Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
SANDY ALOISI: Federal Parliament resumes today and the Government is likely to have a bounce in its step with the weekend win in the Tasmanian State poll and a strong vote in South Australia, although the result there is still in the balance. And a new opinion poll shows the Coalition retaining a slim lead over Labor and it also shows some public acceptance of patients paying more themselves for a visit to the doctor. To look at the changing political terrain, we are joined by the Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and he is speaking to Marius Benson.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: South Australia obviously at least a temporary disappointment for you but you are on top of the political heap. Are you enjoying the view?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We achieved very strong results in both Tasmania and South Australia. In South Australia for the second time in a row now, people across that State have voted for a change of government. But obviously there is still a bit further to go before that situation clarifies itself.
MARIUS BENSON: Why is the Coalition in such a dominant position and let me suggest an answer to you, it’s just the rhythm of political life in Australia. You’re on top now, 2007 Kevin Rudd was lord of all he surveyed and State Governments everywhere for Labor, before that 1996 John Howard lead the Liberals to the top of the hill, on that basis when I interview you in 2021 you’ll be at the bottom again?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well people across Australia understand that six years of Labor Government in Canberra left our economy in a less strong a position than it could have been. They have clearly voted at successive elections now for our plan to build a stronger economy and create more jobs. That is reflected at a State level as well, where strong State Liberal teams, strong united State Liberal teams, took policies to the election for lower taxes, less regulation and stronger growth.
MARIUS BENSON: Can I ask you about relations with the States, specifically one State, there is a story in the Daily Telegraph this morning saying that you, the Federal Government have given the O’Farrell Government in New South Wales a deadline to sell the State’s remaining public assets within two years and in return Commonwealth funding will be provided for new infrastructure. Have you set a two year deadline?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I can’t confirm that story this morning. What I can say is that Joe Hockey, the Treasurer, has been talking to his State counterparts for some time about the merits of recycling capital to ensure assets that may no longer appropriately be held by Government, the proceeds from any sale of those assets could be reinvested, in particular in productivity enhancing infrastructure. That is something that Joe Hockey has been talking to his State counterparts about for some time.
MARIUS BENSON: And when will that talk turn to action?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are keen to see that turn to action as soon as possible, but there are processes to go through to make sure that everybody is very clear on where it is that we are heading.
MARIUS BENSON: There’s a Nielson poll in the Fairfax papers today, it shows you returning a slim lead over Labor. It also shows people fairly evenly divided on whether patients should pay more directly for healthcare even for a bulk bill visit to the GP. Are you in favour yourself of the $6 fee for a GP visit?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Look I’m not going to comment on specific proposals speculated about in the media in recent times. I think what the information in the papers today indicates is that people across Australia understand the challenge that we’ve inherited. They understand that we need to set out to repair the Budget and we need to ensure that our spending is as efficient and as well targeted as possible and obviously there is some scope for reform there.
MARIUS BENSON: In Health specifically?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well across Government. What we have said is that we will make sure that we build a stronger economy which will generate stronger revenue for Government and that we will ensure that we spend less, that our spending is more efficient and better targeted. The detail of all of that will be revealed in the Budget on the second Tuesday in May.
MARIUS BENSON: On Wednesday you’re having a bonfire of red and green tape. You are deregulating or dismissing some level of regulations and claiming a billion dollars a year in savings. Your critics say that is such an arbitrary figure, it’s unrelated to anything.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well you’ve got to set yourself a goal. Over the last six or seven years the cost of doing business in Australia has continued to go up, in particular on the back of massive increases in red and green tape under the previous government. We need to ensure that we get Australia to be as competitive as we possibly can be again, get back to the global competitive edge. An important part of that of course is to reduce the red tape burden on business. We’ve set ourselves a target of a $1 billion saving for business every year and of course that would make a significant difference in terms of lifting our productivity and lifting our international competitiveness.
MARIUS BENSON: Is it ironic that your deregulation goal is to be achieved in part by establishing new regulations, because Cabinet submissions will now be subject to regulatory impact studies and senior Ministers will have to establish a deregulation unit in their Department. You’ve got another layer of regulation to achieve deregulation.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are different aspects to this. What we want to achieve is less regulation, but also where there is a need for regulation we want to achieve better regulation and obviously having proper checks and balances in our own internal processes along the way is an important part of that.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann thank you very much.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.