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No, Amanda, debt is NOT the problem

Amanda Vanstone’s article in The Age, 8th December, is so full of holes that water would pass through it quicker than it does over Niagara Falls. Amanda has sprung to the defence of Joe Hockey even though she acknowledges he has made mistakes. She says, “The government has clearly spelt out the need to tackle the debt situation, but it didn’t cut through.”

No, Amanda, it hasn’t cut through and the reason is its lack of balance, its lack of fairness. Amanda goes on to say, “I think the PM’s phrase “inter-generational theft” says it all, and if every minister gets on board we may see a more responsible approach by the Parliament when it resumes in February.”

It’s a catchy phrase, “inter-generational theft”. It has all the hallmarks of something sinister, something underhanded going on. In fact, what she is referring to is the level of deficit spending. As the mantra goes, deficit spending is borrowed money that must be repaid sometime in the future by, presumably, our children and grandchildren.

Well, in fact, we are the children of our parents whose debt (so called) we are paying off in exactly the same way every generation pays off part of a previous generation’s debt. That is because the issuance of Commonwealth Government Securities can be, and is, long term issuance; it crosses over generations. So, in fact, every generation is at some point, paying for a previous generation’s borrowings. It’s ongoing, never ending. It’s business as usual.

This tactic of pulling at our heart strings, appealing to our emotional weaknesses, trying to have us think that our darling grandchildren will be so saddled by debt that they will have to work 60 hours a week until they are 90 years old all because we were so selfish and borrowed their future wealth, is pathetic. It is also utter rubbish.

We are all the grandchildren of our grandparents. Are we so saddled and overburdened by national debt that we can’t breathe, can’t hope to achieve the same standard of living our grandparents enjoyed? No, we have a much better standard of living than they experienced.

Our standard of living today, as it has always been, is not debt related, it is productivity related. It is tied directly to our ability to produce goods and services. Our ability to produce goods and services is measured by our gross domestic product, our GDP.

Our GDP is approximately $1.6 trillion per annum. Therefore, if in any year we spend $1.6 trillion dollars more than our taxation revenues, our spending ratio, erroneously called debt to GDP ratio would be 100%, assuming no pre-existing debt. Currently Japan’s debt to GDP ratio is 237%. Germany is 80%. The USA is 106%. The UK is 90%. Australia’s debt to GDP a ratio is currently 27%. Even if this was a debt we had to repay, which it isn’t, by world standards it is very low.

Spending is not our problem. Debt is not our problem. Taxation, or more correctly, our methods of collecting taxation, the imbalances, the lack of fairness, are the problem. When those who earn hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of dollars begin paying a rate of tax that reflects a measure of their contribution to our productivity, our GDP, only then will our tax system be fair, and be seen as fair.

When our tax system can show a ‘tax paid to productivity ratio’, rather than at present, ‘salaries paid for profit ratio’, our tax system will be fairer. Today, senior executives are paid millions of dollars based on profits and stock prices, both of which can be manipulated up and down by clever accounting practices.

They do not reflect a direct relationship to productivity. As an example, compare executive salaries in the Australian motor car industry. Have they declined as the manufacturing levels declined? Are executive salaries declining as the price of iron ore and our export income is declining? By contrast, farmers’ incomes decline if their crops fail.

But I would be surprised if executive incomes have. I am not surprised, however, at the numbers of mining workers and motor car workers who have been made redundant. As our unemployment levels continue to increase, how many senior executives on super salaries with stock options and bonus payments, who engage in negative gearing are among them?

Those are the sort of imbalances our tax system supports. They are the problem and there was nothing in Joe Hockey’s budget that addressed them.

Then there is the question of company tax, or more correctly, the lack of it. We can add to that the government subsidies paid to the various industries, the tax loopholes their bean counters take advantage of, and ask, is this a fair system?

So, returning to Amanda Vanstone’s column in The Age, debt is not the problem, the senate is not the problem, Mary Poppins is not the problem nor are people living in homes worth over $1 million. Nor, for that matter, are lazy journalists.

The problem is the twisted, ideologically entrapped mindset that thinks targeting the less well-off citizens, the real workers and pensioners of this country who actually contribute, or spent their working lives contributing, to our GDP in favour of the super-rich who produce next to nothing and, relative to their income, pay next to nothing.

But hey, I’m just an ageing pensioner who spent his entire working life paying off my grandparent’s debt. What the hell do I know?


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  1. Bill Morris

    The debt previous generations incurred was spent on infrastructure at the cost at that time which following generations use and do not have to build (or catch up) at inflated prices.

  2. Jexpat

    How is it that economically illiterate, lazy and quite frankly dishonest individuals are repeatedly allowed to opine, or err… propagandise on matters that they know nothing about in major non-Murdoch papers?

  3. O'Bleak

    Her concern for the future of our children is touching don’t you think. Pity they don’t give a stuff about the destruction of the planet on which they’ll be living whilst dealing with all this financial distress. Just another foghorn for the ship of rampant capitalism is Vanstone.

  4. DanDark

    John K
    Thanks for that summary of Vindictive Vanstones article
    I must say I laughed at most of what was in her article last night
    She is in the wrong job, she should work at the side show as the resident clown
    I cant stand the woman, she is such a jabber jaw, and so full of shit
    She really is the worlds greatest authority on nothing
    Another nobody pretending to be a somebody, how many stupid pills do they take before they write their nonsense
    She overdosed on them in her article yesterday….What a loser Vanstone is, she seriously needs to get a life….

  5. BruceM

    Good article, thanks. Unfortunately, the Age now happily trumpets these opinions of Vanstone, Peter Reith, and their lackey from NSW, Paul Sheehan, without any editorial eyebrow raised at the audacious tendenciousness of their arguments. It is pure propaganda, and the Age facilitates it. They tolerated it under Gerard Henderson for a few years, now they promote it. I think John Pilger’s article recently sums up the urgency of the illness infecting media…
    Thank the pantheon (of whatever size you believe in) for the AIMN

  6. Brian Richard Allen (@Brian_R_Allen)

    …. What the hell do I know …?

    Based on this ideologically-cut and pasted pap?

    Three fifths of five eights of eff all.

    Aught be a ballet written about you. Called, say: “Swan Like!”

    And surely sounds like you’ll be the fascist-Left’s next delusionally-fantasized Utopia’s “treasurer.”

    Brian Richard Allen

    (And comparisons, by the way — and especially with those Left behind in foreign places by other totalitarians – by other of the world’s fascist-Leftard eff-ups — are odious!)

  7. Brian Richard Allen (@Brian_R_Allen)

    BruceM …. John Pilger’s article recently sums up the urgency of the illness infecting media ….

    Pilger is definitive of the illness that has put the Fascist (formerly “mainstream”) Media on their death bed!

    Metastasizing Pligernoma!

  8. John Kelly

    Thanks for the comments, Brian. Now try and write something legible and intelligent.

  9. JohnB

    Well said John Kelly.
    Why can’t our opposition politicians get this message across in parliament to rebut the LNP’s favoured repetitive mantra of ‘loading up our children with debt’.

    The continued use of ‘household economy’ analogies used to in relation to the operation of a sovereign national economy needs to be challenged and destroyed.
    The ‘debt and deficit’ scam needs to be blown out of the water by informed persons who truly understand and can simply explain the real monetary mechanisms of running a nation.

    I have never heard an opposition politician explain the operation of an economy in the terms you and others have on independent media.
    Why not? Don’t any of them read (and understand!) independent media like AIMN or IA etc. ?
    Are they fearful that demystification may detract from their own mystique and credibility as ‘experts’.

    It is time for someone to cut through all the crap being peddled by pollies – come on Albo you can do it, even without a whiteboard.

  10. stephentardrew

    Great article John full of facts and rationality more than I can say for the Bullying rants of that doyen of class elitist egotism Vanstone. When are these worn out ideologues going to disappear into the sunset and let the mature young adults take over. Blustering despotism is a fail on so many levels. Reith and Vanstone need to be buried under a mound of toxic LNP mendacity and irrationality where they belong.

    Please someone put these fools out to pasture.

  11. Möbius Ecko

    Don’t you love the way Brian Richard Allen turns things around. So the Left are now fascist, not commies as is the usual fallacious taunt.

    What a joke. Here we have a government that meets almost 100% of the requirements for fascist rule and we have someone calling the Left fascist. Does Brian even now what fascism is?

  12. stephentardrew


    Unintelligible waffle that makes no rhyme or reason.

    Go back to the drawing board and redraft to make intelligible.

  13. Wayne Turner

    The non-EXPERT never was gets a BS piece in a paper. A shame about the revenue problem,that the Libs agree with,such as no mining tax,no carbon price,and perks for them and the big end of town that roll on egs: negative gearing,super tax concessions,etc….

  14. Hefina

    They never mention the greediness of the Howard /Costello government do they , they keep well away of that, only coming out with what Labor owes .
    The Howard Costello era never spent a penny on infrastructure , and the mining Boom was banked and the interest on that wasn’t touched , It’s no blooming wonder they were in surplus. and Amanda Vanstone is part of that.

    What The Labor government did was improve the health system , the Disability insurance the gonski education funds ,deal with climate change , this wasn’t a short term loan it was a long term investment.

    Now we have a government who is taking us right back to the past save everything , cut health cut education cancel the disability , and more. of course they will be in surplus .

    Debt is ok if you can pay it back , Abbott and Hockey are too thick to see how the price on Carbon would have brought in money. all they want is surplus. so they can use it for evermore in their dirty politics.

    Im 75 next , and if i can understand a little of what this government is doing , it isn’t hard is it for grand mothers like me to make an effort to learn and understand what this Governments is doing to our country through lies and more lies. especially when they listen to trash from the Alan Jones and his likes.

    People like Vanstone , Howard and the others, should stop interfering with what goes on now, and cut their gold card up so they stay put instead of running around the World spending the tax payers money.
    I wonder if anyone has added up what Howard has spent on holidays . he is more in London than he is here in Australia.

    Sorry that i have gone so long but Amanda Vanstone has done very well out of the tax payers . So shut up Vanstone ,these big fat cats get to me in a big way. they are the ones robbing the system cut all these gold cards for a start and what ever else they get for free.

  15. Ricardo29

    Disappointing to see the age giving space to dud former liberals though perhaps it’s to show off their obvious economic illiteracy. What do I know?John Kelly. A lot more than La Vanstone, and clearly even more than the dunderhead Brian. Love seeing you pick the scumbags to pieces.

  16. Möbius Ecko

    If you ever listen to Vanstone on ABC Radio Counterpoint you will know what an awful interviewer she is, one of the worst I’ve heard.

  17. Roswell

    Thanks John. Another great read.

  18. helvityni

    Hefina, it looks like Amanda spent her years in Italy eating, maybe a bit of wining as well, no one can say we did not keep her well-fed…

  19. iggy648

    Bill, The Sydney Harbour Bridge was “officially opened on 19 March 1932. The total cost of the Bridge was approximately 6.25 million Australian pounds ($A13.5 million), and was eventually paid off in 1988”. Bloody cheap at that price. Have you seen it? It’s a beauty! Let’s build another!

  20. John Turner

    John (the author) confuses the meaning of the ratio, deficit to GDP. The 27% ratio for Australia is the total debt, accumulated over many years expressed as a percentage of the annual GDP. Most debtor countries run an annual deficit of a few percent of GDP. In the Hawke/Keating years the average was 1.6%, for Howard 0.9% surplus and for the first four years of Rudd/Gillard, to successfully avoid a depression, 3.3%.
    A country issues a currency. The former countries of Europe are now vassal states as they have no control over a domestic currency. Greece and Italy are now states of Europe because they use the Euro.
    Australia’s problem has always been the foreign (Current Account) balance and that will get worse as a consequence of the attitude to manufacturing of the present Australian Government. Abbott and Hockey are economic illiterates as are many economic spokesmen given air by the ABC.
    For the three government periods mentioned above the range of our CA deficit averages was 4.1-4.6 %
    Anyone who understands the relationship between the three measure used to measure a currency issuing government’s economic performance knows that the average government deficit must exceed the average Current Account deficit. Otherwise the private sector loses financial assets.
    Actually the way the SG outcome is stated (Gov spending minus tax collected or G – T) the so called deficit outcome is an arithmetic positive.
    In a few years time our CA deficit will be horrendous and annual SG outcomes even worse than the percentages in 2008-2011 will be essential.

  21. Lee

    “Her concern for the future of our children is touching don’t you think. Pity they don’t give a f*ck about the destruction of the planet on which they’ll be living whilst dealing with all this financial distress. ”

    Exactly. But it should come as no surprise that conservatives cannot notice the inconsistencies and lies because they can’t recognise the BS in their religion either.

  22. John Kelly

    John Turner, yes, I was referring to the overall debt to GDP ratio, not the annual deficit. My reference, “Therefore, if in any year we spend $1.6 trillion dollars more than our taxation revenues, our spending ratio, erroneously called debt to GDP ratio would be 100%” is technically incorrect as it assumes no pre-existing debt. Thank you for bringing that to my notice. I will make a minor correction.

  23. CMMC

    She managed to have the gig as Ambassador to Italy sewn-up in her ’employment contract’ with P.M.Howard. Golden Parachute.

    I heard her say thus on ABC Counterpoint.

    I thought all you had to do was swear an oath before the Governer General.

  24. Kaye Lee

    Prior to entering politics, Amanda Vanstone worked as a retailer in a large department store, and later had her own business selling prints and picture-frames. She became a Senator at age 31.

    Gee I’d pick her for the Commission of Audit – being a shop assistant has obviously given her special insight into the economics of running a country.

  25. Judith W

    When are we going to talk about the ev

  26. Judith W

    When are we going to talk about other debts we are leaving to future generations?
    Ecological debt is a big one – a global debt, growing and seemingly insurmountable, at least during the foreseeable future. How long will it take to regenerate forest ecosystems, rebuild mining landscapes, eliminate toxins from our water and our food chain, restore the balance and diversity that has ensured the survival of our species for thousands of years?
    But what about sociological debt, household debt, intellectual/knowledge debt, individual debt, health debt?
    Our sociological debt can be measured in levels of connectedness within the community, mental health, happiness index, engagement, equality, mobility, all influenced by education and employment.
    And don’t forget the trust debt!

  27. john o'callaghan

    Vanstone has spent almost her entire life with her snout in the trough sucking up tax payers money, and the question i would like to ask her to her face is”’ what have we got in return? what have you achieved? where is the ledger with your free money on one side of the page and your achievements on the other side?

    I know this question could apply to a lot of politicans but at the moment we are talking about this particular serial rorter and liar,as well as her time in Parliament she also bludged and stuffed her face with the finest Italian food and wine as Ambassador,and she has the front to tell me and other workers who have struggled and paid taxes to be grateful and to pull our belts in
    Well i will give you a tip Amanda,for Gods sake dont pull your belt in because yiu will explode like that character in the Monty Python sketch in the restaurant,you are a bludger and a glutton and a born to rule stuck up self opinionated know it all know nothing nobody.”””””

  28. rossleighbrisbane

    Nobody ever mentions all those companies who’ve built up debt that future shareholders will have to pay off… Or is that because they’re building up assets for future profits with that debt. Mm, shame that the Liberals can’t seem to work out how to do the same.

  29. mars08

    “Almost a third of Australia’s largest companies are paying less than 10¢ in the dollar in corporate tax, according to a report that exposes a gaping hole in government revenues over the past decade.

    As Australia prepares to host world leaders at the G20 summit in Brisbane in November, where a global assault on tax avoidance will be a key topic of discussion, the report found 84 per cent of Australia’s top 200 stockmarket-listed companies pay less than the 30 per cent company tax rate.”

    Now… does THAT seem fair?

  30. Jeanette

    Hey! So with you on all of the above, starting work at 14 retiring at 63.5, 2 children, child endowment $30 pm, no baby bonus…no family tax a b c d or e etc. I am a pensioner now and loving it. Fortunately I have good health, still saved to have my own place and gee that’s after getting away from a violent marriage, no oh dear! no Mental health anguish Amanda “hasbeen” “whatever” sitting on her parliamentary pension can go jump.

  31. corvus boreus

    As well as drawing pay for offering ‘conservative’ apologist drivel and economic-rationalist claptrap in the(blatantly leftist biased) Fairfax print media and (taxpayer-funded) ABC radio, and having her generous legacy entitlements as a retired pollie, the inimitable Mandy also recently suckled lavishly off the public teat as a member of the specially appointed commission of audit that gave such sterling budgetary and policy advice to the current treasurer.
    She was paid $1500/day(about 2 weeks normal gross wage in my field) for 6 months in order to help hand over piece of paper that said ‘take money that goes to poor people and give it to rich people’.

  32. Don Winther

    Amanda Vanstones Liberal Party Show on our Natoinal ABC radio blasted to every corner of the country, why wasn’t that cut to save some money? She is so bias.

  33. ' george hanson '

    in the early 1980’s , the then federal government , finally PAID OFF the loans raised to fight WORLD WAR ONE . 60 +years….Inter-generational debt is nothing new. P.S. wonder when we finish paying off the Vietnam war , for example .

  34. edward eastwood

    Great article John, and a well aimed shot at destroying the myth of ‘deficit equals debt and our children are the ones who will pay’ currently heavily favoured by the LNP as they writhe and squirm in their desperate efforts to avoid the inevitable.

  35. John Fraser


    Is B_R_A a tit ?

  36. Conrad

    Why should we take advice from Amanda Vanstone? If I want to learn Italian I have to pay for the lessons, but AV enrolled in an acadamy in Italy and charged the lessons back to the taxpayers (how much? we don’t know, but we do know that we taxpayers paid $30,000 for her largely futile Mandarin lessons). So if someone is so wealthy yet so grasping it means that she is quite able to think that Hockey’s foul budget, with its sucking money up from the poor to the already wealthy, is quite justifiable. Vanstone is psychologically unable to view what life is like at the bottom where the older, sicker, weaker ‘lower orders’ live. Stuff her and her putrid advice. Time after time I suggest to the SMH that they stop printing articles by Vanstone and by Peter Reith, because their opinions are obsolete and worthless.

  37. stephentardrew

    John Fraser:

    As treasury secretary I should imaging thinks will be looking up.

    That double life your living is a doozy.

  38. ejdur662

    Stick to the “Shmako” ads Amanda!

  39. Manfred

    2 dogs . One cute and cuddly the other one in the glasses .But really this woman is vile in so many ways.She is just like the Bible basher who comes to your door at the most inconvenient time or an al qaeda fanatic prepared kill or or die for their ridiculous beliefs.Her whole life still is about delivering Liberals party line any time she gets the platform to spout her ill conceived garbage.You see once;The Fanatic is hooked on their mantra they can never leave it. They are the same as junkies.Amanda just found some friends who would tolerate her in the Liberal party.Though it wouldn’t matter what Amanda did with life; she would still be a fundamentalist type.Really people like Amanda need to get some professional help.There is so much shit that comes out of that mouth.
    I guess she’s swallowed a lot so it’s not so surprising.

  40. Kaye Lee

    Amanda has had everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, paid for by the taxpayer for her entire adult life. We pay for her continuing education, we pay for her trips and her accommodation, we pay for her chauffeur-driven cars, we pay for her fancy meals, we pay her very generous retirement benefits and then top her up with government gigs like the CoA. No wonder they have no perception of what real life is like where we have to find the money for all these things ourselves. Taking advice about budgeting from a career politician is like taking marriage advice from a priest.

  41. Kaye Lee

    “the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development proposed higher taxes on the rich and policies aimed at improving the lot of the bottom 40% of the population

    The thinktank said governments should consider rejigging tax systems to make sure wealthier individuals pay their fair share. It suggested higher top rates of income tax, scrapping tax breaks that tend to benefit higher earners and reassessing the role of all forms of taxes on property and wealth.

    However, the OECD said, its research showed “it is even more important to focus on inequality at the bottom of the income distribution. Government transfers have an important role to play in guaranteeing that low-income households do not fall further back in the income distribution”.

    The authors said: “It is not just poverty (ie the incomes of the lowest 10% of the population) that inhibits growth … policymakers need to be concerned about the bottom 40% more generally – including the vulnerable lower-middle classes at risk of failing to benefit from the recovery and future growth. Anti-poverty programmes will not be enough.”

    Forget the reset button Tony…we have system failure.

  42. stephentardrew

    At least the pieces are beginning to fall together empirically providing a solid foundation for critique of capitalism. Abbot and the likes of David Cameron have built their houses of straw and paper on shoddy foundations and it is bound to fall. The problem is the fall required may well take us all with it unless there is immediate change and rejection of economic rationalist trickle down garbage. Progressives must rise above their anxiety of letting go of conditioned habituated backward referring gobbledygook and start attacking a corrupt and unfair system from a revisionary revolutionary framework.

    Labor that especially applies you.

    We need more than empty platitudes we need a soundly formulated meta-theoretical basis for a more just and inclusive redistribution of wealth based upon Modern Money Theory and alternative modeling. Conservatives use their trite sound bites to bully the population into submission so progressives need a similar clear expression of redistribution and reformation of economics based upon the fact that growth will improve for the majority by raising the poor and low income out of poverty.

    The problem is how do we turn our anger and resentment into political action. Militarization of the police forces in developed countries is not an accident. Looking at the US there is broiling anger bellow the surface at the cruelty and injustice inflicted by their own government.

    I do not trust the weak kneed approach of Labor as if a low profile strategy is more important than a full frontal attack on neo-conservative economics. Ridding into power on failure without a well formulated alternative will bring us more of the same as the progressive right take over from the conservative right simply by tinkering with a broken system.

    It is critical that we break the back of the progressive right to successfully change a completely discredited economic model. It is not the far right that we need to worry about it is the progressive right that is holding change back.

  43. Kaye Lee

    “We are all promoted to our own level of incompetence. So sooner or later mine will be reached.” – Tony Abbott 2009

  44. Roswell

    Good find, Kaye. He reached his in 1970.

  45. Kaye Lee

    The article is worth reading Roswell.

    A WEEK ago, when Tony Abbott determined to run for the opposition leadership, he did what he has always done at a critical juncture in his life: he rang Emmet Costello.

    “Tony rang and said, I’m going for it; I’m going for the leadership, and could you remember me in your prayers,” Costello told The Australian yesterday.

    “I said, don’t worry about that, I’ll storm Heaven for you. God can’t say no to me!”

    Costello wrote Abbott’s reference when he applied, successfully, for a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in Britain.

    “Deep down, I think Tony has always wanted to be leader. Even as a boy, in his sport, you could see it,” says Costello.

    “And he’s realistic too, he knew didn’t have the numbers. But it’s come to him in full measure now.”

  46. stephentardrew

    Choke what unmitigated drivel.

    He is such a nice torturous child abusing misogynist and guess what?

    He prays too.

    Oh praise the Lord but unfortunately for him all is not forgiven.

  47. Peter Lee


    I hope that you are not nreferring to the woman who was known in the Immigratiion Department as “fat Mandy’.

  48. townsvilleblog

    What the LNP have successfully achieved is screwing low income families to the wall as they financially “nail us” including with the latest “$5 co-payment” to see the GP.

  49. DanDark

    I watched Impact BBC news last night, Australia took a beating, it was scathing I was so ashamed again to be an Aussie..They went on to point out Tony Abbot has taken the country backwards with climate change policies, we were leaders in the world just a year ago under previous gov,
    but now they have Tony Abbott as prime minister the message and his attitude is that climate change is all crap so he is betting the farm on fossil fuel, that’s what the commentator said, Australia is betting the farm on fossil fuels,
    They showed a world map of the worst countries in red, then they discussed how the right wing leader in Canada thinks like Tones, and Russia but didn’t say much about Russia, it was all about Australia and how Tones is dodging responsibility towards climate change, and said Australia are not putting any money into the Green fund, they discussed how we are suffering from weather extremes and when will Australians wake up ,,, the whole interview was scathing,
    If Tones and Co don’t go soon the damage they are doing will be irreparable, if these f*ck nuckles are in power for another 2 years we are doomed, absolutely doomed 🙁

  50. Margl

    Great article John, also agree with you Dandark – I can’t stand that vile creature either. Typical bullying, overfed, overpaid Liberal shill. Have to agree with others that ask why these old Libs are dragged out in the papers (and onto ABC) to give their “honest” opinions? They are just propagandists and out of touch with reality – they need to go.

  51. oldfart

    while it is true people cant choose their relatives, we can choose our politicians.

    Spare a thought for dogs they don’t get to choose either. Not sure if the pup in the first pic has indigestion, is in pain or inadvertently swallowed an LNP policy. Probably the latter, as it would cause the previous two

  52. Pingback: No, Amanda, debt is NOT the problem | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

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