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The budget is the greatest moral challenge of our time? Bollocks

Warwick Smith writes for the Per Capita think tank (31.8.16) about the persistent and ill-founded claims from federal Coalition MPs, including the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, that government debt and deficits represent a huge ‘moral challenge’. This mirrors criticisms directed at the Palaszczuk Labor government in Queensland by the Opposition, conservative media and business groups that ‘mounting debt’ is supposedly undermining the state’s future.

‘The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has labelled government budget deficits and debt as a “massive moral challenge”. This, to use the technical term, is complete and utter bollocks. In a leaked briefing to coalition backbenchers, Malcolm Turnbull wrote:

“This is a fundamental moral challenge. How long are we prepared as a nation, as a generation, to load more and more debt on to the shoulders of our children and grandchildren? How long are we prepared to live beyond our means, to live effectively on the credit card of the generations that come after us?”

‘The assertions that sit behind this paragraph are all flawed. Are we living beyond our means? No. Are we living off the credit card of future generations? No. Does Australian government debt rank alongside other identifiable major moral challenges of our time? Absolutely not. Let’s take them one at a time.

‘… Definitely one of the great moral challenges of our time is the gulf in wealth and resources between wealthy nations and poor nations as well as the growing gap between wealthy individuals and the poor within Australia. Can we call ourselves a democracy and a meritocracy when there are great disparities in educational opportunity and healthcare? Should a child born to poor parents have the same opportunities as one born to rich parents? There’s a moral challenge worth sinking your teeth into, prime minister.

‘No need to jump at economic shadows.’

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