Tony Abbott Talking Down the Economy is Living up to His Name, Says Wayne Swan

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By Erik Pineda | October 4, 2012 4:31 PM EST

Tony Abbott was his usual self when the Opposition leader said that Australia could easily go down the drain, in the same way key economies in Europe did, Treasurer Wayne Swan said on Thursday.

While he expects not that much from Mr Abbott when it comes to correct assessment of the domestic economy, Mr Swan said in a statement that for him to compare the local setting to that of Europe was both out of context and irresponsible.

The Liberal stalwart should have at least checked the facts prior to making reckless views on the state of the Australian economy, which Mr Swan said is faced with normal difficulties but is broadly in sound, healthy and robust condition.

In terms of net debt level, Australia's latest was at 10 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) while that of Greece was last accounted at 165 per cent of the European nation's GDP, the treasurer explained.

Clearly, the difference was just staggering, Mr Swan said, adding that there was no point at all of logical comparison.

Clearly too, "Tony Abbott's economic credentials slide further down the drain," Labor's number two stressed.

"Tony Abbott has today sunk to new depths of negativity and economic recklessness in talking our economy down," Mr Swan was reported by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) as saying on Thursday.

His comments were in reaction to what Mr Abbott had earlier told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday: "The lesson of Europe is that countries can go very quickly from a strong position to a parlous position if things aren't well managed."

The opposition leader was actually subscribing to the observation let out by David Murray, who once headed Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Future Fund.

Mr Murray told ABC that he is worried by Australia's low productivity and too high foreign debt, which he added were clear recipes that brought down the economies of many in Europe, specifically that of Greece.

Mr Abbott welcomed the view of Mr Murray as a 'timely warning' considering that "we've got a government which has completely mishandled the mining sector which is the one sector which above all else has kept Australia going."

Economic management that is centred on excessive taxes and regulatory controls will soon push "the economic future of our country at risk," Mr Abbott warned.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard is convinced that Mr Abbott was out of line, if not absurd "to compare our circumstances to Greece," an observation that she added was "grossly irresponsible and wrong."

"Our economy is growing - it's going to grow at around 3 per cent this year, we've got unemployment just over 5 per cent, we've got low inflation, low interest rates, strong public finances -AAA-rated by every major credit agency for the first time in our nation's history," ABC reported Ms Gillard as saying in outlining the true state of the economy.

She added that Mr Abbott should have been warned that "markets listen to what political leaders say, this can have repercussions in the real world that matter for the Australian economy."

The government found an ally in the Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), which viewed the Murray assessment as too bleak. Business leaders, however, warned that productivity issues and regulatory concerns were valid points raised by Mr Murray.

"We don't need to be unduly alarmed by what David Murray had to say, but we do need to take serious note of the underlying point that's being made here, and that underlying point is that Australia needs to increase its productivity if it is going to be able to pay our way in the future," ACCI spokesman Peter Anderson told ABC.

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