We know Treasury secretary John Fraser was out of the country until his appointment by Tony Abbott to the job in 2014, but there’s no excuse for the howler he made in Tokyo last week. In a wide-ranging speech last Friday to the Australian Government Fixed Income Forum in Japan, Fraser gave his listeners a tour d’horizon of Australian’s economic and fiscal circumstances. But one particular section struck us:

Australia is one of only ten countries with a triple-A credit rating from all three of the major rating agencies, reflecting our strong economic fundamentals, sound policy frameworks and a track-record of fiscal responsibility.”

Fair enough. But then he goes on, in reference to the financial crisis, “our top credit rating was an important asset during the crisis.”

Hmmm. Is Fraser aware that Australia didn’t have its third triple-A rating during the financial crisis, but only received it from Fitch in November 2011, when Wayne Swan was treasurer? It might have been poor phrasing, but then he goes on to say, “Australia fared better than most during the global financial crisis. The fact is that we were prepared — we entered 2008 with the government having negative net debt, triple A credit ratings and a well-capitalised and well-regulated financial sector.” Erm, we only had two triple-A ratings in 2008, Secretary. Perhaps Fraser was too busy at UBS in 2011 to hear about the third …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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