Govt defends use of debt nearing $500b

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)

When Commonwealth government debt soared towards $300 billion under Labor, it was described as a “budget emergency” by the coalition.

This week, gross debt is set to top half a trillion dollars for the first time under the coalition, but Treasurer Scott Morrison insists there is a difference.

While gross debt will continue to grow, it will no longer be for funding pensions, schools and hospitals.

For the first time in a decade, new Commonwealth government securities from 2018/19 will pay for infrastructure and defence while ensuring the Future Fund is not drawn down.

“That is how gross debt is being used by the government in 2018/19 and beyond,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Wednesday.

According to the Australian Office of Financial Management, the agency that runs the government debt portfolio, $499.2 billion government securities are on issue.

There are bond tenders worth $950 million this week.

On budget day, Mr Morrison raised the debt ceiling to $600 billion from $500 billion, even though the budget papers showed debt reaching $606 billion in four years time and $725 billion by 2027/28.

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