With the ascension of Barnaby Joyce to the deputy prime ministership, at least some journalists haven’t forgotten just how remarkable Joyce’s ignorance of basic economics and fiscal policy is. TheAustralian Financial Review’s Tony Walker raised then-shadow finance minister Joyce’s ridiculous and hysterical claims in February 2010 that Australia was in imminent danger of defaulting. Absurdly, Joyce told Walker he now felt vindicated, claiming “Recently, I heard Glenn Stevens say exactly what I said. And I thought, ‘Well, do you ever in your quiet moments think, “that prick [Joyce] actually told us about this some years ago, and now I’m saying exactly what he’s saying”.’ But anyway such is life.” To use a favourite phrase of Joyce’s persistent Coalition critic Bill Heffernan: bullshit. RBA governor Glenn Stevens has said nothing of the sort, let alone exactly what Joyce said. And let’s check the facts. When Joyce made his claim that Australia was about to default, net debt was just under $22 billion. When Labor left office, it was just over $150 billion. According to a recent media release by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, net debt is now $274 billion, while MYEFO projects net debt to reach nearly $350 billion in coming years. So net debt is now more than 10 times bigger than when Joyce claimed we were about to default, and Australia retains its triple triple-A credit rating that it earned under treasurer Wayne Swan. And it’s projected under the Coalition to expand to 16 times 2010 levels. Funny kind of “vindication” for Joyce.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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