Til debt do us part: the credit bill of every Australian
What Wayne Swan didn’t tell you tonight was that by 2012 your share of Government Debt will be $8308. Your wife, your husband, each of your kids, your Mum, your Dad, your siblings – each and every one of them $8308 in the red.
When Paul Keating handed back the keys to the Treasury in 1996, that figure was $5258. It took John Howard and Peter Costello nine years to bring us back into the black. All that talk of “temporary borrowings” scattered through the Budget papers sounds more than a little ambitious.
Mash up historical and projected Government Debt figures with population stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the true extent of Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan’s descent into deficit is shown in what is, admittedly, a very ugly chart.
When the famously profligate Whitlam Government handed down its first Federal Budget for the 1973-74 financial year, Australian Government debt stood at minus $1.9 billion, placing 13.5 million Australians $138 in the black.
After Jim Cairns was appointed Treasurer in late 1974, he and Whitlam set about splashing lots of red ink. Cairns was gone by July 1975, but by 1976-77 Government debt had crossed the bottom line, leaving each Australian hocked to the tune of $63.
We all know how that turned out for Gough.
From 1977, under the care of Malcolm Fraser and his Treasurer (and safari suit aficionado) John Howard, each Australian’s Government debt portion steadily climbed into the low hundreds. We brought in the decade of Gordon Gekko greed $430 in the red each, and by 1983-84 the bill had dipped up and down before shooting through four figures to $1040 each.
Bob Hawke’s sharply dressed young numbers man Paul Keating bounced up the steps of old Parliament House to deliver his first Budget in 1984 (that’s my brother Matt with the TV mike under Keating’s right elbow in the pic – nice hair cut).
This was the beginning of a steady rise in each Aussie’s financial commitment to whomever was prepared to lend our Federal Government the cash they loved so much to spend.
Here’s how it went: 1984-85, $1405; 1986-87, $1818; 1989-90 must have been a good year at $958; and by the time Keating handed the economic reins to John Kerin in June 1991, the bill was still in the three figures.
Then came The Recession We Had to Have and through Kerin, Ralph Willis, John Dawkins and Willis again the bill shot up. By 1996-97 each Australian owed $5258 each.
Then came the return of John Howard, this time as PM, who at the time no-one knew, was about to put Peter Costello through the unprecedented torture of no less than 11 Federal Budgets.
A gradual decline in Government Debt eventuated through the late 90s and early 21st Century until we dropped back into the three figures in 2004-05, owing $618 each. The next year we crossed back into the black, to the tune of $110 each, exactly 20 years after successive Federal Treasurers started burning the national credit card.
Until tonight. The outcome of the 1009-10 Budget will be a Government debt worth $2478 for every Australian. In 1010-11 it will be $5,104, and by 2012-13 $8308.
It makes the $64 owed by each man, woman and child at the end of the Whitlam era seem positively conservative.
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