Does anyone care about debt anymore?

WHEN Tony Abbott’s government came to power just seven years ago, it promised to have Australia live within its means, to get back into the black, to free our children and grandchildren from the coming burden of massive debt. 

It was a fear campaign with relevance to those who had worked, scrimped and saved. That debt – then around $175b – was promoted as a significant threat to Australia’s future generations, and when the Labor government was thrashed in the election, it seemed that most voters must have shared the view. 

However, in delivering their first budget, Abbott and Hockey found that the vast majority of the population may have agreed that saving future generations made sense, but few wanted to sacrifice anything in pursuit of it.


Even a small contribution of $7 for a doctor’s visit was a step too far, resulting in outrage. While having sound government was attractive, future debt was not a concept that frightened enough people.

In hindsight, even then there were two generations who cared little about how much their country owed. Compared to their predecessors, they maxed out credit cards, bought everything they needed as soon as they saw it, holidayed, mortgaged heavily and in many cases did not have to worry about saving for the future, because mum and dad had – and they wouldn’t live forever.

Today government debt is stated at well over $573billion – and you ain’t seen nothing yet. The stimulus packages, past and future, will bring debt at levels possibly never experienced by anyone alive today, and it’s not just Australia or the little island to our east, it’s global. The USA will borrow US$2trillion-plus for stimulus.

While we grew up in fear of debt, COVID-19 has normalised it. Governments can’t or won’t tell us what it will mean, or even how much it will be, while they pursue more grants to more sectors. Tradies? Give renovators a grant! Artists? Why not? Who have we forgotten?


And the panic of those early days when modellers said we’d have 150,000 deaths has dissipated. Nobody is afraid of dying, only worrying about when their lives can become normal. Freeze public service wages? No way! Why can’t we have a raise?

Australia is living for today cushioned from any real pain by increasingly mortgaging the future.

Unbelievably as late as June 1 we still didn’t know how much that debt would be.

Massive levels of debt will become acceptable to many countries around the world and probably not seen as being worth changing. Why would any political Party promise to get rid of a gigantic mountain of debt, when nobody believes it can be done – at least in our lifetimes?

A political objective unable to be delivered in nine or 10 terms of government is hardly an appealing goal.PC


MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: Former PM Tony Abbott (l) and PM Scott Morrison. (courtesy The Conversation and Daily Telegraph)g

3 thoughts on “Does anyone care about debt anymore?

  1. Debt? Not a problem, until the lender wants their money or they up the interest rate because they feel the borrower is now a bigger risk.

  2. A tsunami of debt – gaining height and strength with every day, every year; we just turn our backs on this shocking reality.

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