Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning everyone. When we came into Government in September last year, we inherited an economy growing below trend, rising unemployment, consumer confidence which was too low and business investment which had plateaued. It is of course pleasing to see that the first quarter this year, as per the National Accounts released yesterday, was a strong quarter of growth. But of course we can't take anything for granted. We need to continue to work hard to ensure that that stronger growth trajectory can be sustained into the future, which is why we are calling on Bill Shorten and the Labor party to support all of our measures to build a stronger, more prosperous, more resilient economy including scrapping the carbon tax, scrapping the mining tax and repairing the Budget mess Labor left behind. If Labor cares about protecting our living standards, if Labor cares about a stronger economy, building better opportunity and creating more jobs for the future, there is no alternative to supporting all of the measures that we have put forward in the Budget as well as supporting our efforts to get rid of these taxes that are holding Australia back.
JOURNALIST: You have got growth now at 3.5 per cent over the past 12 months. Doesn't that undermine the tough Budget message that you are trying to sell?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. We are still in a situation where our spending growth trajectory is completely unsustainable, taking us to 26.5 per cent as a share of GDP within the decade, where we are looking at a debt trajectory that would take us to $667 billion within the decade and growing.
We are still in a situation where right now we are forced to pay $1 billion a month just on the interest to service the debt that was accumulated under the previous government. The spending growth trajectory, the debt and deficit trajectory that we were on, courtesy of the previous government was unsustainable and if left unaddressed would weaken economic opportunities for Australia into the future. It would have a negative impact on our living standards and would make it harder for us to build better opportunity and prosperity into the future.
JOURNALIST: How certain are you that the Liberals didn't hoodwink the Nationals into supporting the fuel excise?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I am very certain. That story which ran last night was completely false. Anyone that was involved in that process and I was personally involved at every step of the way in that process, anyone that was involved in the process of putting the Budget together could not possibly have come up with that sort of proposition. The truth is that the Coalition is united. The Coalition is united in our resolve to repair the Budget mess that we have inherited from the Labor party. We are united in rolling out record investment in productivity enhancing road infrastructure across Australia and of course the decision that we made in relation to the indexation of the fuel excise helps to secure that record infrastructure investment into the future. So that story was a complete fabrication. Obviously I don't know who the source for that story was, but as somebody who was involved at every step of the way in relation to the decisions that were made as part of the process of putting the Budget together, it was a very positive, constructive, united process and there was absolutely no question that all of us, right across the Coalition, Liberal and National Party were focused on the job that needed to be done to fix the Budget mess that we've inherited from Labor.
JOURNALIST: So you can tell Minister Joyce over there that the Liberals haven't been gloating about these allegations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: My very good friend Barnaby over there knows that in the Coalition and in the Cabinet we have worked very positively, very collaboratively and that we have been united in our resolve to fix the Budget mess that we've inherited from Labor. There is absolutely no truth in the proposition that was circulated on ABC News last night. As far as we are concerned, we are focused on rolling out, as a team, a Liberal National Party team, rolling out record investment in productivity enhancing infrastructure and of course the decision we made in relation to fuel excise indexation helps us to secure that record investment which is in the national interest. And may I just say, in particular investment in road infrastructure in rural and regional Australia.
JOURNALIST: There were test balloons floated before the Budget about changes to the diesel rebate, why was that decision not ultimately made in the Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I completely reject that characterisation. These are your words. The decisions that we've made are reflected in the Budget Papers. Obviously when you go through the process of putting a Budget together, when you go through the process of having to fix a Budget in very bad shape courtesy of the mismanagement of the previous government, you've got to review a lot of information, you've got to review a lot of options and in the end you make judgements on what is in the national interest. You make judgements on how best to build a stronger economy and how best to repair the Budget mess that was left behind.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain the $229 million that has been set aside for emergency payments in anticipation of the bills and the food that will need to be provided for those under 30 who will need to wait six months for benefits? Can you explain that fund?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let me just make this general point. If you want to go into the specifics, you might want to go to the portfolio Minister. The general point is that we don't believe that young people should go straight from school onto the dole. We don't believe that is right and that's why we've said that young people under 30 should either earn or learn. Of course we do have appropriate safety nets in place to ensure that people are not inappropriately challenged in that context. But a young person that is healthy, capable and able to work should work. A young person under the age of 30 should not go from school onto the dole and that is the policy that we've reflected in the Budget. I've got to rush, thank you very much.