Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
JOURNALIST: Is the appointment of a communications adviser proof that you’ve already decided to sell-off Medibank?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly the Coalition has long been committed to the sale of Medibank Private. Medibank Private is a commercial business operating in a well-functioning, well-regulated and competitive market with 34 competing funds. There is no good reason as to why Medibank Private should remain in government hands. In October last year we announced the appointment of some key advisers to conduct a scoping study into a potential sale of Medibank Private. That report is due to come back to government by the end of February. It is providing advice to us about whether market conditions are right for a sale, what the best timing, best sale method, best structure for a potential sale might be. When we receive that report we will make decisions on next steps after proper consideration.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t it too premature then to contract a group to begin drawing up plans if you haven’t even got the results back yet from that scoping study?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all, this is a routine arrangement in the context of government consideration of the potential sale of a major public asset like Medibank Private.
Obviously by the end of February, once we receive the report the government will have to consider that report and we will have to make some announcements in relation to how we deal with things from there. We’ve said for a very long time now that we would consider a potential sale of Medibank Private and the recommendations from our scoping study in the context of the next Budget. That Budget is due on the second Tuesday in May. So we have a very tight timeframe to work with and it is important that we have all of the ducks lined up.
JOURNALIST: There’s a lot of criticism over the $2,000 a day amount that you’re paying to this company, is that justified?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These sorts of arrangements are made at arms’ length from the government. This is a tender process that is conducted by my Department. They’ve obviously gone through a proper process, a competitive tendering process. They are obviously paying as little as possible and as much as necessary in order to get the services that are required to do this job professionally.