Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning everyone. This is the week the Labor Party needs to take responsibility for the Budget mess they have left behind by becoming part of the solution.
There is no alternative to the Budget we have delivered if we want to protect our living standards and if we want to build a stronger, more prosperous economy into the future where everyone has the opportunity to get ahead.
We delivered the Budget Australia had to have after six years of Labor waste and mismanagement. There is no option to continue to kick the can down the road.
If Labor wanted to kick the can down the road, I say to Labor the decisions we would have to make in the future would become harder, would become more painful. We are taking responsibility for cleaning up your mess. You should join us in repairing the Budget, so that we can build a stronger, more prosperous economy for the future. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What changes are you envisaging to the GP tax? We have Joe Hockey yesterday leaving the door open. We have got the Health Minister Peter Dutton saying his [inaudible]. What are you prepared to change regarding that particular measure?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have delivered the Budget we need to have. We will be presenting the Budget as delivered to the Parliament and we will continue to make the case why there is no alternative to the measures that we have put forward if we want to protect our living standards and if we want to build opportunity and prosperity for the future.
JOURNALIST: Are you prepared to change that $7 figure though?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will be putting the measure to the Parliament as outlined in the Budget. These are very carefully considered measures. They are the measures that are required in order to protect our living standards and build opportunity and prosperity for the future.
JOURNALIST: You'll put the measures there. People already know about the measures, there is clearly opposition in the Senate, if you can't get them through, are there areas in particular you are already thinking you might negotiate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You shouldn't make assumptions. Two weeks ago Bill Shorten said he would never ever support our proposal for a temporary Budget repair levy and of course today we know that Bill Shorten and the Labor party will support the temporary Budget repair levy. Because clearly, on reflection, they realised that what we put forward was appropriate in the circumstances as we face the challenge of repairing the Budget mess that we have inherited from Labor. Now we will continue to engage in the debate, we will continue to explain the decisions that we have made, the reasons for those decisions and we are confident that over time, people across Australia will accept that what we have put forward is the Budget Australia needs at this time.
JOURNALIST: What sort of horse trading do you think you'll get down to? David Leyonhjelm for example is talking about wanting a shooting range in a particular side of Victoria. Is that the sort of stuff you would get into?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are putting the Budget forward in the Parliament this week and in the Senate after this fortnight of Senate Estimates. It is the Budget that Australia needs. It is the Budget that is in the national interest if we want to protect our living standards and if we want to build opportunity and prosperity for the future. These are serious matters of national interest. We are facing, right now, a spending growth trajectory that is completely unsustainable. If we don't take action now, to correct the massive increases in spending that Labor locked in to the Budget before the last election, this will end up hurting our economy. It will end up costing jobs. Because the only way you can balance your Budget with a spending growth trajectory that we are looking at, if it isn't by reducing spending is through increasing taxes. We can't possibly increase taxes to the level that would be required to balance a Budget, with Labor's reckless spending growth trajectory that right now is locked in to the forward trajectory.
JOURNALIST: Given how important you're talking about this Budget crisis being, would you be prepared to, instead of having to water down for example the GP co-payment, instead, give in to the whim of that shooting range given as an example. That sort of small stuff that might look a bit strange, that you would be willing to negotiate on, rather than giving up millions or billions in savings.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a very serious debate that we will be having about the Budget. We inherited a situation where Labor not only delivered $191 billion of deficits in their first five budgets, they also left $123 billion of projected deficits in their last Budget, with government debt heading for $667 billion and a spending growth trajectory that is completely unsustainable into the future. We do need to have a very serious debate about the Budget. It has got to be a debate about what needs to be done in order to protect our living standards and build opportunity and prosperity into the future. That is what we are about. That is why we will put to the Parliament and to everyone that the Budget that we have delivered is the Budget that Australia needs after six years of Labor waste and mismanagement.
JOURNALIST: In trying to interpret that answer then, because I asked it a couple of times and you said it is a serious debate, so those sort of demands you don't see as the seriousness of the Budget crisis?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will say it again. We have put forward the Budget that Australia needs in order to put us back onto a strong trajectory for the future. We can't continue to spend money that we haven't got. We can't continue on the unsustainable spending growth trajectory that Labor left for us. The only alternative to reducing spending so that we can live within our means is to crank up taxes. That would be highly reckless and irresponsible to crank up taxes to the extent necessary to fund Labor's massive spending growth. We have put forward the Budget that Australia needs if we are to protect our living standards and build opportunity and prosperity for the future.
Thank you very much.