Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yesterday in Perth the WA Labor leader Mark McGowan promised that there would be no state-based renewable energy target under any government he leads. Now, where have we heard that before? That is right, Julia Gillard in 2010 promised the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads, only to introduce a carbon tax after the election.
People in Western Australian cannot trust a word that Mark McGowan is saying when it comes to renewable energy targets. Labor in Western Australia has been promising people a 50 per cent renewable energy target for months. They were within five minutes of officially announcing it. It had already been dropped as an announcement to The Australian the day it was about to be announced.
It would be terrible policy for Western Australia, it would drive up the cost of electricity for families, it would drive up the cost of electricity for business, it would cost jobs and it would undermine energy security in Western Australia.
In fact, in many ways a 50 per cent renewable energy target would have even more disastrous implications for Western Australia than other states on the east coast because Western Australia is an energy island. Western Australia has to be energy self-sufficient. Western Australia is not part of the national electricity market and cannot draw on energy supplies from other states in circumstances where the wind does not blow for example.
Mark McGowan and the Labor Party are pursuing a reckless energy policy which would drive up the cost of electricity by more and more and more for families across Western Australia. It would hurt business, it would cost jobs and it would be even worse for Western Australia when it comes to energy security than it has proven to be for a state like South Australia.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Minister, you talk about trust but your party has long been the one of lower taxes and now we see the Treasurer come out again today and raise the spectre of lifting taxes to protect the credit rating. Can voters trust you will not hit their hip pockets ahead of the May Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Liberal National Party Coalition is the party of lower taxes. Our focus is on getting the Budget back into balance by reducing expenditure and expenditure growth back to more sustainable and more affordable levels. What I would say is, do not believe everything you read in the newspaper. The story on the front page of the Financial Review today is wrong. There is no such proposal before the Government. The Government has absolutely no intention of reducing the capital gains tax discount or making changes to negative gearing. The Liberal National Party Coalition is the party of lower taxes. We want to be able to deliver lower taxes so we can strengthen growth and create more jobs. But we do need to get the Budget back into surplus, which is why the Parliament, in particular the Labor Party needs to come on board and support the spending reductions that are required to ensure that the spending commitments of the Government are affordable over the medium to long term.
QUESTION: The Treasurer has hinted this morning in the SMH that the Government would be willing to cede some ground on its company tax cuts. Just how low would you go?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government is committed to the enterprise tax plan that we took to the last election. That is what we have introduced into the House of Representatives. That is what is going to be considered by the Senate. We want to get our entire ten year enterprise tax plan legislated. But everybody knows and it is self-evident, the Government does not have the numbers in the Senate. As we have done with all of our policy measures to strengthen the economy and create more jobs, we will focus on getting as much of our agenda through as possible. When it comes to the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission for example, my good friend and colleague Michaelia Cash was able to get quite a bit of work done before Christmas. We were able to get quite a fair way to delivering on our agenda before Christmas. Last night the Senate supported us taking that even further. We are getting even closer to implementing the agenda that we took to the last election, helping to address lawlessness across construction sites across Australia and reducing the cost of construction. What I would say is the Government remains committed absolutely to legislating all of the business tax cuts that we took to the last election. A more competitive businesses tax rate helps to boost investment, helps to boost productivity, helps to strengthen growth, helps business be more successful and over time helps business to increase real wages for their workers. A business tax cut is in the interest of workers, but we will work through the Senate to get as much of our agenda through as we possibly can.
QUESTION: The Cross-party Committee looking at same sex marriage has handed down its report. Does that open the door for Coalition MPs to have a free vote?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The policy that we took to the last election is clear. Our policy is to give the Australian people a say at a plebiscite. That remains our policy.
QUESTION: You do not think this report is going to stir up tensions for those people in the Liberal party who support same sex marriage?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We took a policy to the last election that we would give the Australian people a say at a plebiscite. The work the Senate select committee did is in the scenario where a future plebiscite were to make certain decisions which would lead to certain outcomes. We have not had a plebiscite. So from that point of view our policy remains to have a plebiscite first.
QUESTION: Why is the Government prepared to change its position on some policies it took to the election but not this one?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to all of our policies. We are committed to get as much of our agenda through as possible. On this one, our commitment to the Australian people at the election was extremely clear. Our commitment was when it comes to the definition of marriage, we would give the Australia people the opportunity to have their say. There is a diversity of strongly held views across the Australian community, not just across the Australian Parliament. The best way to settle a diversity of strongly held views is by giving the Australian people their say.
QUESTION: There is no chance of the plebiscite getting through the Senate though, when is the Government going to deal with that reality?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government’s policy is clear.