.”

AAP has labeled this as “Misleading”.

They check the data and find:

Mr Brown appears to be using calendar-year figures from the report (table 2).

The previous National government was elected on November 8, 2008, and figures for that year show 65.4 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources at the time.

The party left government on September 23, 2017. That year, 81.9 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewables – matching the figures Mr Brown quoted.

So Simeon had the data 100% accurate – even to the decimal point.

The Labour-led government formed on October 19, 2017. The MBIE data shows in 2019 the share of electricity that came from renewable sources was 82.4 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage points since 2017.

Again Simeon had the data absolutely correct.

Quarterly figures are also available and more closely align with the terms of the two governments (table 1).

Figures for the year to September 2008 show 64.0 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources prior to National taking power, but that proportion increased to 83.5 percent for the year to September 2017.

The most recent figures, for the year to June 2020, show renewable sources made up 82.2 percent of all electricity generation, a decrease of 1.3 percentage points on the year before Labour formed government.

It’s even worse for Labour if you use quarterly data.

So why did AAP claim the statement was misleading?

Experts warned against crediting National with changes in the renewable energy makeup during its last period of government.

University of Auckland senior economics lecturer Stephen Poletti has written multiple papers on New Zealand’s electricity market. He told AAP FactCheck geothermal electricity generation increased under the National government and gas power plants were retired for financial reasons.

“This was nothing to do with any policies to have more renewable electricity,” Dr Poletti said.

They are saying the statement was misleading because of the opinion of an academic that the change between 2008 and 2017 was nothing to do with the Government of the time.


Does AAP not know what a fact is and what an opinion is.

You can’t call yourself a fact checker and claim a factual statement is wrong based on the opinion of someone.

If AAP is suggesting that a Government can’t claim credit (or be blamed) for changes that occur when they are in Government, then that is being pedantic to a point of insanity.

If employment rose by 80,000 during this Government’s term and Grant Robertson said “we created 80,000 jobs” would AAP claim this is false or misleading because an economist has an opinion the jobs created were not due to Government policies?

I mean personally I do think the impact of Government policies is overstated on a lot of data such as jobs, but that is totally different to claiming a politician is lying or being misleading when they claim credit for good data under their Government.

AAP FactCheck found that Mr Brown’s statement was misleading. While he quoted correct figures showing renewable electricity generation increased from 65.4 percent to 81.9 percent under the previous National government, and by only 0.5 percent under the Labour-led administration, experts say these changes have largely been independent of government policy.

AAP FactCheck should retire in disgrace. You don’t label a statement that was entirely factually true because of the opinions of a couple of people that the positive outcome was not due to Government policy. That is an opinion, not a fact.

A good fact checker would note that it is open to debate whether the change was due to government policy or due to external factors (or both), but would not find the overall statement misleading. AAP have made the “misleading” label risible by applying it to contested opinion, not facts.

Comments (83)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: