Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Senator for Western Australia
ASHLEY HALL: Senior Abbott Government Ministers have welcomed the ongoing debate about the Goods and Services Tax. In recent days, several Liberal backbenchers have argued that the tax should be broadened to include fresh food, education and health services. The Opposition claims it is part of an orchestrated campaign to change the GST. But the Acting Treasurer and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told James Glenday the issue needs to be discussed publically as part of the Government's Tax White Paper.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government's position is very clear. We have no plans at all to make any changes to the GST, no change to the base, no change to the rate of the GST, full stop, end of story.
JAMES GLENDAY: But if you're not going to change or raise the tax, then why have the debate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are at the beginning of a process, we are at the beginning of a conversation with the Australian people and let's not pre-empt where that conversation may take us.
JAMES GLENDAY:So you are saying that there are no plans to make changes but yet you do want to talk about this. Don't you run the risk of confusing voters somewhat? The Opposition is already calling this debate a creeping GST campaign.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There shouldn't be any confusion at all. The Government in the lead up to the last election was very clear in its commitment that there would be no change to the GST in the first term of an Abbott Government and there won't be. But we are at the beginning of a conversation with the Australian people about how our tax system can be improved, how our tax system can be made to be simpler, fairer, more efficient, how we can raise the necessary revenue for Government in the most efficient, best possible way.
JAMES GLENDAY: Do you personally believe fresh food and health services should be covered by the GST? Some of the backbenchers have been making the point that you could actually make the tax much more efficient by broadening it just a little bit.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has no plans to make any changes to the rate or the base of the GST...interrupted
JAMES GLENDAY: But as the Acting Treasurer and the Finance Minister, is this something that you see as an important economic reform down the track for Australia? It is your job to get the Budget back into the black.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are at the beginning of a very important process. We are not pre-empting where that process might take us, but the important point here is at the end of that process, any proposal in relation to the GST would have to have the broad support across the community, would have to be supported broadly across the Parliament and would have to have unanimous support of all of the State and Territory Governments, including Labor State and Territory Governments across Australia.
JAMES GLENDAY: A year ago, the GP copayment was really just an idea discussed by a few backbenchers, yet it became a policy. Is this GST change in the same basket as that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely not. We are at the beginning of a conversation with the Australian people on how our tax system can be further improved.
JAMES GLENDAY: You're a Western Australian Senator, do you believe your State gets ripped off in the way that the GST is allocated?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am a Minister in the national Government. It is our job to consider all of the views that are put forward from right across Australia and to make judgments in the national interest.
ASHLEY HALL: The Acting Treasurer Mathias Cormann, speaking there with James Glenday.