Good for his word. That’s Senator Joyce.
He pledged to never relent in reminding Australians that “if you do not manage debt, debt manages you” (Feb 2010).
Check out his latest and greatest attack on Labor’s melanoma-like growth in debt, in the Canberra Times (my emphasis added):
Forever in debt and Labor still ignores cost cuts
The Labor Party did something remarkable last week: it actually paid back some money after borrowing $11billion over the six weeks before. Our gross debt is now at $215billion. Unfortunately, Labor will probably borrow more again this week.
Recent statements by Penny Wong about cost-cutting and by the secretary of the Treasury, Dr Martin Parkinson, seem to accord with my fears of two years ago that we were taking on too much debt.
On October 21 , 2009, Australia’s gross debt accelerated through $100billion. This was before my unfortunately spectacular and brief tenure as Australia’s shadow finance minister. I was deeply concerned about the trajectory of our debt but it was very hard to find somebody else in government or the fourth estate that held similar concerns.
I remember the date well as I put out a media release at the time which concluded, ‘‘There are lots of ways you can try to pay debt but closing your eyes tightly and crossing your fingers has proven lately to be completely ineffective.’’
Leading the caravan of opprobrium against me was Treasury, acting as an arm of government. Repeatedly, it said Australia had no problems. It avoided that it was not the size that was the concern, it was the rate of growth, a very small active melanoma. We fell into trap of saying we are in a better position than others because our melanoma is tiny compared with theirs.
In a speech last week, Parkinson said ‘‘efforts to reduce government net debt should be the immediate focus’’. I’ll give him a tip, it would have been easier to control back in 2009. It has taken a couple of years, but now Parkinson and I appear to be on the same page.
You can see Australia’s gross debt grow almost every week, like a Chia Pet, by visiting the front page of the Australian Office of Financial Management website. I imagine it is there because the people we borrow from want a fully transparent view of exactly how much we have borrowed. If you start hiding it they get very, very suspicious.
Everything is moving into unfortunate focus as we approach at a rapid rate our third debt ceiling under this Government’s watch, and Europe and America come to the realisation that the problem is debt.
To understand debt ceilings you must understand gross debt. On March 10, 2009, Treasurer Wayne Swan increased our debt limit from $75billion to a ‘‘temporary’’ level of $200billion. According to Swan, we needed this increase because China and India were going to ‘‘slow markedly’’ and the mining boom was ‘‘unwinding’’.
The mining boom didn’t, but we not only hit our new debt ceiling but it is now at $215 billion, or over $17,000 for every Australian taxpayer. Our next ceiling is at a quarter of a trillion dollars. This debt does not include state government debt (heading towards $250billion), the debt of fully owned government entities, such as the National Broadband Network, or the debt of local governments.
To make a budget based on blue, sunny days is not only fraught with danger, it is naive. It is the old adage of keeping money aside for a rainy day. School halls and ceiling insulation are not the only reasons we now have so much debt, it is generally just poor day-to-day cost management. Labor talks of budget cuts now but why did they ignore people such as Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks and former Reserve Bank board member Dr Warwick McKibbin, who both said Labor should have been cutting spending two years ago?
Those with the purse strings either don’t have the strength, or don’t have the competency, to remain within our means. Labor’s cabinet is lacking the real business experience where what you bill or sell is what you earn, and the cheques you write over the long term better be less than that.
What happened to the $11billion that Labor borrowed in six weeks? Are there new aircraft carriers in Sydney Harbour with the Australian ensign fluttering? Is there a big new freeway somewhere that I am not aware of? Are there big new dams in Northern Australia delivering water to vast new agricultural areas to feed the world?
If you were to go searching for this money, the place I would humbly suggest you start looking is Canberra. Not the people of Gungahlin, but generally to the ministers who are in charge of departments that are just not controlling costs.
Barnaby is right: