Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Date: Monday, 15 December 2014
JAMES GLENDAY: The Coalition promised no surprises and no excuses. It promised to fix what it called Labor's debt and deficit disaster and just seven months ago it declared the nation's finances were finally on a clear path to a credible surplus.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We remain on a believable and responsible path to surplus but we will get there slightly less quickly than we would have liked.
JAMES GLENDAY: That's the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. He says the path to surplus has got a bit longer. In large part because bits of the Budget have been blocked or changed by the Senate and commodity prices have collapsed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are significant global economic headwinds and what we have said is that we are not going to chase down the fall in revenue.
JAMES GLENDAY: That leaves a huge hole in the Budget bottom line. AM understands this year's deficit is now forecast to be more than $40 billion, that is a $10 billion blow out since May. But the same economic headwinds hit the former Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan too. And in 2012, Joe Hockey said this:
JOE HOCKEY (EXCERPT): Treasury and the Treasurer have constantly overestimated the performance of the economy.
JAMES GLENDAY: And when the winds blew again in 2013, he said this:
JOE HOCKEY (EXCERPT): Old Swanny likes to blame everyone else. The problem is he gets his numbers wrong in the first place and again if you're company director, you would go to gaol.
JAMES GLENDAY: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is quick to bail out his colleague, he insists 2014 is different.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor was saying that we were deliberately taking a too pessimistic view to make the numbers look worse than what they were. And of course, as it turns out we weren't aggressive enough in downgrading the revenue assumptions that we inherited from Labor. Furthermore, we are making the difficult but necessary decisions to get spending under control so the situation is quite different.
JAMES GLENDAY: But you're going to be judged by the same yardstick though aren't you? Wayne Swan was too optimistic and it seemed you've been too optimistic as well.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will stand by our record once we get to the next election.
JAMES GLENDAY: Labor's already labelled today's economic update "Hockey's hypocrisy". Tony Burke is the Opposition's finance spokesman.
TONY BURKE: If Peter Costello could deal with an Asian financial crisis, Wayne Swan could deal with the Global Financial Crisis, then surely Joe Hockey should be able to deal with commodity prices.
JAMES GLENDAY: But the Treasurer has also had to find cash to pay for recent promises like the push to fight home-grown terrorism and the deployment of troops to the Middle East. Foreign aid will again be cut. AM understands more than $3 billion will go over the next four years and aid funding will return to Howard era levels.