Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Over the past year and a half the Government has been working very hard to build a stronger more prosperous economy with more jobs and to repair the Budget. We have scrapped the Carbon Tax and Labor’s failed mining tax. We have reduced red tape costs for business by more than $2 billion a year. We have finalised three Free Trade Agreements with Japan, South Korea and China. We are rolling out a record infrastructure investment program and we are making significant progress with repairing the Budget mess that we inherited from our Labor predecessors.
The results are starting to show. We are in a better position now with prospects for stronger growth and more jobs as a result of our efforts so far. In 2014, more than 210,000 jobs were created across Australia. More than three times as many as the year before. We need to build on those achievements, not put them at risk. Labor wants to put our achievements in working towards stronger economic growth and more jobs at risk.
Today we have Labor calling for the return of the carbon tax and the mining tax. Today we have Labor's Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh in The Australian advocating for the return of the carbon tax and Labor's failed mining tax, to repair the budget. Well that would be wrong. That would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for jobs. The Carbon Tax was a tax pushing up the cost of electricity, pushing up the cost of living, making it harder for businesses to employ Australians. The mining tax was a tax which actually damaged the budget. It was leaving the budget worse off. It was costing jobs and investment, in particular here in Western Australia. Bill Shorten should come out today and repudiate the calls by his Shadow Assistant Treasurer wanting to bring back the carbon tax and the mining tax and Bill Shorten should come out today and finally come on board, in the national interest, to help repair the Budget mess that they left behind, that the Government he was a senior member of left behind. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Do you think suggestions you should bring back the mining and carbon tax should be disregarded?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The mining tax and the carbon tax were very bad Labor taxes. The carbon tax pushed up the cost of electricity, pushed up the cost of gas, pushed up the cost of living for families and for pensioners, pushed up the cost of doing business here in Australia, made us less competitive internationally and of course just shifted jobs overseas. The mining tax not only was bad for the economy and for jobs, it was actually also bad for the Budget. It hardly raised any revenue at all. In fact, it was costing more in administration and in costs for related spending promises than what it raised in revenue. This is not the way forward for Australia. We need to remain focused on our plan to build a stronger, more prosperous economy where everyone has the best possible opportunity to get ahead. Repairing the budget mess that Labor left behind is a very important part of that.
JOURNALIST: Minister, do you support Prince Philip getting the Knighthood?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a decision that was made by the Prime Minister. It wasn't my decision. Prince Philip has made a significant contribution in Australia over several decades. He has made a significant contribution in particular through the Duke of Edinburgh award to the lives of hundreds of thousands of young Australians. But this was not a decision of the Government, it was a decision of the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: I understand that, but yes or no, do you support it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator. I am not a commentator. It is a decision that has been made and we move on. I'm focused on my job. My job as part of the Government, as part of the economic team, is to help progress our plans to build a stronger more prosperous economy and to create more jobs. That is what I am here to do today and that is what everyone across Government is focused on today.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there are any other Australians, other Western Australians more worthy than Prince Philip?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not my job to make calls on who deserves what award. There is a process in place. In relation to this particular award, it is the Prime Minister's job to make these judgments. He has made that judgment. He has explained the reasons for the judgment he has made. From my point of view, I am focusing on my job. My job as part of the economic team is to help implement our plan to build a stronger more prosperous economy and to repair the Budget mess that Labor left behind.
JOURNALIST: Your job is also a member of Cabinet. Don't you think you should have been consulted?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. This is not the way this process works. This process is based on a decision and a recommendation by the Prime Minister through the appropriate fora and this is not a decision by the Cabinet. From my point of view I am entirely comfortable. I'm focussed on my job. My job is to help repair the Budget mess that Labor left behind and to help implement our plan for a stronger, more prosperous economy.
JOURNALIST: So when it comes to the Prime Minister’s job where does the line stop in terms of when he can make a decision on his own and when he can make a decision in consultation with Cabinet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister is the head of the Government. He obviously has got particular responsibilities as head of the government. I'm entirely comfortable with that.
JOURNALIST: On this matter, do you support Tony Abbott’s judgment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Tony Abbott has my very strong and unequivocal support.
JOURNALIST: On this matter?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm not going to be a commentator on specific issues that I wasn't involved in deliberating on. As far as I'm concerned…interrupted.
JOURNALIST: It is an easy question, it is an easy issue. Do you support Tony Abbott's judgment on this matter?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I support Tony Abbott absolutely, unequivocally, strongly and totally. Tony Abbott is doing an outstanding job as our Prime Minister. He is providing very strong leadership to the country at a time when we are facing global economic head winds, at a time when we are facing global security risks. He is providing very strong leadership. I'm very proud to be part of his Government and I'm looking forward to being part of his Government for some time to come.
JOURNALIST: Appointing Prince Philip a Knighthood, giving him a knighthood, you back his judgment, you don't believe it is a joke?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister has made the decision to award that Knighthood and he has explained that decision. He has explained the reason why he has made that particular decision and I support the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Minister, from what you are saying, it doesn't sound like you are supporting him on this issue, from what you are saying right now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not right. I don't agree with that characterisation at all. I'm a proud member of the Abbott Government. The Prime Minister has my strong and unequivocal support. This is a decision, it was his decision, it is a decision that wasn't a decision by the Cabinet. I understand the reasons why he has made the decision, but my job as the Minister for Finance, my job as a member of the economic team is to help implement our plan for a stronger, more prosperous economy, to create more jobs and to help repair the budget mess that Labor left behind. Right now today, I am concerned about the fact that the Labor Party wants to bring back the carbon tax and the mining tax. That is particularly bad news for people here in Western Australia, but it is bad news for people right across Australia, because it would lead to increased costs of living, it would lead to less jobs and lower economic growth, when we are only just starting to turn the corner, having dealt with some of the bad decisions that Labor made in the lead-up to the last election.
JOURNALIST: You are saying in the future you wouldn't be concerned if the Prime Minister continued to Knight people who he thinks are worthy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a hypothetical question.
JOURNALIST: It is not hypothetical because it happened on the weekend?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are asking me ‘if in future’ so that is by definition a hypothetical question.
JOURNALIST: What feedback have you been getting from the community on this issue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The feedback has been mixed. From my point of view, I am focused on my job as a member of the Government, as a member of the economic team and that is to continue to progress and to continue to implement our plan for a stronger economy, create more jobs and to repair the budget mess that Labor left behind. That is what I have been focused on all day today.
JOURNALIST: So mixed? You have had people come up to you angry with this decision?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm not a commentator...interrupted
JOURNALIST: Have people come up to you expressing anger at Tony Abbott?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are asking me to provide a running commentary. There is a decision that has been made by the Prime Minister. The decision was announced. The decision was explained by the Prime Minister. From my point of view, I'm focused on my job which is to help implement our plan for a stronger economy and more jobs and today I'm very, very concerned that the Labor Party wants to impose the disastrous carbon tax and the absolutely terrible mining tax back on to the Australian economy, back on to the Australian people. That is bad news, it would be very bad for families, for pensioners, it would be very bad for businesses and jobs. I call on Bill Shorten today to repudiate Andrew Leigh’s call today to bring the carbon tax and the mining tax back in order to repair their Budget mess.
JOURNALIST: How will the Coalition’s economic platform be impacted by the fall in the iron ore price.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have over the last year faced global economic headwinds. These global economic headwinds would have been the same whoever was in government, but this just shows why it is so important to repair the Budget mess that we have inherited from our predecessors. As a result of $123 billion in projected deficits under Labor when we came into Government, as a result of taking us to $667 billion of government debt and growing we are in a less strong and a less resilient position than we should have been and could have been. We are working to get us back onto a stronger foundation for the future. We are working to ensure that whatever global economic conditions, whatever the headwinds that come our way, that we are in the best possible position to drive stronger economic growth and create more jobs and to protect our living standards and to build better opportunities for the future.
JOURNALIST: Has the Government been too reliant on commodity prices?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The previous government was not only relying on commodity prices when they came up with the mining tax. They assumed that the record terms of trade in their first five years of Government would continue forever. That was never going to be the case. They came up with the mining tax, made assumptions about how much it would raise based on record commodity prices. Spent all the money they thought it would raise and more before they had collected a cent. That is why the disastrous mining tax left the Budget structurally exposed and that is one of the things we fixed this year. That is why the Labor Party should not now call for bringing the carbon tax and the mining tax back.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is just wrong. Firstly the Carbon Tax was going to lead to lower economic growth. The previous government’s own modelling showed that. It was going to cost jobs. The previous government’s own modelling showed that. The mining tax actually left the Budget worse off. Us getting rid of the mining tax and all of the related unfunded promises that Labor attached to it improved the Budget position. We are saving about $10 billion over the current forward estimates and $50 billion over the next decade as a result of getting rid of Labor’s failed mining tax. This is the tax that Labor wants to bring back. Bringing back a mining tax, like Labor put in place before the last election would not only cost jobs, would not only cost investment, it would hurt the Budget. Why would anyone do that? Only the Labor Party could come up with a multi-billion dollar supposed tax on an important industry for Australia that leaves the Budget worse off.
JOURNALIST: Andrew Leigh stopped short of saying that they wanted to bring those to two taxes back though and you’ve called on Bill Shorten to make comment. If you then supported those suggestions what would be your argument?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Hang on, Andrew Leigh in The Australian today was advocating for the mining tax and the carbon tax to help bring the Budget back into surplus after Labor put the Budget into significant deficit year in year out.
JOURNALIST: So if Bill Shorten agrees with those statements, what would you say then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That would be a very good start. If Bill Shorten came out today and said that under Labor, under a government he leads there will be no carbon tax and no mining tax in the future, that would be a very good start. The next thing he should say is he recognises that the government that he was a part of made a mess of the Budget, weakened Australia as a result and that he will be part of repairing the Budget mess that Labor created over six years in government.
JOURNALIST: Can I just go back to that previous interview, Barnaby Joyce has said that he wants to see all the awards go to Australians do you support that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Overwhelmingly awards go to Australians. There is a particular process in relation to some new awards that were put in place by the Prime Minister in March last year. It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to make recommendations on who the outstanding Australians should be that get these awards, or who those outstanding individuals should be that have made significant contributions in Australia. In the Prime Minister’s judgment, Prince Philip who is the husband of the Queen of Australia - in his judgment, Prince Philippe has made a significant contribution here in Australia to the lives of many thousands of young people through the Duke of Edinburgh Award and other contributions that he’s made. I accept that that is the Prime Minister’s judgment to make.
JOURNALIST: How damaging is this for the Prime Minister? A lot of your colleagues are not happy. They say they are bewildered and angry. Can you understand why they are upset?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I am not a commentator. I am focused on my job which is to help implement our plan for a stronger more prosperous economy and to create more jobs. That is what I’ve done every single day since we came into Government. That is what I will continue to do every single day that I have the privilege of holding this position. Thank you very much.