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Barnaby Joyce

Day of reckoning near: Joyce

Barnaby Joyce 17%

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BARNABY Joyce has refused to back down from the debt debate, calling for Australia to act now while it can still manage its debt or face a "day of reckoning" when debt will "manage" the nation. 

As Wayne Swan ridiculed the opposition finance spokesman in parliament yesterday, saying Senator Joyce "actually invented a new economic concept called `net debt gross, public and private' ", the Nationals senator targeted Labor's borrowings for its stimulus package.

Two weeks ago, Tony Abbott warned Senator Joyce that he could not afford any further public mistakes or give Labor the chance to use him to deflect attention from the government's own problems.

The Opposition Leader's comments came after Senator Joyce raised the prospect of cutting foreign aid, talked about the US defaulting on debt and suggested Australia might not be able to pay its debt.

Senator Joyce said last night the Rudd government would not address the real issue of debt levels and instead went for "slips of the tongue and spoonerisms".


In an article published in The Australian today, Senator Joyce says: "If we keep borrowing at this rate, Australia, and all who rely on the government to provide a basic service of health, defence, subsidised medicine, childcare, unemployment benefits, pensions, are all going to arrive at a point of reckoning. Stresses will be placed on the government budget because we did not manage the debt, at a point where it was manageable. If you do not manage debt, debt manages you. It is a statement of the bleeding obvious that we cannot have government debt growing the way it is growing. The Labor Party do not want to grasp the nettle to manage the debt."

Defending his position on debt, Senator Joyce uses his homespun analogies and simple arguments to accuse the government of wasting money and pushing Australia to a "day of reckoning" on national debt.

Senator Joyce quotes economists backing his belief that exploding public debt raises fears of default and currency depreciation. He suggests Treasury secretary Ken Henry and his department are "saying something different" now to what they said in 2002.

Senator Joyce also accuses Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner of avoiding talking about sovereign debt and says the government's stimulus programs do not provide any assets that could be "readily exchangeable to restore the wealth of the public coffers".

"I do not know how exchangeable the ceiling insulation will be when we need to repay the debt," he says.

"I'm not quite certain what the international market is like for second-hand school halls if we need to send them back. I suppose we could have a crack at getting the $900 cheques off the public, but I don't like your chances."

Senator Joyce says $90 billion in stimulus packages have not provided assets to offset indebtedness.

"We have, approximately, a $90bn package of eclectic economic trinkets, noted as stimulus, that would look good hanging from any rear vision mirror in a car doing hot laps on a Friday night in downtow. Dubbo," he said.


Dennis Shanahan

Source: The Australian (February 25, 2010)

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