We must deal with the debt monkey

It’s a question often asked and rarely properly answered: ‘what is the purpose of the Young Liberals?’. While we play a vital role in electing Members of Parliament by providing campaign muscle and we often play an important role in providing some backbone to our elected members where it’s needed ­– I think we can and should be playing a much more prominent role in championing our policy platform, internally, publicly and directly to decision-makers.

At a Federal level, we’ve now been in office for four years – with two elections where the Young Liberal might was put to full use to help the government get across the line. But despite the important role we play, often we’re then sidelined by Ministers who consider our policy platform as cute but not legitimate. It’s that view held by some which is why you will have seen more of our Federal Movement making the serious case on serious issues – issues important to young people and crucial for our future. We’re championing the kind of Australia we want to grow up in, a society with freedom of speech at its core, not stifled by thought police; a society full of economic prosperity, not riddled with debt. These are important issues and for our future and it’s critical that we get our message through to those who we helped get elected.

Young Australians are generally aspirational and easy going – we want to have the same opportunities to excel and succeed that previous generations have enjoyed. Sadly, due to the reckless actions of today’s generation, we will be spending the rest of our lives paying back the largess of today.

Right now, Australia is in the middle of a total debt disaster – something that we will likely spend the rest of our lives trying to deal with. It seems no one in government, in media or the community actually wants to talk about it. Sure, there is an acceptance that government needs to tighten its belt and return to a surplus but there seems to be a sidelining of the fact that returning to surplus is only part of the solution because once we do, we will then will need to deal with a half-trillion dollar level of debt that’s been racked up, mostly under the Prime Ministerships of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

On current projections, a Budget surplus will not be achieved until 2020-21 and even then the surplus is expected to be only around 0.1% of GDP, with minor increases to 0.4% of GDP in 2026-27. If those surpluses were to remain consistent it would take at least  50 years to pay off the debt, not including the interest. The Government has done an admirable job in reducing the debt trajectory from more than $139,000 for each Australian by 2054 back to around $65,000 per person, but there is still much more that needs to be done to bring this number down even further.

Simply put, the intergenerational debt burden is a ticking time bomb. The longer we wait, the more we pay. And it’s something that will not only impact on our day to day lives and living standards; it could damage our economic productivity and capacity.

That’s why one of the first things that Aiden Depiazzi and I did when we took over as President and Vice President of the Federal Movement was to make a formal submission to the Treasurer for consideration in the Budget process with the first priority as “taking strong and effective action to lessen the burden of intergenerational debt in Australia”.

While everyone seems to have a measure by which to put across government expenditure, with the forthcoming Budget I believe the measure the Government should use is: “can we justify our kids and grandkids paying this back with interest?” – if the answer is no then simply reduce or cut it.

There is no greater threat to the future of our generation than the genuine threat of intergenerational debt and I am pleased to be a part of a Movement that is making the serious policy case for dealing with this problem sooner rather than later.

I encourage you to visit our recently re-launched website, www.youngliberal.org.au, which now has useful resources to help Young Liberals build the case for change on the issues important to us.

Josh Manuatu is the Federal Vice President of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia

This article originally appeared in the LibLeader, a publication of the Victorian Young Liberals