Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning all. The Coalition is working to deliver on our commitment to build a stronger economy and create more jobs. We have started by introducing plans to scrap the carbon tax, to scrap the mining tax, to reduce red tape costs for business by $1 billion a year, by starting to roll out our investment in productivity enhancing infrastructure. What the Labor Party has tried to do today, dishonestly I might add, is an analysis of their last budget and try to sell it as an indicator of future performance of our Government. Our Government, the Coalition Government stands by its commitment to the creation of one million new jobs over five years. If the Labor Party was genuinely interested in the creation of new jobs they would support our efforts to scrap the carbon tax, to scrap their failed mining tax and to cut the unnecessary red tape that grew and grew and grew under the previous government. The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook is an update of Labor’s last budget. It is an update on the state of the economy that we inherited from the Labor Party. It is no secret, and it should not come as a surprise to Chris Bowen, that the economy we inherited was an economy growing below trend, with unemployment rising and with the Budget in a mess. We inherited $123 billion worth of deficits, with government debt heading for $667 billion. We are working to turn that situation around and not with any help from the Labor Party I might add.
QUESTION: So you don’t put any credibility to this parliamentary research based on your own economic forecasts saying that you will be 200,000 jobs short?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor Party was dishonest in their spin about the budget in government and they continue to be dishonest in their spin about the budget in opposition. What Chris Bowen has done today is present a Parliamentary Library analysis of their last budget and try to spin it as if it was somehow an indicator of the Coalition’s capacity to deliver on our commitments. The Coalition will deliver on our commitments. We are working to build a stronger economy and create more jobs, and if Chris Bowen was interested in job creation rather than just in political posturing, he would support us in the delivery of those plans.
QUESTION: So you give a rock solid guarantee that you will create a million jobs?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We made that commitment in the lead up to the last election, we are sticking to that commitment, we will deliver on that commitment, and of course we have already started to pass the legislation to scrap the carbon tax through the House of Representatives, to pass legislation to scrap Labor’s failed mining tax through the House of Representatives. It is Labor that is standing in the way of the creation of one million new jobs over the next five years. If Labor was genuinely interested in job creation, they would get out of the way and let the Government get on with its agenda to build a stronger economy and create more jobs, instead of forcing us to wait until 1 July 2014.
QUESTION: What about variable factors like the Australian Dollar, the economic slowdown, won’t they have an impact on job numbers?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Obviously there are always external factors and the previous government instead of making our economy more competitive, continued to impose more and more lead into our saddlebag. They used to impose more costs on economy, they used to impose more costs on business through the carbon tax, the mining tax, more 21,000 pieces of red tape. What we have committed to do as part of our agenda to build a stronger economy and create more jobs is to remove those burdens out of the economy – to scrap the carbon tax, to scrap the mining tax, to get rid of all of that unnecessary and costly red tape, reducing costs for business by $1 billion a year. We’ve committed to invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure, and of course we have already started to rollout those commitments. May I say, the next budget, our first budget will be the next instalment in our delivery of those commitments.
QUESTION: So you’ll continue to stand by your commitment to have one million jobs in five years?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We continue to stand by the commitments we made in the lead up to the last election. We are committed to build a stronger economy and to create more jobs. We are confident that we will be able to deliver one million new jobs over the next five years, as long as we are able to deliver on our agenda which involves scrapping the carbon tax, scrapping the mining tax, cutting unnecessary red tape, investing in the roads of the twenty-first century.
QUESTION: Chris Bowen also today called on the Government to guarantee the independence of the ABC, after it emerged that Julie Bishop was concerned that the ABC wasn’t meeting the terms of the Australia Network contract. Will you guarantee the independence of the ABC?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The ABC is independent. That is just a statement of fact. The Labor Party of course, completely mismanaged the tender process in relation to that particular contract, and these are matters that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, my colleague Julie Bishop will continue to work through.
QUESTION: Ms Bishop said she’s concerned that some of the programming being conducted by the Australia Network wasn’t up to scratch and there has been questions about the New Years’ Eve coverage lately, but do you share her concerns?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, it is a matter of public record, and I think the ABC has acknowledged that the tender process in relation to that particular contract was mismanaged by the previous government. These are issues that will continue to be worked through by the responsible minister, Minister Bishop. In relation to the New Years’ Eve coverage, I was otherwise occupied on New Years’ Eve, so I couldn’t possibly comment. I don’t know what it was like.
QUESTION: Given the revelations from Ms. Bishop’s office, is the Government trying to apply undue pressure on the ABC’s coverage as Mr Bowen has suggested?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, firstly the people that mismanaged the tender process in relation to that particular contract was the previous government. It is a matter of normal government process that contracts are managed and the contract is being managed and it is being managed by Department of Foreign Affairs and of course Minister Bishop is responsible for that department.
QUESTION: Will the Government’s Commission of Audit look at the Australia Network contract to see if there are any cost savings?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Commission of Audit has the job to look right across government with a view of identifying opportunities for efficiencies. We want to ensure that operations of government are as efficient as possible because we are treating tax payers dollars with respect. We think that there is a good opportunity now to review the scope, the size and the efficiency of government with a view to ensure that we achieve the best possible service delivery for people across Australia at the lowest possible cost.
QUESTION: Senator, is the Government willing to consider a proposal to a $6 fee on all GP visits?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There has been speculation around. We’re not commenting on speculation on what the Commission of Audit may or may not recommend on the basis of a submission that was made to it. We are due to receive the Commission of Audit report at the end of January, we will consider it carefully and methodically at that point and that will feed into our budget process for our first budget in May. May I just say though, that under Labor a lot of money was wasted by growing health bureaucracies. Our commitment is to continue to build a world class health system where more money goes in to actual service delivery to the benefit of patients instead of just growing more and more bureaucracies out of Canberra.
QUESTION: If the $6 fee was introduced would that have much of an impact on the budget bottom line?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Look, as I said, I’m not going to speculate, obviously there is speculation around on the basis of a submission that was made to the Commission of Audit which has not yet reported. Let the Commission of Audit do its work. The Commission of Audit will report to the Government by the end of January, and as soon as that report has been received by Government we will make a judgement on which recommendations we will and which recommendations we will not proceed with.