Prime Minister Julia Gillard has accused Tony Abbott of being “grossly irresponsible” for likening the future fortunes of the Australian economy to that of crisis-struck Europe.
The opposition leader backed comments by former Commonwealth Bank of Australia boss and Future Fund head David Murray that Australia risked a European-style economic downturn if debt was not addressed.
Mr Abbott said Mr Murray’s comments were a “timely reminder” for Australia.
“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,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
He said the government had “completely mishandled” the mining sector that had kept Australia going through all the international economic difficulties of the past few years.
Ms Gillard said such comments were “absurd”.
“Markets listen to what political leaders say. This can have repercussions,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Hobart.
“To compare our circumstances, as the leader of the opposition has done today, to Greece, is grossly irresponsible and wrong.”
She said Australia was growing, unemployment, inflation and interest rates were low, public finances were strong and the economy was rated triple-A by every major credit agency.
Treasurer Wayne Swan weighed in, saying Mr Abbott had sunk to “new depths of negativity and economic recklessness”.
He said while Australia’s net debt was at 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), net debt in Greece was expected to peak at a “staggering” 165 per cent of GDP.