On the final pages of the 2020-2021 budget papers is a table showing that, in real terms, the Whitlam government’s net debt peaked at a little over $1000 for every Australian, the Rudd-Gillard government’s after the global financial crisis peaked at $8500 per person, while the Morrison government’s legacy is projected to exceed $28,000 per person1.
Despite this massive increase, this level of debt is said to be sustainable because that debt was borrowed at record low interest rates. Indeed, the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has estimated that government gross debt will hit 55% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030 and will still be above 30% of GDP by 2055 – a rate nearly double anything seen since the Second World War. The PBO concluded that “the government will be able to maintain a sustainable level of debt relative to GDP over the coming decades”2.
In 2010, it was the laughably incompetent Tony Abbott who complained that the Labor government was going to “saddle our children and grandchildren with unsustainable debt”2 In the runup to the 2013 election, Abbott whipped up a storm about what he said was the atrocious state of the economy under Labor, saying that the gross government debt, which was sitting at $273 billion (31% of GDP) at the time, was astronomical and was a ‘debt and deficit crisis’. Abbott promised to reduce government spending, lower deficits and, at some stage, start paying off the debt. But by 2015, the Abbott government had managed to add a further 35% ($100 billion) to the debt to bring it up to 38% of GDP3,4.
By the middle of 2017, with Scott Morrison as Treasurer under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the debt passed the $500 billion mark (41% of GDP), and in early 2020, well before the Covid-19 ordure hit the budgetary fan, and with Morrison as Prime Minister, it had reached $685 billion (50% of GDP)3,4.
Back in May 2009, when the Labor government was busy ladling money to consumers and infrastructure, with the aim of warding off the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis5, Scott Morrison rose to comment on the recently presented Labor government’s 2009-2010 budget. He said, in part: “The real cause of our debt and deficit is the Rudd government’s reckless spending. At 28.6 per cent of GDP—this is the big figure—it is a record high since World War Two. It has eclipsed even the largesse of previous Labor governments and is staying that way over the forecast period. This is a government that simply believes it can borrow and spend its way out of trouble with other people’s money”6.
This clearly demonstrates what is wrong with the political class. Everything is about scoring points. While the lack of integrity has been documented numerous times on this site and elsewhere, it is the rampant hypocrisy (also detailed on here numerous times) which is just as sickening, and Morrison has that in spades.