Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
PRESENTER: The Federal Government says it will consider selling more assets if a government spending watchdog recommends it. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims has urged the State and Federal governments to push ahead with more privatisation. The Commonwealth is already preparing to sell off Medibank Private, and the acting Treasurer Mathias Cormann won’t rule out the possibility of selling Australia Post. He’s speaking here to Melissa Clarke.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well right now the Commonwealth Government is implementing its policy to sell Medibank Private. We initiated a scoping study into that sale before Christmas that is currently underway and we’ll expect to make a judgement on the timing and structure and the value that we might be able to achieve from a potential sale sometime early this year. The Government right now doesn’t have a policy to sell any other assets. However we have asked that the Commission of Audit review the size and the scope and the opportunity for increased efficiencies across Government and in that context have asked them to make recommendations to us on whether there are any further sensible opportunities for the privatisation of Government assets.
QUESTION: Are there any Government assets that are a no-go zone when it comes to privatisation?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Right now I wouldn’t want to speculate. We’ve got a policy which is very clear and that is to sell Medibank Private. Right now that is the only privatisation policy that we have put in place, so beyond that we will be waiting for the recommendations from the Commission of Audit and we’ll make some judgements after we’ve receive those recommendations.
QUESTION: There is concern and Labor is suggesting that the sale of Australia Post is on the cards. Can you rule out the sale of Australia Post?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well again, I’m not going to speculate on what the Commission of Audit may or may not recommend. Right now the only privatisation that is on the table is the privatisation of Medibank Private.
QUESTION: Dividends from Medibank Private have contributed much to the budget bottom line. Would the Government be better off keeping that revenue stream?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As a matter of principle, governments shouldn’t be involved in running businesses in competitive markets. The private sector can and will run it and over time run it much better and more efficiently.
QUESTION: ACCC Chairman Rod Sims is particularly keen to see further privatisation of electricity assets. Will you be pushing the States to follow suit?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is certainly right that we are keen to see further privatisations of State-owned assets at the State level, where those privatisations make sense. We have been having conversations with State and Territory governments through the Treasurer’s Meeting about how that could best be progressed.
PRESENTER: The acting Treasurer Mathias Cormann speaking with Melissa Clarke.