Question Time – Debt Limit

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (14:40): My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer advise the House of any correspondence he has received that will assist the parliament in its deliberations on the increase in the debt limit?

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney—The Treasurer) (14:40): I thank the member for Hinkler. I was kind of hoping that I would be asked this question by the Labor Party and in particular by the member for McMahon because just before question time a letter from the member for McMahon was sent to my office. I read the letter—it is a very interesting letter—and it says:

The Opposition also remains ready to vote for an increase in the debt limit to $500 Billion, if such an increase is supported by revised net debt figures in the Mid-Year Economic Forecast …

Hang on, ‘net debt figures’? He could not have got ‘net debt’ and ‘gross debt’ wrong, could he? Hang on, this is the shadow Treasurer. I know Labor do not understand the difference between deficit and surplus and I know they do not know the difference between Rudd and Gillard, but I thought they would understand the difference between ‘net’ and ‘gross’. I read on and it said:

I note that in Senate Estimates, Senator Wong asked Dr Parkinson to provide an updated iteration of Table 8 of PEFO, showing projected net debt.

I thought I would go to table 8 of PEFO to see what that is and, hang on, it is gross debt. It is gross debt. How did that happen? Then I thought, hang on, gross debt peaking at $370 billion? But I still gave him the benefit of the doubt because surely the shadow Treasurer would know the difference between net debt and gross debt, given that this is such a significant issue for the Australian parliament. I read on, and it gets better. It states:

The latest figure in the forward estimates for net debt is $370 billion …

I hope it is not, because the latest estimate of net debt is $217 billion. No wonder they are concerned. I am going to help the member for McMahon because the last sentence of his letter says:

Given the importance of this as a national issue and debate and in the interests of openness and transparency, I will be publicly releasing this letter.

I am sure he will not, so I am going to help him now. If the former Treasurer of Australia does not understand the difference between net debt and gross debt, no wonder the Labor Party just do not get it. They were incompetent in government and they are incompetent in opposition.

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