Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
PETER VAN ONSELEN: [Question not aired]
MATHIAS CORMANN: ... we made a commitment to provide some support to some tourism infrastructure in Tasmania. The proposition before us today was essentially for the taxpayer to provide a grant as part of a commercial investment by a private business which is part of the Coca-Cola Amatil Group, which has got a very strong balance sheet.
We made the decision in the circumstances that we're facing. We've inherited a very bad budget position from the previous government. We would have to borrow money in order to provide it to one individual private business. That private business of course Coca-Cola Amatil, paid $750 million to buy SPC Ardmona. They have said to us that they're ready to invest a further $160 million which we welcome. They've said to us that they're working on restructuring and improving the productivity of that business. We're very supportive of that. But of course...
PETER VAN ONSELEN: But Minister, sorry to interrupt, notwithstanding all of that I guess the issue is you've said that you made a pre-election commitment about Cadbury. A lot of people that are disappointed by the SPC decision, and I'm not one of them, but they would say that you made a pre-election commitment to them as well, the words of Tony Abbott that for all intents and purposes sounded like there would be support coming from this Government which would be financial.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not right. This Government has made very clear commitments that we would build a stronger economy, create more jobs and create an environment in which businesses like SPC Ardmona will be able to prosper and that is exactly what we're doing and that is what we'll continue to do.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you about Ian Macfarlane? I know you're not going to divulge what happens in Cabinet but let me ask this as a general proposition. It's a pretty awkward situation, isn't it, when the Industry Minister is somebody that essentially always wants the government to put its hand in its pocket whatever the issue might be, yet the economic Liberals within the team are opposed to that and that's ultimately the decision that the Government goes down.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You're quite right, Peter. I'm not going to talk about discussions in the Cabinet. Suffice to say that Ian Macfarlane is an outstanding Industry Minister. He's been an Industry Minister over an extensive period of time both in the Howard Government and of course now for the last four or five months in the Abbott Government. He's got a lot of experience. He is very effective at his job.
Today we had a very good discussion in the Cabinet. The decision of course was just announced by the Prime Minister and by Minister Macfarlane.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: But Macfarlane looked more than uncomfortable, I mean you would have seen the footage and that's the difficulty, isn't it? One of your colleagues on the front bench said to me that the problem with Ian Macfarlane being in the portfolio that he's in is that notwithstanding his experience from the Howard years, he ultimately is going to be defending issues more often than not that he disagrees with when Cabinet has to rule on it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I totally disagree with your characterisation and I'll just remind you again, the previous Labor Government inherited a very strong budget position from the Howard Government. We inherited a budget in a mess. We inherited $123 billion worth of deficits. We inherited government debt heading for $667 billion. We inherited an economy growing below trend with rising unemployment. We are working hard to turn that situation around.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: It sounds like a convincing case to scrap direct action, paid parental leave and all these expensive policies.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a case for us to implement the agenda for a stronger economy and more jobs that we took to the last election, including the productivity enhancing reforms that we've announced in relation to paid parental leave.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: That was the Finance Minister, Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who I spoke to a short time ago.