Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Date: Tuesday, 27 May 2014
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have a plan to deal with Labor's deficit and debt disaster that they left behind for the nation. It is the only plan to repair the Budget, it is the only plan to build a stronger, more prosperous, more resilient economy where everyone will have the opportunity to get ahead.
We call on Labor, rather than to come out bit-by-bit and support one measure at a time, to support the whole Budget. To support the whole Budget. Because today of course we had the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer, a position set up by the previous Labor Government, confirm the need for action. Confirm that our debt here in Australia is one of the fastest growing debts in the world. Confirm that our spending growth trajectory is one of the steepest in the world.
So we call on Bill Shorten and on the Labor Party to face up to their responsibility, to take responsibility for the debt and deficit disaster they left behind. To help us strengthen future opportunities for everyone across Australia to help us repair the Budget mess they left behind.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Are you expecting a boil over in the party room today, given some of the back benchers who are publicly saying that the sales job has been botched?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I expect that people in the party room today, very appropriately, will ask questions and provide feedback from what has been put to them and put to all of us across the community over the past week. That is the usual process. There is nothing unusual about that at all.
JOURNALIST: Do you concede in any way that the message could have been better articulated though?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have delivered the Budget that we needed to have. It was never going to be easy reducing the spending growth trajectory, as necessary as it is. That was never going to be popular with voters that will now receive less increases in government payments than they may have thought they would have received otherwise. Our job is to continue to explain the judgements that we have made, continue to explain the reasons for those judgements and of course we are doing all of this for the right reasons. We are doing all of this to protect our living standards for the future and to build opportunity and stronger prosperity for the future.
JOURNALIST: Have you had any meetings yet with any of the crossbenchers, or the Greens or Labor for that matter about getting any of these measures through.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to conduct discussions with the crossbench or others in the Parliament through the media. Obviously these sorts of discussions will happen in the appropriate way. But let me just make this point, Labor left the country with a debt and deficit disaster. Labor delivered $191 billion of deficits in their first five Budgets. They left us with $123 billion in projected deficits in their last Budget. They put us into a situation where we have to pay $1 billion a month in interest to service the debt that they have accumulated. So we say to Bill Shorten and to the Labor Party, face up to your responsibility. Become part of the solution. We are taking responsibility to fix the mess that you left behind. There is only one plan that is on the table and that is our plan. You should support it.
JOURNALIST: Mathias, the Parliamentary Budget Officer does back you up to an extent but they don't see this as an immediate problem so do you concede that some of the big savings measures could be put off?
MATHIAS CORMANN: A couple of points, firstly, the only reason we are not in a worse position yet, is because the Labor Party in 2007 inherited a strong economy and a strong Budget with no government net debt, with a $20 billion surplus with $50 billion in the bank and at that point in time, the government was collecting, collecting, more than $1 billion in net interest payments. Secondly, the Budget does initiate a whole series of structural reforms which start low and slow and build over time and which are designed to put us on a stronger trajectory for the future, which are designed as part of our Economic Action Strategy, to build a stronger, more prosperous, more resilient economy for the future and to repair the Budget because we must.
JOURNALIST: Finance Minister how can the Government justify a potential spend on government advertising at the same time telling everybody they need to share the pain and tighten their belt?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have tightened the Government's belt significantly. For example, we have made $530 million of savings over the forward estimates by reducing the number of government bodies, by merging bodies where it is appropriate, by eliminating waste and duplication across various government agencies. What we have to do though, and what is our responsibility to do, is to ensure that people across the community who are impacted by changes in the Budget are fully aware of how those changes will impact them and how those changes will not impact them. So we will do that in the usual way
JOURNALIST: Isn't that your job now, you shouldn't be doing that for free, why should you spend taxpayers' money telling them about a Budget they can easily go online and find out about.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are doing what needs to be done in order to ensure that people across the community are fully aware of how the Budget will and will not impact on them.
Thank you very much.