Fact sheet

Fact Check: the Victorian Liberals say the state's debt is larger than any other state and larger than NSW, Queensland and Tasmania combined. Is that correct?

Debt Public debt State governments Australia Victoria

A central theme of the Victorian Opposition's election campaign has been saying Labor created a "debt disaster" for the state. The release of the Department of Treasury and Finance's pre-election budget update prompted a fresh attack from the Liberals' shadow treasurer, David Davis. "The Pre-Election Budget Update (PEBU) has confirmed Labor's debt disaster for Victoria with net debt set to increase to $165.9 billion by 2025," Mr Davis said in a statement on November 10. "This is more than the total of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined." Several versions of the claim have been made by Mr Davis, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, the Liberal Party campaign headquarters and shadow transport infrastructure minister Matthew Bach. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has also made claims about Victoria's debt.  They include that Victoria's debt "has blown out to $167.5 billion" and "with Victoria now $167.5 billion in debt". In some cases Victoria's finances are compared with New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined. Mr Guy and Mr Davis have also said Victoria's net debt is "the biggest debt of any state in Australia".

Mr Davis's claim is gilding the lily. So are similar claims from Mr Guy, Mr Bach and the Liberal Party organisation. It's important to note that Victoria's net debt in June 2022 was $99.98 billion. It is not yet the $165.9 billion it is projected to be in June 2026, despite Liberal Party claims it has already "blown out" to similar magnitudes and Mr Davis's claim that it will reach that level by 2025. Nonetheless, Victoria's June 2022 debt sits head and shoulders above any other state or territory in nominal terms. But adjusting for the size of each state economy, using a debt as a proportion of gross state product as a measure, Victoria and the Northern Territory are neck and neck, with other states still far behind. Victoria's June 2022 debt is also larger than the combined total of NSW, Queensland and Tasmania in both nominal terms and as a share of gross state product. However, the gap is larger now than it is projected to be in June 2026. The debt in Victoria in June 2026 is projected to be larger than any other single state, including the NT, on both measures. But projections for four years in advance are far less reliable than actual and estimated figures for the most recent financial year. The Liberal Party could have made the same argument sticking to these more accurate figures, rather than reaching for higher numbers which may never come to pass.

Mr Davis's claim is gilding the lily. So are similar claims from Mr Guy, Mr Bach and the Liberal Party organisation.

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