Transcript

Transcript of Interview - Sky News - Australian Agenda with Peter van Onselen and Paul Kelly

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance

Transcription: 

PROOF COPY E & OE

Date: 

27/10/2013

Topic(s): 

Budget, mining tax repeal, Commission of Audit, debt ceiling, Medibank

PETER VAN ONSELEN: As mentioned off the top of the program, our first guest is the new Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, welcome to the program.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Let me ask you about - I guess how you found the new role that you've in - that you're in now since getting there.  Is there a lot of low hanging fruit that can be picked off to be able to get the budget under better control in your view?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Look we've inherited a mess from the Labor Party, a budget in very bad shape and a budget that continues to deteriorate. If you look at the situation that Labor inherited in 2007, there was no government net debt, a $20 billion surplus, about $45 billion worth of cash at the bank and of course the government at that time was collecting more than $1 billion a year in net interest payments on the back of a positive net asset position. Now fast forward to 2013 and the situation that we've inherited this year is a deficit of $30 billion and growing, after a promise of a surplus,  government net debt heading for $200 billion and beyond and gross debt heading for $400 billion and beyond.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So are there surprises in there Senator?  Surprise - are you surprised at the extent of the budget problem, compared to before you had the access that you now have in government?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well courtesy of the Charter of Budget Honesty introduced by the Howard government and Peter Costello the previous government was forced to come clean about the state of the budget just before the election, which wasn’t the case before that. The deterioration of the budget position in the eleven weeks from May to the election being called at the beginning of August of about $30 billion, about a $3 billion a week deterioration of the budget bottom line, would not have become apparent in previous years until after the election. So to that extent there was an improvement in the level of transparency, but the really concerning situation is that what we have inherited from Labor is not just a bad position at the time of the election, but a position that continues to deteriorate. So the work that Joe Hockey and I have been doing in recent weeks - we've already started to apply additional scrutiny to the discretionary grants spending across government, we've of course set up the Commission of Audit...

PETER VAN ONSELEN: And I want to get into that in a moment.  But I guess the reason for asking whether what you saw ahead of the election is broadly the problem that you've been faced with, and I think you've confirmed that, you know, you knew it was coming courtesy of the Charter of Budget Honesty. That means, does it not, that there isn't the same grounds that Costello and John Howard had in 1996 where we ended up seeing a differentiation between core and non-core promises.  You knew what was coming.  So what you took to the election stands, despite the budget problem?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we are committed to delivering on our election commitments, yes.  But the point that I've just made is that the budget position has continued to deteriorate since the election as a result of the sort of waste and mismanagement that was put in place by Labor over six years in government. Now we've got to find the bottom and before Christmas, we'll be releasing the midyear economic and fiscal outlook, which will give people a good indication of what our starting position is going to be moving forward, as we set out to fix the budget mess that we've inherited from the Labor Party.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: The former government pledged to get back to surplus by 2016/17.  Can you match that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well the former government, the Labor Party, kept promising surplus budgets and kept delivering deficits. In the lead up to the 2010 election, they promised a surplus in 2012/13 and we ended up with an eighteen-point-eight billion dollar deficit.  They promised a $4.5 billion surplus for 13/14 and we now are faced with a $30 billion deficit and growing. We will put the budget back into surplus as soon as possible. We will put the budget back into surplus more quickly than Labor would have. We will put the budget back onto a believable pathway to surplus that of course... interrupted

PETER VAN ONSELEN: The Prime Minister's gone further than that though, I have to say, because the quote from him that's in the Australian Financial Review, and this is his words, we will get back to surplus at least as quickly as the former government claimed that it would get back to surplus.  Now they claimed that they would get there in 2016/17, so if you will get back to surplus at least as quickly as the former government claimed that it would, Tony Abbott's words, then you have to get back to surplus for him to be telling the truth there by 2016/17.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well and indeed. We'll be getting back to surplus more quickly than Labor would have and we'll be getting back to a believable surplus, unlike the Labor Party, which kept promising surplus budgets and kept delivering more deficits. But of course, what we will be doing, in a calm, methodical and orderly fashion - we're currently in the process of preparing the midyear economic and fiscal outlook, which will be released in good time before Christmas and that will have all of the information about the current state of the budget and our plans to get the budget back to surplus as soon as possible.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But presumably, Tony Abbott wouldn't have been talking out of his hat.  He would know about the MYEFO coming up.  And he has said, that we will get back to surplus at least as quickly as the former government claimed that it would.  So you will be back in surplus by 2016/17.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Tony Abbott never talks out of his hat and Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, myself, we're all committed to bring the budget back to surplus more quickly than Labor would have.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Claimed that it would, which was 2016/17.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we will be releasing the update in good time before Christmas, in the midyear economic and fiscal outlook.

PAUL KELLY: But I think what you're telling us, is that you recognise that it's not tenable for the new government to bring down a surplus timetable, which does not match that of Labor.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, again, Labor - I'll just say what I said before - Labor again and again promised a surplus and delivered deficits.

PAUL KELLY: I understand that argument.  I understand, I understand that argument, but Labor was committed to a surplus in 2016/17, and I think it's not tenable for you not to match that.

MATHIAS CORMANN: And Labor was committed to a surplus in 2012/13 and 13/14 and 14/15, and of course every time they promised a surplus, they delivered another multibillion dollar deficit. What we're setting out to do in a calm, methodical, responsible fashion is identify the facts, make judgements to turn the mess around that we inherited from the Labor Party and way more quickly than Labor would have, because Labor would never have delivered a surplus.

PAUL KELLY: Okay, well…

MATHIAS CORMANN: We’re going to put the budget back onto a believable pathway, back to surplus as soon as possible.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Are you uncomfortable with the rigid timetable that Labor set for itself?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm not uncomfortable with anything other than that Labor created a complete mess.  Labor kept promising surpluses and kept delivering more deficits.  Labor kept wasting money. Labor kept increasing spending, spending money they didn't have.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But I guess my point though, it seemed like the root of their problem was that they set themselves a rigid timetable, which they then didn't meet, but Tony Abbott in that quote has clearly set a rigid timetable - a surplus ahead of 2016/17.

MATHIAS CORMANN: The root of Labor's problems was that they kept spending more than they raised in revenue. Even though that revenue continued to grow strongly, their spending grew more strongly. That was the root of their problem. What we've got to do is we've got to get spending growth back under control, which is of course why we've initiated the additional scrutiny of discretionary grant spending, which is why we set up the Commission of Audit to help us identify efficiencies across the whole of the government.

PAUL KELLY: Just how concerned are you that economic growth over the next couple of years, say in 2015/16 will not be as strong as forecast and that you will face difficulties on that front with growth continuing to be weaker?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We're committed to building a stronger economy, which is why we are committed to remove many of the burdens that Labor has imposed on our economy over the last six years. There's no doubt that we're facing global economic challenges. Times are going to be challenging moving forward, which is why it is so important that we scrap the carbon tax, that we scrap the mining tax, that we get rid of all of that unnecessary, costly red tape, which is tying up business in Australia, making us less competitive, making us less productive. 

PAUL KELLY: Are you concerned that mining investment looks as though it's going to fall back, fall away faster than previously thought? Is that a problem for the government?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well the previous Labor government took the strength of the mining industry for granted. There's no two ways about it, which is why they came up with this complex, distorting, inefficient, costly to administer, costly to comply with mining tax, which they framed around an assumption - an unbelievable assumption - that the record terms of trade would continue forever.  That was never going to happen. And Labor irresponsibly linked a whole series of spending promises to a mining tax, which was never going to raise any meaningful revenue...

PAUL KELLY: Sure.

MATHIAS CORMANN: ...which hasn't raised any meaningful revenue.  So to get back to your question, obviously, the mining industry for time immemorial has gone, obviously through cycles. Whenever there is a period of record terms of trade, it is followed by a supply response and terms of trade coming back. Obviously there are always fluctuations in demand there are cycles in terms of the investment activity.  There is no doubt that investment in the mining industry is not at the same levels as it has been in recent years.  All of that has implications for the economy, which is why it is so important that we make every post a winner when it comes to bringing down costs, making ourselves more competitive internationally, improving productivity.

PAUL KELLY: Okay, well just on this same question about investment.  What's your response to the speech given by the Deputy Governor, Philip Lowe at the end of the week, in which he argued the total non-mining investment now is below the trough of the early 1990s, which was a recession of course.  What's your response to that comment?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, the response is that we're in a situation where we have to make sure that we get ourselves back to the global competitive edge.  Over the last six years, arguably at the worst possible time, Labor kept adding more and more lead to our saddlebag. The carbon tax, which increased the cost of doing business in Australia as well as pushing up the cost of electricity for families, the mining tax, increasing the red tape burden on business with more than 21,000 new regulations, increases in union militancy – these are all things that of course we have committed to address as part of our agenda for stronger growth. There's no two ways about it, if the Labor Party cared about the strength of our economy, if the Labor Party cared about the capacity to generate more jobs moving forward, they would join us immediately in our commitment to scrap the carbon tax and the mining tax.

PAUL KELLY: Sure, if we can just, just leave the Labor Party to one side.  Isn't the reality that the economic challenge you face is, is greater, is in fact much deeper given the problem with non-mining investment and the fall away in mining investment?  Isn't that the reality?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, the reality is that we are in challenging times. At any time there are opportunities and challenges in any economic circumstances. But right now that is why it is so important that we take action to reduce the cost of doing business in Australia, to make ourselves more competitive internationally, to improve productivity, so that he non-mining parts of the economy can prosper and grow again.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Okay hold that thought because we’re going to take a break. When we come back we’re going to continue discussing matters financial with the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Back in a moment.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

Welcome back.  You're watching Australian Agenda, where Paul Kelly and I are speaking to the new Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann. Senator, I want to ask you about the composition of this new Audit Commission that you've established.  Labor has taken to the Government suggesting that this is just big business and outsourcing of Government responsibility to big business.  How do you respond to that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it's just a ridiculous proposition. It's a group of very highly regarded, well respected Australians.  Three of them are former Secretaries of Departments. You've got Peter Boxall a former secretary of the Finance Department. You've got Tony Cole a former secretary of the Treasury Department.  You've got Bob Fisher out of Western Australia, a former long serving Director-General of Economic as well as Social Services Delivery Departments in Western Australia.

We've got a very good mix.  This is all about reviewing the size, the scope and the efficiency of Government and we've got a highly experienced and highly regarded group of people doing that job for us.

PETER VAN ONSELEN; One of your parliamentary colleagues told me during the week that one of the most important things about this Commission of Audit was that it provides us with cover for if we need to make spending cuts.  Do you concur with that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I wouldn't have put it that way. Essentially the Commission of Audit has got completely free reign to look across the whole operations of Government to identify opportunities to ensure that the operations of Government are as efficient as possible, that taxpayers' money is used as sensibly as possible, that people across Australia can receive the services of Government in a better, more efficient, more cost effective way. Now obviously once the Commission has reported, there will be some recommendations which we will embrace and there will be other recommendations that we might not embrace. So obviously, we thought it was important to have a thorough proper Commission of Audit process go through the whole operation of Government, to give us warts and all their view on how the operations of Government need to be improved. But then of course, it will come down to the Government to make the decisions on what is going to be achievable and what is not.

PAUL KELLY: But that's a pretty neutral way of putting it.  Saying well, we'll accept some of the recommendations and we'll reject others of the recommendations.  So, can I just ask generally, how determined is the Government to embrace this report and really try and incorporate significant elements of this document into the May budget?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are looking for recommendations to implement structural efficiencies and of course we are looking to receive the initial interim report by the end of January, which will feed into the 2014/15 budget. What we are committed to is to get spending growth under control, the spending growth that we've inherited from the Labor Party. What we are committed to is to get the budget back onto a believable pathway back to surplus. What we are committed to is to get the budget back to a surplus of one per cent as a share of GDP within a decade and hopefully a bit sooner than that.  So…

PAUL KELLY: So will the Government bite the bullet on these recommendations?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well obviously, it's very hard for me to speculate on what we will and what we will not…

PAUL KELLY: In a general sense though.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, in a general sense, we haven’t received any recommendations yet. Obviously, once we’ve received the recommendations we will consider them through a proper process and the Government will make decisions on which recommendations we will accept and which we won't.

PAUL KELLY: Okay.  Well, to what extent will be - the essential strategy be to be careful about immediate spending cuts, given the situation of the economy and go more for medium term spending cuts down the track?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well obviously there are a range of things that we will be pursuing. We will be pursuing our agenda to strengthen the economy, because stronger growth will improve not only the prosperity of the nation, but it will also improve Government revenue flows. But beyond that of course, we want to make sure that taxpayers' money is spent as wisely as possible. So we will be looking right across the Government for opportunities in the short, medium and the long term to spend less, to achieve the most appropriate outcomes.
It is absolutely critically important that we get spending growth under control. We can't remain on the same trajectory that we have inherited from the Labor Party.  Now we will do that in the best possible way.

PAUL KELLY: If we just look at privatisation.  To what extent do you think there are significant opportunities for privatisation at state level?  The figure of one-hundred-and-thirty billion dollars has been mentioned in terms of sales from State Government assets.  What's your general view on State Government privatisation potential?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well obviously we are looking at the operations of the Federal Government and at a federal level the Coalition has a policy to sell Medibank Private. At this stage we do not have a policy to sell any other Commonwealth assets.  Although we have asked the Commission of Audit to look across all of the Commonwealth assets to assess and review whether there are other opportunities.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: What sort of assets though? I know you’re not saying you are going to privatise these assets. But what are Commonwealth assets that are left that are open to privatisation?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well obviously there is a range of Government business enterprises. They are a matter of public record. But again I stress, the Government right now has a policy to sell Medibank Private, which is a long standing policy, which has been on the record for a very long time. We announced earlier this week of course the scoping study as a first step in exploring if and when that sale might be able to proceed in the best interests of taxpayers.  Beyond that we don't have a policy to sell any other assets at this point.

PAUL KELLY: But you haven't ruled that out have you?  You haven't ruled out the possibility of further privatisations?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we have asked the Commission of Audit to look at whether there are opportunities that make sense given that we've asked them to look at the scope and the role and responsibilities of Government. We think it makes sense. We haven't had a review like this for nearly twenty years. It makes sense every couple of decades to take a step back and ask the question whether the things that we've done for the last twenty years still make sense for the next twenty years. From time to time there is a good argument that Government should no longer be involved in some of the things that they've been involved in in the past in order to reprioritise and essentially redirect according to the needs and aspirations of current times.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But what's left federally as opposed to - I realise at state level there is a lot of assets that could be privatised.  But federally you've got Medibank, which you've obviously announced during the week, that you're moving towards privatising.  Australia Post is something that has been speculated about.  But at a Commonwealth level, what other assets are there?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I will leave it to the Commission of Audit to have a look at all of the areas that Government is involved in at a federal level and to make recommendations to us about the areas that they think are better dealt with by the private sector, or the areas that they think are better dealt with at a state or local government level rather than a federal government level. This is really about having a thorough look at what the scope of government at a federal level should be moving forward, rather than to be locked in to this arrangement that has been in place for the last twenty years.

PAUL KELLY: Okay.  Can we just on that point clarify that what do you intend to do as a result of all this is to reduce the overall size of Government as a proportion of GDP?  Can you give us a guarantee that you'll do that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, we've made a commitment that within the decade we will reduce the size of Government as a proportion of GDP and that we'll achieve a surplus of one per cent as a share of GDP and of course again, the Commission of Audit is very much part of our strategy to reach that objective.

PAUL KELLY: Okay.  Well, what's your response to what's likely to be the Labor Party attack on the Commission of Audit, which is that spending cuts will damage the economy?  If we cut spending this is going to hurt the economy and hurt jobs.  What's your response to that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, what we need is stronger growth and job creation predominantly out of the private sector. In order to achieve stronger private sector growth, which ultimately will deliver increased revenue to Government to fund the services of Government if we get that right, then that will help us put the federal budget back on to a more sustainable footing.

PAUL KELLY: Okay.  Well, does that mean that you think that one of the problems with the economy in recent years under Labor is that a lot of the jobs growth, the majority of the jobs growth, was in the public sector? That jobs growth was too weak in the private sector?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well bloated inefficient government bureaucracies do not help with creating stronger growth. The truth is that when you've got more than twenty-one thousand new pieces of regulation with all of the additional public servants that come with it, imposing additional compliance and paperwork requirements on businesses right across Australia that actually has a negative impact on economic growth, not a positive impact on economic growth. It might increase job numbers in the public service, but it doesn't actually help us grow our economy more strongly.

PAUL KELLY: So what you're really telling us is that your approach is a smaller public sector which you think can help generate higher growth?  Is that essentially it?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We think that better more efficient less costly services out of Government and stronger growth in the private sector is absolutely the way to go, if we want to put our economy on a stronger footing and if we want to put the federal budget on a stronger more sustainable footing.

PAUL KELLY: What about the political risks associated with that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, obviously we've been elected to make decisions. We will communicate the reasons for those decisions to the best of our ability and in two and a half years, three years time, people will be able to pass judgement.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I want to ask you about the debt ceiling.  It's been increased from - or you want to increase it from three-hundred billion to five-hundred billion.  Now, Treasurer Joe Hockey did make it quite clear when you both were announcing that, that what the debt ceiling goes up to doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get there.  In fact, you pledged that you won't. But let me put it this way.  Are you concerned that if you increase the debt limit by so much that it then sits there at $500 billion going forward, which let's say in years to come, provides Labor with the opportunity that they don't need to keep coming back to the parliament to increase the debt ceiling?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Peter, it's not a matter of wanting to increase the debt ceiling to $500 billion, it's a matter of having to as a result of the mess that Labor left behind for us.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But I guess my point though, it seemed like the root of their problem was that they set themselves a rigid timetable, which they then didn't meet, but Tony Abbott in that quote has clearly set a rigid timetable - a surplus ahead of 2016/17.

MATHIAS CORMANN: If you can let me answer this question because it's a very important point. In May when Wayne Swan delivered his last budget, he knew that the Government would reach and without corrective action exceed the three-hundred billion dollar legislated debt limit by the end of this calendar year. In fact the advice we've got from Treasury is that we would reach the legislated debt limit by 12 December this year. Now, we said at the time that Wayne Swan should have - at the time of delivering the budget – he should have legislated then to increase the debt ceiling at that time. But he couldn't be bothered and he was quite happy to leave that responsibility to a future government. Now, since then - at the time of the budget the advice was that gross debt would go to $370 billion over the forward estimates. Just between the period of the budget and the election, the budget deteriorated by more than $30 billion. That takes us to four-hundred billion dollars and the advice that we've got from Treasury is that on current trends that we have inherited from the Labor Party, gross debt is going to go beyond $400 billion.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But aren't you intending to turn that around?  The whole point of our discussion until now was about reducing the size of Government.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Sure.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So why blow it out to a ceiling of $500 billion if you are going to be doing all these things to reduce Labor's, as you put it, mess?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, okay.  So we've inherited the situation on current trends that is going to take us past four-hundred billion dollars. The advice from the Australian Office of Financial Management is in order to work your way through refinancing lumpiness and so on that you need to have a buffer of about sixty billion dollars. So in order to provide certainty and stability to the market, we made a judgement that the five-hundred billion dollar debt limit was the most appropriate way to go at this point in time. Well of course, we are committed totally to reduce debt. Of course we are totally committed to pay off debt.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But does that mean…

MATHIAS CORMANN: But we've got to work our way through the serious bump that we've inherited from the Labor Party and to do that in a responsible fashion we had to take the action that we announced earlier this week.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But if the advice that you received was that you need a buffer of about $60 billion, does that mean that we should all hold on, buckle up, for debt to get to about $430 or $440 billion.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we have inherited a budget in very bad shape from the Labor Party. We've inherited a budget that is deteriorating. We will work as calmly and as methodically, but also as speedily as responsibly possible to turn that around.  But we've got to deal with the situation that we've inherited.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But just to answer that question though, if the advice was that you need to have a buffer of about sixty billion, presumably you've chosen the five-hundred billion ceiling to give you that $60 billon buffer.  So debt might well peak, it would seem, at around about $440 billion. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: We've said in our press conference – where the increase in the debt ceiling was announced – that the advice from Treasury to us is that gross debt is going to go past four-hundred billion dollars over the forward estimates on the trends that we have inherited from the Labor Party. Now we will be providing specific updates on the exact numbers when we've done all of the work to finalise the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook and we will be providing the update on the state of the budget in the usual way at that time.

PAUL KELLY: Let's talk about entitlement.  Given that life expectancy is heading north, do you accept that there is a strong argument to further lift the age at which people are entitled to get the pension?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well you are quite right the budget does face a series of structural pressures. So we've got the bad position we've inherited from Labor, we've got the bad trend and then also we've got the pressures on the spending side that come from the aging of the population. Now we are not going to make any rush judgements now on how to address these. The reason we have a Commission of Audit is to provide advice to us on how best and most responsibly to deal with some of those pressures that come with the ageing of the population, both in terms of health and social welfare spending. We will make decisions in good time before the next budget and budgets beyond that in terms of how best to address that.

PAUL KELLY: Yeah, but given the size of the spending involved here, given the rhetoric from the present government when it was in opposition about entitlements, do you accept that there has got to be a priority in terms of looking at this?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we accept that the budget is under structural pressure as a result of the ageing of the population and that there are a range of things that we've got to pursue and we've got to make judgements on how best to address that. The Commission of Audit will be one input into that. Of course the Government will consider how best to deal with that moving forward. I’m not here today going to make announcements on specific strategies. I'm obviously accepting and the Government is accepting that the ageing of the population is a pressure on the budget moving forward.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Senator, just before we let you go, can I just ask you - going back to the privatisation of Medibank, what's the timeline on that?  When are we going to see that come in?  The Opposition are attacking you for wanting to rush this through.  What is the timeline?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are going through a very calm, methodical and orderly process. The Government has the authority to pursue the sale of Medibank on the back of a piece of legislation that was passed by parliament in 2006. We have now initiated a scoping study. We've long been committed to the sale of Medibank.  It's been part of our election platform for many elections.                                                                                                  

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So how much money are you expecting from it?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Before I get to that - of course, Medibank is a commercial business which operates in a well functioning competitive market. We've initiated a scoping study as part of a first step in the process, to assess whether it makes sense, given current market conditions, to proceed with the sale at this point in time. We will only proceed with the sale if the advice is that market conditions are right for it and that we can get an appropriate price. Obviously the scoping study will give us an indication on estimated proceeds, on proposed timetables, on structure for the sale and so on.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But this has been Coalition policy for years. You must have a number in mind that you would like to see the Government get.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well you don't do these things in an ad hoc fashion like this. Going through proper processes is exactly that. There has been legislation in parliament since 2006 authorising the Government to sell Medibank, incidentally, legislation which the Labor Party chose never to repeal. The Labor Party in six years in Government decided to leave the Medibank Private Sale Act 2006 in place. They turned Medibank into a for-profit business which meant that they were able to take more than $1.4  billion in dividends and income tax out of Medibank over that period. So we are going through normal proper processes and we’ll make judgements in an orderly fashion.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Alright Senator Cormann I know you’ve got a plane that you’ve got to rush to. Thanks for your company here on Australian Agenda. Thanks very much.

MATHIAS CORMANN: No worries, good to be here.

ENDS

[ENDS]

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth