Fairfax’s Ross Gittins is normally a lucid commentator, but he, like so many others, has fallen for Peter Costello’s lies about the strength of the Federal Government’s financial position.
Gittins claimed in The Age yesterday that the Federal Government has “no net debt left to pay off” and then declared that the Future Fund “is almost full”.
The truth, of course, is that the Federal Government still has a $50 billion debt pile as this page in the Budget papers confirms. To have no net debt, you’d have to pilfer the entire $50 billion in cash and Telstra shares out of the Future Fund. But that would leave a $103 billion unfunded superannuation liability, which this chart shows is projected to hit $210 billion by 2046, largely due to the ridiculously generous defence pensions.
Being $103 billion short is hardly “almost full” and debt-free, Ross.
Gittins was mounting an argument for Australia to develop a national investment fund like the $US300 billion pile that the Norwegians have assembled out of oil revenues. This is a noble goal, but it should be remembered that we’ve concentrated our national savings effort through the $1 trillion in compulsory private super.
The Singaporeans have such a fund and Temasek Holdings yesterday bought a $401.5 million stake in child care behemoth ABC Learning to fund further expansion into the US. This means the Singapore Government will now be the biggest shareholder in the world’s biggest childcare company, which also happens to extract about $1 million a day out of the Australian taxpayers to subsidise its service.
Singapore Inc has now invested more than $20 billion into Australia and that will rise by another $4 billion if the Alinta sale goes through.
It’s been a reasonably profitable exercise, although ABC Learning shares slipped 18c to $7.06 this morning, so Temasek is already down $13 million on its 55 million shares which cost $4.30 a pop.
The ABC presentation accompanying the capital raising provides a good summary of its global aspirations which are making some investors nervous that it will pay over the odds to become the number one US childcare provider.
Meanwhile, rather than going out and taking some equity positions, Future Fund chairman David Murray was once again banging on again about independence yesterday.
It’s very easy to leave $40 billion in cash on deposit in the Reserve Bank. Cranky Dave should instead try and get on the register of some big Australian companies and help them expand. Perhaps he should have started with ABC Learning.