Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
ANDREW BOLT: The Abbott Government had a huge win in the Senate this week when Clive Palmer agreed to back the scrapping of the mining tax and cut spending by $10 billion. The Government did have to compromise. It did have to give up $6 billion of other cuts and it delayed increases to the compulsory superannuation levy by 6 years. Labor attacked.
BILL SHORTEN [EXCERPT]: Raiding the hard earned retirement incomes of working Australians to pay for his broken promises.
ANDREW BOLT: Joining me is Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Thanks for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
ANDREW BOLT: One year ago today, your party won government. You said we had a debt crisis rising to $668 billion a decade from now. How much lower will that debt be now after this week’s deal with Clive Palmer? Are we still in a crisis?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We did inherit a debt and deficit disaster from the Labor Party and we were on an unsustainable spending growth trajectory, which was talking us to $667 billion of Government debt within the decade and growing beyond that. Consistent with the projections in our Budget, we are working to reduce that to $389 billion of debt within the decade and falling. We are very much working to repair the Budget mess that we’ve inherited from the Labor Party.
ANDREW BOLT: But is the crisis over now with the cuts you got through. Is that it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We inherited a Budget emergency from our predecessors and we’re working in an orderly and methodical fashion to fix it. Now, obviously... interrupted
ANDREW BOLT: But you didn’t say the word crisis though?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You can call it whatever you want. We inherited a debt and deficit disaster from the Labor Party. We inherited a Budget crisis from the Labor Party. We inherited a Budget emergency from the Labor Party. The point is that we are dealing with it. We’re responding to it in an orderly and methodical fashion, not in the chaotic and dysfunctional way the Labor Party in government would have dealt with it. This is obviously a work in progress. If you’re asking me, is the job done? No, the job is not done. We’re still working to implement the measures that we delivered in our Budget in a sequential and prioritised way, taking it one by one through the Senate.
ANDREW BOLT: The National Accounts this week showed the average income per Australian has fallen over the past year. How much longer will we keep getting poorer? Will we start getting richer before the election or not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We’re working to build a stronger, more prosperous economy so that everyone can get ahead. But you’ve got to remember, in September last year we inherited an economy growing below trend, rising unemployment, low consumer confidence, business investment which had plateaued and a Budget in very bad shape. Now, over the last twelve months we’ve worked very hard to turn that around, being fought by the Labor Party and the Greens every step of the way by the way. Until 30 June, Labor and the Greens had control of the Senate. If you look at what we’ve been able to achieve over the last twelve months, we said we would scrap the carbon tax, the carbon tax is gone. We said we would scrap the mining tax, the mining tax is gone. We are working to repair the Budget. We have stopped the boats. We are rolling out a $50 billion infrastructure package. All part of our plan to build a stronger, more prosperous economy.
ANDREW BOLT: Clive Palmer this week agreed to scrap the mining tax if you set up a committee to investigate creating a Government fund to bail out businesses in strife, businesses perhaps like his own, how could you possibly agree to this slush puppy fund?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We haven’t agreed to the fund. We’ve agreed for a committee of the Parliament to look at it. You’ve got to remember, our commitment was to scrap the mining tax, because the mining tax, Labor’s failed mining tax, was holding Australia back. It was making...interrupted
ANDREW BOLT: I’m happy with that. I’m happy with that, Mathias. I’m just begging you to assure me that this idiotic idea, so at odds with the kind of economics that you stand for will ever be implemented.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Look at our track record over the last twelve months. Look at the decisions we have made when it comes to industry policy and I think our record stands for itself. But the alternative to us doing a deal, as you say with the Palmer United Party, was to keep the mining tax in place, not to have $10 billion in savings over the forward estimates, not to have about $50 billion in savings over the next decade. Our judgement was, no harm done with having a committee of the Parliament look at something, even though in principle we do not support it. So ultimately of course ... interrupted
ANDREW BOLT: So are you saying, no harm done in looking at it, in principle you don’t support it, it will never happen? Can you say those words, it will never happen? This dog of an idea, this puppy of an idea will never happen?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let me say what I always say when it comes to Parliamentary inquiries, let’s see what the Parliamentary committee comes back with in terms of its recommendations. You’re making all sorts of assumptions in terms of where they ultimately will end up. It might well be that the Parliamentary committee itself, having looked at all of these issues comes to the view that it is not a good idea.
ANDREW BOLT: Yeah, yeah well since it contains Clive Palmer and Glen Lazarus on it, I am not sure about that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You shouldn’t believe what you read in the newspapers.
ANDREW BOLT: Good.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There has been no decision made about Clive Palmer being on that committee whatsoever and the Coalition actually has got a majority of members on that committee.
ANDREW BOLT: Mathias, one year ago today you were elected. One of the biggest problems of your first year was of course trying to sell the Budget. What have you learned from that process so that the next Budget will be a little easier for you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Andrew, the first Budget was always going to be a challenge. We did inherit a very bad Budget situation and we were very conscious of the fact that there were decisions we needed to make in order to protect our living standards and build prosperity and opportunity for the future which were not going to be universally popular. We are committed to the marathon. This was never going to be just a sprint.
ANDREW BOLT: I am asking whether you have learned something from this.
MATHIAS CORMANN: As a team seeking to achieve something, seeking to build a stronger, more prosperous Australia, of course you constantly reflect on how you’re going and how certain approaches are working. And you continue to focus on doing the job even better.
ANDREW BOLT: But no examples, okay. Well look Mathias, reports today suggest the Government will back off on cutting back the Renewable Energy Target which drives up power prices by forcing us to use more expensive wind and solar power. Mathias, you’re an economic dry, promise me that you are going to do something about this Renewable Energy Target, you will not back off as the reports today suggest.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are going through a proper, usual process when it comes to considering...interrupted
ANDREW BOLT: I know the process, I’m asking you for your opinion, that this Renewable Energy Target is too expensive and must be changed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let me just point you to what we’ve done. We said before the election that there would be a review of the Renewable Energy Target and there has been ... interrupted
ANDREW BOLT: No, I know what you’ve done, Mathias, I’m trying to get a commitment from you, not the history, the commitment.
MATHIAS CORMANN: And you can ask the question however many ways you want. There is a process to go through, for the team to form a view about the best way forward. We’re currently going through that process and when we’re in a position to make announcements, we’ll make them. But in terms of where we’re heading, we want to ensure that we can have reliable, sustainable access to affordable energy. We want to ensure that we can have access to affordable energy, which will help deliver improvements in our international competitiveness. That is our focus ... interrupted
ANDREW BOLT: Well I’m going to take that as a hint. Look Joe Hockey, on Friday, the Treasurer suggested that he won’t be sticking around as Treasurer for much longer have a listen.
JOE HOCKEY [EXCERPT]: I pay tribute to my good mate Peter Costello. Who’s very large shoes I hope to fill as Treasurer. Perhaps not over an eleven year period, but maybe a bit shorter.
ANDREW BOLT: Alright Mathias, how many years before we see Hockey step aside as Treasurer and someone else, you I guess, take over?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, I think that Joe Hockey will continue to do an outstanding job as Treasurer for many years to come. We’re one year in. Eleven years is a very long period. So there’s a big gap between one year and eleven years. At this point I think we’re on track as a team for a few years to come.
ANDREW BOLT: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.