Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are absolutely determined to repair the Budget and to fix the debt and deficit disaster left behind by the Labor Party. We didn’t create the mess but we are taking responsibility for fixing it. The very simple question for Bill Shorten is, is he committed to return the Budget to surplus? If the answer is yes and he doesn’t like our plan, how would Bill Shorten do it? Because so far we’ve had a lot of noise, a lot of politics from the Labor Party, but we haven’t had an alternative plan to fix the Budget mess left behind by the Labor Party.
REPORTER: There is speculation today that the Government is willing to do a fair bit of compromising on its Budget. Can you provide some clarity on that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are determined to get all of our Budget measures through the Senate. The Budget that we delivered just under three months ago is the Budget Australia needs, if we are to protect our living standards and if we are to build opportunity for the future. There may be an adjustment here and an adjustment there, but we are absolutely determined to get our Budget through. Indeed, most of the Budget has already gone through. A number of the measures that are subject to the current debates, like the co-payment measure, the measures in relation to higher education reforms and the like, don’t actually take effect for some time. So there is still time for the Government to continue to engage, in good faith with the crossbenchers in the Senate and work these issues through.
REPORTER: Okay, so those two that you mentioned, are they the ones you’re willing to compromise on?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to the measures that we put forward in the Budget. If we are to protect our living standards, if we are to build opportunity for the future, if we are to repair the debt and deficit disaster that Labor left behind, if we are to bring the Budget back to surplus so that this generation can live within its means instead of continuing to borrow from our children and grandchildren, then really there is no alternative to the Budget that we have delivered.
REPORTER: But you just said you were willing to make some adjustments, so do adjustment and compromise mean the same thing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to getting all of the Budget measures through the Senate. We have said for some time that of course we are mindful of the fact that the Government doesn’t have the numbers in the Senate and we’ll continue to engage in good faith in conversations with crossbench Senators. But we expect that fundamentally all of the Budget measures that we’ve put forward, that are part of repairing the Budget mess that we have inherited from the Labor Party, will get through the Parliament.
REPORTER: So with the co-payment for instance, will you be willing to exclude pensioners, or drop that $7 price?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Under our proposal to introduce a price signal for access to medical services, no pensioner would pay more than $70 a year for unlimited access to medical services. Now from our point of view, this is an important measure to ensure that affordable and timely access to our world class health system continues to be sustainable over the medium to long term. This is about strengthening our health system. It is about making sure that over the medium to long term, everyone can continue to have timely and affordable access to high quality healthcare services.
REPORTER: It doesn’t sound like you’re willing to make any adjustments then to the co-payment.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are absolutely determined to repair the Budget. We are absolutely determined to fix the debt and deficit disaster that the Labor Party has left behind. It is incumbent on Bill Shorten to stop putting politics ahead of the national interest. We have a situation now where Labor under Bill Shorten is opposing savings measures initiated by Labor under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, banked in the Budget by Labor under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. It is time that Bill Shorten stopped putting politics ahead of the national interest. It is time that he told us if he doesn’t like our plan to fix Labor’s Budget mess, what is your plan Bill?
REPORTER: With the mining tax repeal legislation, are you prepared to split those bills so they’re not tied to funding?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We’ve been very clear in the lead up to the last election, we are committed to scrapping the mining tax, it’s a bad tax and we are committed to getting rid of all of the unfunded promises that Labor recklessly and irresponsibly attached to that tax. That is the proposition that we put before the Senate. The Budget cannot afford more than $10 billion in expenditure, which is not funded, which was never funded, but which Labor attached to the mining tax. The important point here is, that this is expenditure which continues to grow over time. If left in place it would continue to grow in the period beyond the forward estimates. So it would continue to put more and more pressure on the Budget. We cannot afford to keep unfunded spending promises that Labor attached to their failed mining tax and that is why we have put the package to the Parliament that we said we would put to the Parliament when we went to the last election.
REPORTER: So these adjustments that you’re now willing to consider is that a result of the conversations that you’ve been having with the crossbenchers and have you been discussing anything specific, have you reached any agreement with them?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have always said that the Budget we have delivered is the Budget that Australia needs if we are to protect our living standards and if we are to build opportunity and prosperity for the future. We have also always said that in relation to some of the detail we would engage in conversations with all Senators and all members represented in the Parliament, in particular crossbench Senators and while there may be an adjustment here and an adjustment there, fundamentally we expect all of our Budget measures to get through the Parliament because we were elected to fix the Budget mess left behind by the Labor Party and that is what we will do.
REPORTER: Why are you out defending the integrity of the Budget today and not Joe Hockey?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We work as a team. That is what we always do. If you look at what we’ve done over the last nearly twelve months, we have always both been out there working very hard to one, put a Budget together to strengthen Australia, to put us on a stronger foundation for the future and two, to sell it. It is clearly a team effort.
REPORTER: Has he been sidelined today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. That is a ridiculous proposition.
REPORTER: Well he’s had a fairly inglorious week hasn’t he? It’s not that ridiculous.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are, as a team, totally focussed on doing what we said we would do and that is fix the Budget mess we inherited from the Labor Party. That is the only thing we are all focussed on.