Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
SANDY ALIOSI: The Federal Government is looking to the new Senate today to finally abolish the carbon tax. But that’s not quite certain and other Budget measures are facing a difficult time in the upper house. For a Government assessment of the outlook for crucial Budget bills, Marius Benson is speaking to the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: It is clear in the first three days of the new Senate sitting that it is a law to itself. How likely is it today that the Senate will agree to the abolition of the carbon tax?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are confident that the Senate will be voting on the abolition of the carbon tax today. It looks like the carbon tax will be history very soon, which is good news for families across Australia. It’s good news for the economy.
MARIUS BENSON: Looks like, that’s not 100 per cent certain?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t ever take anything for granted until it has all happened and I wouldn’t make assumptions on how the Senate is going to vote, but I am certainly very hopeful and quietly confident that the carbon tax will soon be history.
MARIUS BENSON: It will be amended the Bill as we understand things at the moment, then it goes back to the House of Reps, when will the abolition be finalised in your expectation?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The House of Representatives is not sitting this week. It will be sitting next week. So by the end of this sitting fortnight, hopefully it will all be done.
MARIUS BENSON: And then we have no policy at all on curbing carbon emissions. Is that okay?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is actually not right. As you know we took a very comprehensive policy to reduce emissions to the last election, our Direct Action policy. And I wouldn’t make assumptions if I were you about what will happen through the Senate.
MARIUS BENSON: But the Direct Action policy is not law now; it is the case that if the current law is abolished, if the current arrangements are abolished, nothing is in place?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are going through and orderly and methodical process. We are doing exactly what we said we would do before the last election. We are working to scrap the carbon tax because that tax is bad for the economy, bad for jobs, without doing anything to help the environment. The next step is to put all the pieces of our comprehensive Direct Action policy in place.
MARIUS BENSON: In the meantime there is this hiatus, this vacuum and the Australian Industry Group which is one of the biggest business lobby groups, it represents 60,000 businesses around the country, it says it is frustrated with the policy vacuum, seven years and still no policy certainty on carbon.
MATHIAS CORMANN: They are obviously entitled to their view. We are continuing to work through the process, we are continuing to do exactly what we said we would do before the last election. I would have thought that it is very obvious what is happening and that there is lots of certainty around what we are doing to deliver on our commitments to scrap the carbon tax, which is bad for industry, which has made manufacturing in Australia less competitive internationally. What we are doing today in getting rid of the carbon tax is very good news for industry across Australia indeed.
MARIUS BENSON: Minister, can I go to Budget measures, because they also have to get through the Senate and there are assessments this morning that they are going to be shredded, your Budget measures. In fact The Australian has totted up what their likely to block and it’s decided that you’re actually going to be worse off than if you’d done nothing. That if you’d made no effort to make any savings at all. Are you resigned to having your Budget savings shredded in the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten and the Labor Party are opposing about $40 billion in Budget savings in the Parliament right now. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were very bad at running money. But at least they believed we should get to surplus. Bill Shorten is just completely reckless and irresponsible. He’s even worse than Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard ever were when it came to managing money. This has still got a long way to go. We will continue to put Budget measure after Budget measure to the Senate. We delivered the Budget Australia needs if we are to protect our living standards now and into the future and if we are to build better opportunities for our children and grandchildren into the future.
MARIUS BENSON: But it’s a given that Labor’s going to oppose these measures. Oppositions do oppose, but you need the crossbenchers. How much of the $40 billion in savings do you think you can win support from the crossbench to get through the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You say that it is a given, but with Bill Shorten and the Labor Party nothing is ever a given. When we first announced the Budget repair levy, the Temporary Budget Repair Levy, Bill Shorten for a couple of weeks said that there was no way that Labor would ever vote in favour of it. That it would always be opposed to it. When the measure came before the Senate they quietly voted in favour of it. We will continue to go through an orderly and methodical process. We will put Budget measure after Budget measure to the Senate. We will make our case on why there is no alternative to the proposals that we’ve put forward. That if we don’t implement the measures, including tough measures now, that the decisions required into the future will only become tougher.
MARIUS BENSON: Minister, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Australia today at the end of a three day visit. Seen as very successful in terms of closer ties with Australia. There appears to be a price being paid with China. Xinhua, the official news agency there, which is essentially the voice of the government, has described a speech by Tony Abbott in which our Prime Minister admired the skill and sense of honour of Japan’s World War II’s soldiers as appalling and insensible was their word. I think they meant insensitive. Are you concerned about that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister’s speech wasn’t against anyone. We have an important friendship and an important relationship with Japan. We have an important friendship and an important relationship with China.
MARIUS BENSON: But China has taken offence is that a concern?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is your interpretation based on a media article...interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: But they say the speech was appalling. They seem displeased.
MATHIAS CORMANN: As you would be well aware, we are very focussed on continuing to strengthen, continuing to build relationships with everyone. We’re focussed on improving trade across the region, more trade means more jobs. We’re focussed on peaceful pursuit of economic opportunities. That was what we were focussed on this week.
MARIUS BENSON: But has the Prime Minister’s speech and the visit this week damaged relations with China?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No.
MARIUS BENSON: Could you expand a little on that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I’ve just said, we have and continue to have an important relationship with China, which will continue to grow and strengthen into the future. This week we had a visit from Prime Minister Abe who has signed with the Prime Minister an Economic Partnership Agreement, which will deliver significant benefits to both of our countries. It will mean more jobs and more opportunities for Australians. It will mean access to more competitively priced products out of Japan for Australian consumers. Right now we are pursuing similar opportunities with our friends in China. Friendship with one doesn’t exclude friendship with another. We will continue to do what we’ve done as a country for many, many years and that is build relationships across the region, including of course continue to build the very important relationship that we have with China.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much indeed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.
SANDY ALIOSI: Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann speaking to Marius Benson.