Like the United States, Australia also once suffered a downgrade to its top-notch AAA government credit rating – but it took 17 years to get it back.
In 1986, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s cut Australia’s debt rating, prompting the Canberra government to impose strict budget cuts.
In fact, Paul Keating, who would later become Prime Minister in the 1990s, described Australia as a "banana republic."
In 1989, the credit agencies again downgraded the land Down Under.
However, the austerity measures were helped greatly by the fact that Australia embarked on accelerated economic growth – including the overhauling of its economic system, the modernization of its financial machinery and the deregulation of unprofitable industries.
Moreover, China’s unquenchable thirst for Australia’s rich natural resources provided the final thrust to the country’s economic resurgence.
Peter Costello, the former Australian treasurer, told The Australian newspaper that his country “was shocked to be downgraded from a AAA rating in the late 1980s. It took us outside the group of those countries considered first class in economics management and financial strength."
Costello explained that the downgrade led foreign investors to begin shunning Australia, in favor of the U.S., Germany and U.K.
"The AAA rating is very hard to recover once it has been lost," he said.
"Once it is lost, debt servicing costs rise and make it much more difficult to balance a budget, let alone repay debt. The message is to never lose the status in the first place."
Costello, who became treasurer in 1996, said he committed himself to "follow a path of driving the Australian budget into surplus and repaying government debt".
Australia’s AAA-rating was not restored until the government had delivered six surplus budgets.
"When we recovered this rating we recovered respect in the eyes of investors and rejoined the first rank of countries as measured by economic performance," Costello said.
By 2003, when S&P awarded Australia with an AAA-rating, the agency wrote that the country "has one of the strongest fiscal positions."
Australia is likely to keep its pristine rating,
A report from Royal Bank of Scotland boasted that Australian public debt "is very low by both past and international standards. Total public debt equals 26 per cent of gross domestic product, split equally between commonwealth and state debt. This puts Australia in the bottom three countries of the OECD ranking of public debt burdens, well below the OECD average of 100 per cent GDP."