Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: The previous Labor Government made such a mess of the Budget that they were always desperate for more cash. They were always casting around for more money from anywhere. This attack on people's bank accounts was always an inappropriate grab for money. It was initiated by Bill Shorten when he was a Minister in the previous Labor Government. We opposed it in Opposition and we are committed to fixing it in Government, which is why we have released the discussion paper suggesting some changes in relation to that inappropriate money grab that the previous Government initiated.
JOURNALIST: Did you initiate that because you received a lot complaints?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We knew it was bad policy back in 2012 when a desperate Labor Government, which was desperate for more cash because they made such a mess of the Budget, pursued that particular change. We said then that we were opposed to it. We have of course received a lot of feedback from people right across Australia who are very unhappy about this attack on their bank accounts by Bill Shorten and the Labor party in the previous period of Government.
JOURNALIST: Can you just talk me through what that change was, spelling out that seven years and cutting it back to a three year dormant bank account?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The previous government went after people's money in people's bank accounts more quickly. They reduced the time frame within which the Government would step in. We said at the time that that was inappropriate, that this would seriously inconvenience people across Australia who for very good reason leave money in their bank accounts for a rainy day and might not go back to their bank accounts on a regular basis. We said that this would happen at the time, it has happened. It has inconvenienced many Australians and we are now proposing to fix it.
JOURNALIST: How? How would you fix it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have put out a discussion paper suggesting that the period of inactivity should be increased again. We have put out a discussion paper suggesting that more banking products should be exempted from these particular provisions and we also want to make it easier for people to be reunited with their own money after the Government has stepped in, using the provisions imposed by the previous government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: People are losing their money as a result of the changes that Bill Shorten initiated as Minister in the previous government. People are losing their money out of their bank accounts too quickly and of course they shouldn't have to go through this inconvenience of having to chase government agencies to get reunited with their own money. But what we want to do is ensure that firstly this issue is fixed and secondly that people can be reunited with their money more easily with less red tape.
JOURNALIST: Do you apologise to those people that have been inconvenienced?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a result of changes imposed by the previous Labor Government. The previous Labor Government that made such a mess of the Budget that they were always desperate for more cash. They were always casting around for more money from anywhere. This attack on peoples' bank accounts was always an inappropriate grab for money from a government that was desperate for cash. Obviously, people should not have been put into this situation, we said in Opposition that we did not support this particular initiative by the previous government, we said we would fix it and we are now fixing it.
JOURNALIST: One other question I had was, I've lost my train of thought here, has any of the money that has been taken out actually been spent anywhere?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well no. Obviously this is peoples' money. The objective here is that we will seek to reunite people with their own money as swiftly as possible. That is our objective.
JOURNALIST: Just on to another topic, are you worried about reports about the members of the National Party will vote against the Paid Parental Leave scheme?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Paid Parental Leave policy is a policy that we took to two elections. It is an important economic and social reform. It is an important reform to lift workforce participation by women in order to help us build a stronger, more prosperous economy. What I would ask critics of our Paid Parental Leave policy is to just reflect on the fact that when people go on annual leave, they are paid their annual leave entitlements at a replacement wage. When they go on long service leave they are paid their leave entitlements at a replacement wage. When they go on sick leave they are paid their sick leave entitlement at a replacement wage. Why should working women be forced to take a welfare payment rather than to be paid at a replacement wage? It is the exact same circumstance. We are facing some structural challenges as a nation with an ageing population which leads to falling workforce participation. We need to ensure that as many women as possible participate in our economy, productively participate in our economy, and it is only fair that when women have a baby, the same as anybody else going on leave, that they are paid at a replacement wage when they go on maternity leave. The same as anyone else who goes on leave is not paid a welfare payment, but a replacement wage.
JOURNALIST: So are you worried about potentially having members of the National Party voting against it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm not going into hypotheticals. We will be introducing the legislation sometime in the not too distant future. It is a policy we took to two elections. We will continue to engage in the public debate and we are obviously recommending to the Parliament, including the Senate, to pass what is a very good and very important public policy.
Thank you very much.