Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Date: Monday, 3 March 2014
MATHIAS CORMANN: If Bill Shorten cares about jobs he will bring his carbon tax filibuster in the Senate to an end today. Labor’s carbon tax is pushing up the cost of doing business. It is costing jobs. Scrapping the carbon tax would bring down the cost of doing business. It would help business create jobs. This filibuster in the Senate has been going on for long enough. People across Australia voted to scrap the carbon tax. It is time that Bill Shorten got on with it. It is time that Bill Shorten stared down the Greens and the left in the Labor party in the national interest.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Is the Qantas Sales Act the only item being discussed in relation to Qantas in Cabinet today? Is that the only option open to the government now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government wants Qantas to be able to compete on a level playing field and right now Qantas is facing restrictions imposed by the Qantas Sale Act, which are not imposed on their competitors. But the most immediate thing the Australian Parliament can do to help Qantas is to scrap the carbon tax. The carbon tax is imposing more than $100 million in cost on Qantas just this year and rising, more than $160 million next year. If Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party care about Qantas and care about jobs in Qantas they would end their disgraceful carbon tax filibuster in the Senate today and help provide certainty to businesses like Qantas and help businesses create jobs.
JOURNALIST: How does that level up the playing field though if Virgin also has the Carbon Tax removed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Right now the Qantas Sale Act is imposing restrictions on Qantas which make it harder for them to compete compared to other players in the market. We think that those restrictions ought to be removed.
JOURNALIST: Is the option of a possible Commonwealth debt guarantee still on the table?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We’ve been very clear. Qantas as a business is responsible for getting its own house in order and of course they’ve been making announcements in recent times. The most immediate thing that the government and the Parliament can do, we can ensure that Qantas can operate on a level playing field with other competitors in the aviation market, a very competitive market and we can remove the imposition of the carbon tax. You are quite right, removing the carbon tax would be good for the aviation industry in Australia as a whole, because the aviation industry as a whole right now has been hit by the cost increases that come with the carbon tax.
JOURNALIST: So the debt guarantee won’t even be discussed in Cabinet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to talk about what is and what isn’t discussed in Cabinet.
JOURNALIST: Is it an option?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to pre-empt the discussion in Cabinet.
JOURNALIST: What are the specific ownership changes that you’d like to see, there’s a number within the legislation, I mean, does that include the 49% cap?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We’ve been pretty clear. There are a whole series of restrictions imposed on Qantas in the Qantas Sale Act that are not imposed on their competitors. It makes it harder for Qantas to compete in what is a very competitive market. We think that those restrictions ought to be removed and the Parliament will have an opportunity to express a view about it. But beyond that, what the Parliament can do is take the carbon tax burden off Qantas and other businesses across Australia, which will help grow the economy more strongly and which will help create jobs.
JOURNALIST: But specifically the 49% cap; that is in the mix?
MATHIAS CORMANN: All of the restrictions that are imposed on Qantas in the Qantas Sale Act that are not imposed on other businesses in the aviation industry are in the mix.
JOURNALIST: So would easing up the 35 and 25 per cent rules, would that help Qantas?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to go into the specifics of all of this. After relevant decisions have been made the relevant Minister is going to come and explain all of the detail.
JOURNALIST: What should the Federal Government’s reaction be to the unrest that we’re seeing in the Ukraine with Russia and the tensions there with the United States?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As the Prime Minister said we are very concerned about what is happening in the Ukraine. It is obviously a situation that continues to unfold and the Foreign Minister would be best placed to make comments about the specifics.
JOURNALIST: Should economic sanctions though be appropriate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is very much a matter for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to comment on.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Opposition is saying that Qantas needs help now and any changes to the Act could take some time, so will the Government be coming up with some sort of proposal to help Qantas today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We agree that Qantas needs help now and the Labor party could help Qantas now by stopping the carbon tax filibuster in the Senate, which has been going for months. Bill Shorten and the Labor party know that people across Australia voted at the last election to get rid of the carbon tax. They’ve been running a filibuster ever since the last election, which is costing jobs, which is making it harder for our economy to grow, which is making it harder for businesses to create jobs and which is making it harder for Qantas and other businesses in the aviation industry. So Bill Shorten and the Labor party have an opportunity today to help Qantas.
JOURNALIST: Senator how soon could we see an assistance package for Qantas, is it this week or only when legislation can be passed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I’ve said we want Qantas to be able to compete on a level playing field with other businesses in the aviation industry. We believe that the restrictions imposed on Qantas in the Qantas Sale Act, which make it harder for them to compete on a level playing field ought to be removed. Ultimately that will be a matter for the Parliament to take a formal view on. Beyond that we can help Qantas and all businesses across Australia to grow more strongly immediately today by passing the legislation to scrap the carbon tax, which has been stuck in the Senate for months now today. That is what we call on Bill Shorten to do. That is the best thing and the most immediate thing we can do to help bring down the cost of doing business including for Qantas.
JOURNALIST: Did Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have differing views on how best to help Qantas?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister and the Treasurer work together exceptionally well and we take a view as a Government.