Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
JOURNALIST: Senator Cormann, Minister Pyne will reintroduce education legislation into the House today, what will that cost the Budget in terms of modifications? Do you know that yet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The higher education reforms are important structural reforms. They are not due to come into effect until early 2016. So we still have some time to get those reforms through the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Will you be conceding ground to some of the crossbenchers though and if you are have you worked out what they will cost the bottom line?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let's not pre-empt where this will end up. These are very important reforms. Important reforms for our universities, to ensure they are as competitive internationally as they possibly can be. They are important reforms for students, to ensure that they have access to the best possible university education here in Australia. Last night we were able to convince four out of the six necessary crossbench Senators to support our reforms. We need two more. Between now and February we will be working on convincing two more Senators to support our reforms.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident you can do that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will just keep at it. These are very important reforms. They are important for our universities. They are important for students. They are important for Australia. We will continue to work until the job is done.
JOURNALIST: Minister are you heartened by Ricky Muir's support for your legislation? Is it a sign that the Government, that you have broken up the Palmer bloc?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Christopher Pyne has worked very hard to convince enough crossbench Senators to support what are very important reforms. Important for universities, important for students, important for Australia. We were able last night to secure the support of four crossbench Senators, we need six. So between now and February we will be working to convince two more. We will keep at it until the job is done.
JOURNALIST: But do you have any hope given that the kind of the splintering of some of those blocs are more certain than this time last year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The job is the same as what it has always been. The Government has got 33 Senators in the Senate. We need six more in order to get any legislation through the Senate. Last night we were able to persuade four to support our higher education reforms. That means that we need two more. So we will be focusing between now and February on finding two more non- government Senators to support what are very important reforms.
JOURNALIST: Do you approve of Christopher Pyne's negotiating tactics? Glenn Lazarus has accused him of inundating him with text messages, harassing him.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Christopher Pyne is a hard worker. He is very determined to achieve the successful passage of what are very important reforms for Australia and we will all as a team continue to work to persuade six non-government Senators to support what are very important reforms.
JOURNALIST: Is that one of your charm offensive tactics? To spam the crossbenchers with texts?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to work very hard as a team to ensure that we find two more non- government Senators to support what are very important reforms, very important structural reforms, very important reforms for universities, very important reforms for students and very important reforms for Australia.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to be humiliated when you announce a bigger deficit in MYEFO?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will show is that our terms of trade have fallen more sharply than what was anticipated at Budget time, that our commodity prices have fallen more sharply than what was anticipated at Budget time. I remind you that when we downgraded revenue assumptions that Labor was accusing us of taking a too pessimistic view, in order to make the numbers look worse than what they were. As it turns out we should have taken a more pessimistic view still, when it came to downgrading Labor's revenue assumptions. Now the truth is....interrupted
JOURNALIST: Minister, that sounds like excuses you promised you wouldn't give.
MATHIAS CORMANN: No excuses Latika. No excuses at all. The truth is this. Whatever the numbers in the Mid- Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook show, the numbers will be $43 billion better than what they would have been under Labor. Because Labor is opposing $28 billion worth of savings that the Government is committed to and they've already said that they would restore $15 billion worth of expenditure, without telling anyone where the money would come from. I would just point out that the fall in commodity prices is something that governments do not control. Whether it is a Coalition Government or if Labor and the Greens were still in government, commodity prices would have been the same. What we do control is the level of expenditure. When it comes to the level of expenditure, Labor is committed to $43 billion in additional spending, which Australia cannot afford.
JOURNALIST: Is the leader of the party gloomy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. We look back on twelve months of achievement. We went to the last election promising that we would stop the boats and the boats have effectively stopped. We promised that we would scrap the carbon tax and the mining tax and both of those taxes are gone, which is good for families, good for jobs, good for the economy. We are progressing with our plans to cut red tape and reduce the cost of doing business across Australia. All of that will help us build a stronger, more prosperous economy where people have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. We've signed three free trade agreements, which will help us strengthen our economy moving forward. There are more opportunities for free trade agreements coming up. We're just quietly and persistently getting on with the job of building a stronger Australia.
JOURNALIST: Minister you explain this better than your Treasurer. Why don't you move to the lower house and take his job?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is just a ridiculous proposition Latika.
JOURNALIST: And you're still guaranteeing one hundred per cent that you'll deliver a surplus?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will deliver a surplus as soon as possible. Obviously, circumstances have changed somewhat since the Budget. I've just talked to you about what has happened to revenue as a result of the falls in commodity prices. So our commitment is to deliver a surplus as quickly as possible. We are certainly in a position where we will be delivering a surplus much more quickly than Labor would, in particular given that under Bill Shorten, Labor is already committed to $43 billion in expenditure over and above what the Government is currently planning to spend. That is $43 billion in additional expenditure that the country cannot afford.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you.