What has each Australian invested in public assets?

How much have you invested in Australia? How much do you, as a citizen of Australia, of your state and a resident in your local government area own? What is it exactly that you are asking your elected members of Parliament to manage on your behalf?

There are the services we use – public services for all of us. There are the private services the public sector contributes to making affordable for all of us. And there is the stock of assets that our forebears have built for us, or that we inherited when we became citizens of this country.

So what does citizenship and residency bestow on us?

Collectively, we own and ask our representatives and the public service to manage on our behalf, the assets and liabilities that are recorded in the financial statements of our governments: The Commonwealth of Australia, The State of Queensland, and the City of Brisbane. Ever wondered what you, as a resident of Brisbane, living in Queensland and a citizen of Australia have a share in?

First, let us get the mathematical and financial definitions out of the way. First, what exactly is one billion? It is a thousand million a billion, same as the American billion. It used to be a million, million, but the US dominance of financial markets means most countries now use 1,000 million to mean 1 billion.  Second, what is the public sector? It consists of government departments, and agencies or statutory authorities, public non-financial corporations and public financial corporations and their controlled entities. The definition is the same all over the world as it accords with the General Finance Statistics, and the System of National Accounts published by the United Nations.

So, given the financial statements of the Commonwealth, State of Queensland and Brisbane City Council report our total assets and liabilities, what do we own?


The total assets of the Commonwealth, consolidated from all government departments and agencies funded from taxes, public non-financial corporations providing goods and services paid for by fees and charges, and all public financial institutions, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, were, as at 30 June 2012 $390.6b. Now assuming this value was still owned in September 2012, when the population estimates were released, each and every one of us: man, woman, child, and other residents own $17,142 in Commonwealth assets. $390,600,000,000 in assets and 22,785,500 people.

Now, against that we have incurred liabilities: $646.8b. Now that is $(28,386) per person. So, each of us is in debt to someone or other at the Commonwealth level to the tune of $(11,244). Our Commonwealth Government appears not to be a going concern.

Let us not pause there for long, but remember to carry forward a net burden on each of us of $(11,244).

State of Queensland

We also own a stake in the State of Queensland. The total assets of the State of Queensland, consolidated from all government departments and statutory authorities funded from Commonwealth payments and taxes, all public non-financial corporations and all public financial corporations, including Queensland Treasury Corporation, were, as at 30 June 2012, valued at: $299.748b. With a population of 4,584,600 that means each Queensland has a stake in $65,381.49 of public assets: Schools, hospitals, electricity generators, national parks, roads etc.

Against these assets, we owe $137.79b or $(30,054.97) each.  The means, we have a net worth invested in the Queensland State Sector of $35,326.52.

Off-setting that against the Commonwealth negative net worth, it means we have a net investment in the Commonwealth and Queensland of $24,082.52 each.

City of Brisbane

And we live in Brisbane, so also have a share of its assets and liabilities. As at the 30 June 2012, the City of Brisbane assets were worth $21.2b. Our latest statistics for the population of Brisbane are as at 30 June 2011 when there were 1,079,392 people living within the City Council area. That means each of us owns $19,640.69 in assets.

Against that were liabilities of $2.296b or we owe for our local government about $(2,127.12) each.

That gives us a net investment, each, in the Brisbane City Council’s consolidated entity of $17,513.57 each.


Adding that investment to our net investment in the Commonwealth and State of Queensland of $24,082.52, we get a total investment in all our levels of government, each, of $41,596.10.

Total Investment in the public sector of Australia per capita is $41,596.10. If you live with a partner, and have two children living at home, then your household has an investment of $166,384.40. And that is the same regardless of your individual wealth or status. Each of us, by dint of being born in Australia, or being accepted as residents of Australia, is responsible for collectively managing a total asset base of $711.548b. Assets and Liabilities are spread differently with more people to carry the Commonwealth’s net loss than the Brisbane City Council’s net worth.

Jurisdiction Assets Liabilities Net Worth Population Per Capita
Commonwealth $390.6b $646.8b $-256.2b 22,785,500 $(11,243.99)
State of Queensland $299.748b $137.79b $161.958b  4,584,600 $35,326.53
City of Brisbane $   21.2b $   2.296b $18.904b  1,079,392 $17,513.56
TOTAL $711.548b $786.886b $41,596.10

So there you have it. You are electing your local members – all three of them – to manage on your behalf total assets worth, in the case of residents of the Brisbane City, $786.8 billion dollars, which equates to $41,596 each. And then some. If you live in another state, or another local government area, the figure will be different. We at K McGovern & Associates are working on getting that data together for you. But it is not available yet. Our representatives, at the commonwealth, state and local level manage, not only our collective assets and the services they provide, but the values we treasure. And that is a job worthy of our attention.

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