The concept of good and bad debt, as promoted by treasurer Scott Morrison, gets an airing in the 2017 budget.
The basics are: good debt is that which improves productivity, such as infrastructure spending. Bad debt is borrowing to pay for everyday things, a bit like going to the supermarket and using a credit card to buy food.
The government is increasing the emphasis and transparency of recurrent and capital spending by reporting, alongside the underlying cash balance, the net operating balance in place of the fiscal balance.
The net operating balance is an accrual measure of revenue less expenses, including the depreciation of prior capital investment.
The 2017-18 budget shows the way to a surplus in 2021.
The underlying cash balance is expected to improve each year over the next four.
The deficit is expected to fall from $29.4 billion (1.6% of GDP) in 2017-18 to $2.5 billion (0.1% of GDP) in 2019-20, with the budget returning to a projected surplus of $7.4 billion (0.4% of GDP) in 2020-21.
The net operating balance is also expected to improve from a deficit of $19.8 billion (1.1% of GDP) in 2017-18, returning to projected surpluses of $7.6 billion (0.4% of GDP) in 2019-20 and $17.5 billion (0.8% of GDP) in 2020-21.
Here are all the numbers showing the reducing deficit:
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