Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
DAVID LIPSON: First to the mining tax, with reports in The Australian newspaper today that the tax has once again failed to make a decent buck. The Australian claims that just $232 million in revenue will flow into Government coffers for the first six months of this financial year, when the tax was meant to raise $4 billion for the full year. This is all despite the three big miners apparently making $14 billion from their West Australian iron ore mines alone.
Well joining me now from Perth is the Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, thanks for your time today.
First of all to the mining tax, are those figures correct? Can you verify them?
MATHIAS CORMANN: They are consistent with figures in the previous year. The mining tax is the ultimate exhibit of Labor Party incompetence in government. It was a tax which targeted one of the most important industries for Australia. It’s an anti-Western Australian tax. It is complex. It ties up the mining industry in red tape. It is costly to administer. It doesn’t raise hardly any revenue, yet the previous government had already spent all of the money they thought it would raise and more. It is quite an extraordinary piece of Labor Party incompetence, which is of course why the Coalition is committed to scrap it. Something that is currently being held up by the Labor Party in the Senate.
DAVID LIPSON: So you would expect this year’s take from the mining tax to come in well under the $4 billion that was forecast?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I haven’t seen any official updates recently, but according to the official updates last year, the mining tax raised 95 per cent less in revenue than was anticipated. The figure that is quoted in The Australian today would indicate about 90 per cent less than what was predicted by the previous government. The point here is this. The mining tax is a complex, distorting, job destroying, investment destroying tax, which in particular was designed by the previous Labor government to punish the mining industry because Labor thought they were too successful. And to punish Western Australia because the Labor Party in government was a very anti-Western Australian government. So that’s …interrupted
DAVID LIPSON: But isn’t the point that they’re not being punished according to these figures, and therefore jobs can’t be being destroyed as much as you suggested they would?
MATHIAS CORMANN: David, the mining tax is tying up an important industry for Australia in massive, costly red tape. It is costly to comply with by the mining industry. It is costly to administer for the Government, it is not raising any meaningful revenue, yet irresponsibly and recklessly the previous government spent all of the money they thought it would raise and more. So what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to get rid of this bad tax and we’ve got to get rid of the costly unfunded promises that the Labor Party attached to it. We’ve got legislation in the Senate right now, which is designed to do exactly that.
DAVID LIPSON: And when will that legislation, do you believe, actually go through? Because this was one of your key election commitments and still the mining tax exists.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Quite frankly, if Bill Shorten was smart he would have long cut his losses. This is obviously a Gillard, Rudd, Wayne Swan fiasco that is still on our statute books. If Bill Shorten was smart, he would facilitate the speedy passage of the mining tax repeal bill. But Bill Shorten and the Labor Party under Bill Shorten’s leadership, continues to be anti-West Australian and anti-mining, when what we need to do right now is to build a stronger economy, create more jobs and to encourage and facilitate Western Australia to be as successful as it can be. Scrapping the mining tax will help attract more investment and will help create more jobs. Of course that is what we’re committed to do and we’re confident that eventually, this year, we will be able to achieve that.
DAVID LIPSON: Along with the carbon tax repeal, the Coalition is trying to make mining tax one of the big issues the upcoming Senate re-run election, which is going to happen in under a month now. Scott Ludlam says that he gets angry when he hears Western Australia described as a just mining state. He says it’s much more diverse that. What are some of the issues that you see as being important for West Australians in this upcoming poll?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Western Australia is not just a mining state, but Western Australia is a mining state. Western Australia has a Liberal Party team in the Senate, which is strong and which is experienced and which has a track record of standing up for Western Australia. So what is important in this WA Senate election campaign is to have a team which will stand up for WA moving forward, and of course the Liberal Party will do exactly that. In particular, by getting rid of these anti-Western Australian taxes like the carbon tax and the mining tax, which were designed to hold Western Australia back.
DAVID LIPSON: Well the RBA Governor Glenn Stevens yesterday suggested that the economy could be on the cusp of a revival. Are you expecting revenue in May to come in above expectations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We’ve seen some positive signs in the national accounts released earlier in the week. The retail figures were quite promising. Right now though, economic growth remains below trend. We inherited a situation from the previous government with an economy growing below trend, rising unemployment, consumer confidence too low and business investment which had plateaued. We are working hard to turn that situation around. Its early days. The growth challenge remains. It is important that we are able to implement our agenda for a stronger economy and more jobs, which involves reducing the tax burden on business, which involves the regulatory burden on business, which involves providing more regulatory certainty and investing in productivity enhancing infrastructure. So we will continue to roll out our agenda to build a stronger economy and create more jobs.
DAVID LIPSON: Do you believe there’s still a Budget emergency?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we inherited a Budget in very bad shape from the previous government - $123 billion worth of projected deficits over the forward estimates, government debt heading for $667 billion without any corrective action. We are totally focussed on our commitment to repair the Budget …interrupted
DAVID LIPSON: But you wouldn’t describe it as an emergency?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well absolutely. We inherited from the previous government a Budget emergency, which the Treasurer and I, working with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are methodically setting out to repair and put on a more sustainable footing again. That’s the work that we’re doing now. There’s two components to this of course. Stronger growth will lead to stronger revenue flows, which is why it is so important that we implement our agenda to build a stronger economy. By the same token we do have to ensure that Government spending is as efficient and as well targeted as possible. We’re working through all of the detail of that now and the Budget will be released on the second Tuesday in May.
DAVID LIPSON: Okay, on International Women’s Day, one of your colleagues Sharman Stone, has suggested mandatory quotas for women to help boost the numbers of women in Parliament. As a member of Cabinet, which only has one woman, Julie Bishop, in it, do you think your party is doing enough to advance gender equality?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I personally am not in favour of quotas. I don’t think that that is the right way to go. We do have a strong team of formidable, outstanding women as part of the Coalition in Parliament. Of course, led by none other than our Foreign Minister, the first female Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who is doing an outstanding job in that role. We’ve got, from the great state of Western Australia, Michaelia Cash, who is working with Scott Morrison on our commitments in relation to stopping the boats. We’ve got formidable women at all levels of our Parliamentary team. We are committed to be effective with what we do. We’re not going to get distracted by these sorts of, what I would say, are side issues.
DAVID LIPSON: Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, thank you very much for that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to talk to you.