Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
DAVID LIPSON: Well to talk about the Budget and all of the issues surrounding it, I’m joined now by the Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann from Perth. Thank you very much for your time. What has been the reaction that you’ve heard Mathias Cormann to this tough love Budget if you like?
MATHIAS CORMANN: People across Australia know that we need to repair the Budget. People might not like all of the measures in the Budget but they accept that we’ve got a job to do to fix the mess that we inherited.
DAVID LIPSON: Focus groups this week have suggested that many Australians feel that some of these cuts are too cruel. That they affect the most vulnerable Australians the most. What’s your response to that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we’ve sought to do in this Budget is to get our spending growth trajectory back under control. The spending growth trajectory that we inherited from Labor was unsustainable. It would have taken us back to spending as a share of GDP of 26.5 per cent, up from 23.1 per cent in the last year of the Howard Government. If we had allowed that spending growth trajectory to continue, in order to get back into surplus we would have had to increase taxes massively, which of course we wouldn’t want to do because it would weaken our economy, it would weaken opportunity for people across Australia and it would cost jobs. So what we have sought to do very much is ask every Australian to contribute, to bring our Budget back under control, to strengthen our economy, to create better opportunity for everyone into the future by making a contribution and we’ve sought to spread that contribution as fairly and as equitably as possible.
DAVID LIPSON: Just on priorities, $245 million set aside for school chaplains and they have to be religious-based chaplains they can’t be counsellors of a non-religious nature. But at the same time cutting $147 million from, for example, the CSIRO, if this Budget really is about what’s best for the nation, which of those measures do you think would deliver the best or the most dividends for this country?
MATHIAS CORMANN: School chaplains do very important work in schools across Australia. It is a program that has been going for some time. We have re-focused it a bit after some lack of focus perhaps in recent years. But it is a very important investment into our children.
DAVID LIPSON: Well one of the most controversial measures has been the co-payment for GP visits. $7 is the figure now. But is there any guarantee that that figure won’t go up in Budgets to come?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We can’t bind future Parliaments or future governments. I don’t know what future Labor governments may or may not do. What I can say is that... interrupted
DAVID LIPSON: But what about your Government in the years to come, in this term? Can you guarantee that you won’t push it up in the next two Budgets?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have put forward our plan to make our health system more sustainable into the future. We have a world class health system, but we need to ensure that the world class health system that Australians can benefit from today will be available to our children and grandchildren. We want to ensure that patients across Australia can continue to have affordable access to high quality health care, but that that high quality care is also affordable for the tax payer into the future. That is why we’ve made a series of adjustments, really to ensure that we can continue to build and grow the best possible health care system in the world. A health care system that delivers the sort of services that people across Australia expect.
DAVID LIPSON: So that’s no guarantee though that this won’t go up in the next Budget.
MATHIAS CORMANN: David, we have delivered our first Budget on Tuesday. I’m not going to start talking about our second, third or fourth Budget. I think you well understand that I can’t today, start giving you a detailed explanation on things that we haven’t even considered.
DAVID LIPSON: Yeah no, I do understand that. Well what’s your message to the States who are pretty angry about cuts to schools and hospital funding ahead of the their crisis meeting tomorrow?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The States would have been well aware that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were splashing money around they didn’t have. That the massive spikes in spending on the States from Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard beyond the forward estimates, so not transparently visible in the last forward estimates at the time of the election, that that was not sustainable. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard committed money they didn’t have. We need to get our spending growth trajectory back on track. We need to have a more realistic, more affordable spending growth trajectory. Everybody has to help contribute to that effort of achieving that, including the States and Territories. We would expect the States and Territories to have a very close look at the way they run their schools and their hospitals to ensure that spending on their schools and their hospitals is as efficient and as well targeted as possible. Everybody has to share in the effort to fix the Budget and strengthen the country.
DAVID LIPSON: What about negotiating these changes through the Senate? Because Labor has lined up against many of the savings that you’ve put forward and the Greens have on several of them as well. How confident are you that this Budget will make it through the Senate with the key savings, because several of them already seem doomed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten and the Labor Party seem to be in complete denial about the Budget mess they’ve created. On Thursday night, Bill Shorten didn’t offer any solutions to fix the mess that they’ve created. We will continue to make our case as to why the Budget that we delivered on Tuesday is the Budget that Australia needs. We will continue to make the case on why we need to build a stronger economy, why we need to repair the Budget and let’s see what happens as this debate unfolds. I have seen people in the past, in the immediate aftermath of a Budget being delivered, make all sorts of statements and on reflection change their mind. Right now Labor is opposing $18 billion worth of savings measures that are there to fix their mess. They’re even opposing savings measures that they themselves initiated in government and banked in the Budget. That is how ridiculous the Labor Party has become under Bill Shorten’s leadership. There’s no change to Labor. Labor was bad enough when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard was leading them, they’re worse now with Bill Shorten as the leader.
DAVID LIPSON: Senator Mathias Cormann, thank you so much for joining us today on Saturday Agenda after a very busy week for you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to be here.