Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
PAUL MURRAY: Well in the last couple of weeks, the Labor Party and the Greens have stopped the Abbott Government from repealing the carbon tax and today they voted in the Senate 35 to 32 to stop the Government abolishing the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, known generally as the mining tax. Mathias Cormann is the Finance Minister, he’s also a Liberal Senator from WA and he joins us now. Hi Mathias.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good evening.
PAUL MURRAY: So you fell two votes short in effect from getting the mining tax axed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well that is because the Labor Party continued to vote for this anti-Western Australian tax. A tax which is costing jobs and preventing further investment in Western Australia.
PAUL MURRAY: So is this manna from heaven for you for the Senate race?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it just demonstrates again that the Labor Party continues to be an anti-Western Australian Party and very much an Eastern States centric Party. Only the Liberal Party is standing up for the best interests of Western Australia.
PAUL MURRAY: The prospect is of course that you won’t get the numbers out of the Senate by-election to get this legislation through after July 1anyway.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to scrapping the mining tax because it is a bad tax for Western Australia. It’s a bad tax for our economy nationally and it’s a bad tax when it comes to growing jobs and investment. We will persist and the more support that we get at the next election and the more representation we get at the next election from Western Australia into the Senate, the easier it will be for us to deliver on that commitment.
PAUL MURRAY: Well, on the first outcome from theSeptember 7 election, on the first count, the way that the Senate was running, would you have got the mining tax through if that had been what’s going to happen in the Senate from July 1?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well obviously this is speculation. We think that the Labor Party quite frankly should have cut its losses on the mining tax. It’s a dog’s breakfast of a tax. It is a manifest failure. It has tied up an important industry for Western Australia and Australia in massive and costly red tape without raising any meaningful revenue. So we would have thought that surely the Labor Party would recognise that this is actually a bad idea to persist with. But having said all of that, we will now need to persist with this and hopefully the new Senate post 1 July, if we have got a strong Liberal representation from Western Australia in the Senate after 1 July, we will have another crack and we will be able to take that burden off our State.
PAUL MURRAY: So you do think that you can get an outcome from this April 5 by-election that would allow you to get this tax through?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we think that if the people of Western Australia support us strongly at this by-election on April 5, that will help us get rid of a tax which is holding Western Australia back. It would help us build a stronger economy in Western Australia and nationally and it will help us create more jobs in WA and nationally.
PAUL MURRAY: So Mathias, many people ask the question how can a tax, which you say is a failure because it doesn’t raise any money, how can such a tax hurt the mining industry?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well firstly because it is actually very costly to comply with. It is a tax which is tying up the important mining industry in massive and costly red tape, yet it doesn’t raise as much revenue as Labor said it would raise before they introduced it. However, it has had a significant impact in terms of undermining confidence, it has had a significant impact in terms of undermining the preparedness of investors to invest in Western Australia and it is holding back our capacity to grow the Western Australian economy to its full potential. As long as it is on the statute books, there always is the risk that a future government will expand it and make it worse and that is something that obviously feeds into the decision making of global investors when they consider whether or not to channel more capital into Western Australia.
PAUL MURRAY: A lot of the mines we’ve got in the iron ore industry in Western Australia operate on very high grade ores these days. The likelihood is that mines that will need to be coming in later, lower grade ores, what effect does this tax have on those sorts of deposits?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it makes it harder to get these projects up. Whenever you increase a cost in terms of a particular project, obviously you make it less likely that the investment proposition stacks up. There is an important point to make here. Nearly 100% of the revenue that has been collected from this one national tax comes from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. So you’ve got one single national tax which is getting nearly 100% of its revenue from one single State and namely the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is an anti-Western Australian tax. It is a tax that should go and hopefully, with the support from people across Western Australia, we will be in the strongest position possible after April 5 to get rid of it.
PAUL MURRAY: If that doesn’t happen and you continue on these, you’ve made these two articles of face, the Carbon Tax and the Mining tax. If you continue not to be able to get them through the Senate, will you countenance the idea of a double dissolution if the Senate knocks them back twice?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we’ve been very clear. We’re committed to scrap the carbon tax and to scrap the mining tax. We will do whatever is required to deliver on that commitment. Our preference is to do it through the usual and proper and normal process through the Senate and we are hopeful that with a strong representation from Western Australia post-April 5 that that will be possible. But if there is a need, we will take advantage of all of the constitutional means available to us to deliver on our commitments that we took to the last election.
PAUL MURRAY: Just finally, in a statement which the Labor Party’s number one ticket holder Joe Bullock wrote in the West Australian because they are asking all of the Senate tickets to put a statement, he said in that, that the Labor Party was axing the Carbon Tax. Was that an honest statement?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it was a complete lie and it was quite extraordinary because on the very day that Labor’s lead candidate Joe Bullock was quoted in The West Australian as saying that Labor is scrapping the carbon tax....
PAUL MURRAY: He wrote the statement. He wasn’t quoted. He wrote the statement.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yeah but on the very day that he made that quote in The West Australian, the Labor Party was voting in Canberra to stop us scrapping the carbon tax. The Labor Party has got a very bad history on this. We had Julia Gillard tell everyone that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads, in the lead up to the last election Louise Pratt, the second candidate on the Labor’s ticket, was saying that Kevin Rudd and Labor have already removed the carbon tax. Now we’ve got Joe Bullock, Labor’s lead candidate in the Senate by-election in WA tell everyone on the day that Labor votes against scrapping the carbon tax that Labor is scrapping the carbon tax. Labor really has taken things to a new level. They used to promise one thing before the election and do the exact opposite after. Now they are promising one thing before the election in Perth in Western Australia and do the exact opposite on the exact same day in Canberra. That is really taking broken promises to another level.
PAUL MURRAY: Final question Mathias, were you aware the Prime Minister was going to announce this new system of Knighthoods and Damehoods today? Had that gone through Cabinet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I was not aware before the announcement was made, it was very much the Prime Minister’s call.
PAUL MURRAY: Wow, so no one knew. He just went in and held the press conference without anyone being consulted?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t know who the Prime Minister consulted, but these are the sorts of things that Prime Ministers are able to do from time to time as head of Government.
PAUL MURRAY: So do you support it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it is a good announcement.
PAUL MURRAY: Okay, thanks very much for that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to talk to you.