The Budget in Australia and the Disappearing Surplus

budgetTomorrow, here in Australia, it’s budget day. So, how’s that going to go for us?

Well, two years ago I wrote a post called BobinOz’s Probably Wildly Inaccurate Australian Budget Special 2011. I’m sure you remember reading it and I’m also sure you no doubt remember that in it our Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said his budget was about “getting back in the black..”

I went on to explain that his plan, well, promise actually, was to get Australia back into a surplus of $3.5 billion by 2012/13.


Just six months ago when the government delivered its Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook they were still forecasting a budget surplus, not by as much, but they reckoned there would be a surplus of around $1.1 billion for 2012/13.

Budget Day

And here we are, right now, we have arrived; it is indeed 2012/13. Let’s take a look to see how Wayne Swan’s promise to get this country into a budget surplus erm, by tomorrow, has worked out.

Well, of course, we will have to wait until after tomorrow’s budget for the exact figure, but we all know for sure it will not be a surplus. At the moment, all we can do is guess at how big the deficit will be, but as soon as I know what it is, I will print it below…

The 2012/13 budget deficit is $19.4 billion.

But don’t worry, Wayne Swan has a new plan to get Australia’s budget deficit into surplus within four years.

Great! But who’s going to believe him this time?

It made me wonder though, how does Australia stack up economically these days? As a country, we rode through the Global Financial Crisis pretty well while many countries in Europe and the USA struggled, and continue to struggle today with their finances.

USA vs UK vs Australia as at May 2013-ish

Gross National DebtsBudget deficit:

Okay, let’s start by looking at the budget deficits of each country. According to my research it’s…

  • USA: just over $1 trillion, that’s 1 followed by 12 zeros, or $1,000,000,000,000
  • UK: £120.6 billion, which is roughly $180 billion, or $180,000,000,000 or 18% of the USA’s.
  • Australia: $19.4 billion. That’s $19,400,000,000 or roughly 2% of the USA’s and 11% of the U.K.’s.

Gross national debts and GDPs

  • USA: National debt is around $16 trillion, which is $16,000,000,000,000 and accounts for around 75% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • UK: National debt is about £1.347 trillion which is pretty close to $2 trillion or $2,000,000,000,000 (12.5% of the USA’s) and that accounts for around 88% of their GDP.
  • Australia: National debt here is said to be around $244 billion or $244,000,000,000 which is about 19% of GDP. It is also about 1.5% of the USA’s and about 12% of the UK’s national debts.


  • USA: 315 million
  • UK: 63 million or 20% of the USA’s
  • Australia: 23 million or about 7% of the USA’s and about 36% of the UK’s.


I have no idea what all these figures really mean, but I don’t think you need to be an economist or a mathematical genius to see that Australia when compared to the USA and the UK are still economically much better off.

No matter what happens to us in tomorrow’s budget, no matter how tough we think we might have it here following those deep spending cuts, we can always think, well, “it could be worse!”

What I want to know though is, who’s got all the money?

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ryan May 29, 2013, 7:51 am |

    Hi bob I have 2 pet guinea pigs I was wondering what the cost to send them out to oz would be? Would they have to have jabs like cats and dogs?

  • UkAussi May 21, 2013, 12:38 am |

    Hey Bob, here are some numbers I crunched from yours which probably give a more basic comparison and I think one that better illustrates the difference. After all, each economy is based on how many people live there.

    Budget Deficit
    •USA: $3200 / person
    •UK: $2860 / person
    •Australia: $840 / person

    Gross National Debt
    •USA: $50,800 / person
    •UK: $31,750 / person
    •Australia: $10,600 / person

    Out of interest I also looked up military spending as that is a hot subject here in the US but nobody does anything as the system to govern the spending is “broken”.

    Military Spending per capita (2012 – SIPRI military expenditure database)
    •USA: $2141
    •UK: $893
    •Australia: $893

    I was very suprised to see Oz so high and equal to the UK. Maybe that is an area that can be “managed” unless that is also “broken” (aka corrupted by backhanders/favors from miltary suppliers to govt officials)

    • BobinOz May 21, 2013, 2:34 pm |

      Hi Uk Aussie, interesting numbers. Pretty much underlines that Australia are not even close to being as skint as the USA or the UK, which is interesting because here many people think our debt levels are totally out of control.

      Looking at the figures for the USA and UK, it clearly isn’t, not yet.

      Interesting that the military spending for both the UK and Australia are exactly the same, maybe they have a minimum level of commitment as allies to the US? Just wondering.



  • Joel May 18, 2013, 5:53 am |

    Good comparison among different countries debt/GDP ratios.
    I agree that Australia is not as bad as USA or UK but it is good to see that this budget is seeking to eliminate debt in a 4 year period.
    In my opinion, it is responsible to reduce spending whenever you have debts.
    It is also true that Australian economy is not as diverse as the American and maybe being aware of that pushed Australian goverment to make spending cuts, something that USA government thinks is not neccesary in order to reduce debt, on contrary, they think that by stimulating economy (i.e. giving more money to people) they can accelerate their economy and increase their GDP (I just don’t buy this risky theory).

    • BobinOz May 21, 2013, 2:26 pm |

      Well, that’s the plan, to eliminate debt in four years. It is plan 2 though, the last plan failed miserably.

      Our governments have also splashed the cash on so-called stimulus packages, not sure whether it worked or not, but it did cost a lot of money.

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