Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
SANDY ALOISI: Federal Cabinet meets in Canberra today at the start of another parliamentary week when the Prime Minister will again be trying to turn the focus to policy initiatives and away from his own battle to retain the leadership. Tony Abbott had foreshadowed a range of moves on economic policy beginning with the scrapping of the planned Medicare co-payment. To look at the Government's plans and the leadership outlook, we are joined by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and he is speaking to Marius Benson.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: Can I begin with policies, is the Government planning significant policy changes to be announced this week or are you just tinkering at the edges?
MATHIAS CORMANN: When it comes to the GP co-payment, you would be aware that Health Minister Sussan Ley has been consulting with the medical profession and others for a few months now. We expect that there might be something more to say about that particular policy this week. The outcomes of Minister Ley's consultations are expected to go through the party processes this week and let's see what happens.
MARIUS BENSON: So that's a goner, the Medicare co-payment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are your words...interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: No, no, I was listening closely to yours. That's a goner.
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are your words. Our commitment is to ensure that we protect Medicare for the long term, that we ensure that vulnerable patients can have access to bulk-billing arrangements and remain protected. But we also want to ensure that in an appropriate way, those of us who can afford to contribute to the cost of our healthcare services can do so. What the detail of that will mean, that is to be announced by the Health Minister in the not too distant future.
MARIUS BENSON: Was the co-payment good policy frustrated by the Senate or bad policy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We believe it is good policy to ensure that Medicare is protected and sustainable for the long term. There is a conversation to be had in particular with the medical profession and other key stakeholders in the healthcare sector to ensure that sort of policy is pursued in the best possible way.
MARIUS BENSON: What about the policy to have young people wait for six months before getting the dole? Do you believe that is still good policy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, everything that is in the Budget is on the table until such time as it is taken off the table, if it is taken off the table.
MARIUS BENSON: Well that's true enough. But on that particular policy, is it good policy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What is good policy is to ensure that young people don't go straight from school onto the dole, but go from school either into learning more or earning.
MARIUS BENSON: Can you tell me, do you still support the Budget policy of making people wait six months before getting the dole?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Sorry?
MARIUS BENSON: Do you still support requiring young people to wait six months before getting the dole?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is the policy that is in the Budget.
MARIUS BENSON: Do you support it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is the policy that is in the Budget and as such everyone in the Government supports it.
MARIUS BENSON: Is it going to remain policy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, it is policy, it is the policy that is on the table. If that changes, there will be an announcement along those lines.
MARIUS BENSON: And I think we should expect that from the guarded support you're giving it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don't think you can read anything into it. At this stage, we are pressing ahead with all of the policies that are in the Budget.
MARIUS BENSON: The Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday on Insiders said that we have learned lessons of the first Budget. In your mind what are those lessons?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have said for some time, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said for some time, we inherited a very challenging situation and we sought perhaps to do too much in the first Budget. We perhaps bit off more than we could chew. Certainly as we... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: Can you give us an example of that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We put a lot of structural reform into the Budget in one go. If we had our time over again, we might work through these issues sequentially outside of the Budget process taking people into our confidence about what problems we're trying to fix and why it is necessary, for example to put Medicare on a stronger foundation for the future, why it is necessary to make many of the changes that we've put forward in the Budget.
MARIUS BENSON: The past month has been a shocker for Tony Abbott specifically and for the Government generally. Today you have a poll that shows improvement over the past month. Is that a surprise to you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have had a difficult month, but what the Prime Minister and what the Government has done over the last few weeks is focus on policies to strengthen the economy, create more jobs, help families and to ensure Australia is safe and secure. Whereas Bill Shorten has been focussed on playing politics. He couldn't help himself but get dragged down to the insider politics of Canberra, whereas we're focussed on the issues that matter to the Australian people.
MARIUS BENSON: But are you surprised that given it was the shocker of a month you've gone up in the polls?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm not a commentator on the polls. What I do see though is when we focus on the issues that matter to the Australian people, about putting Australia on a stronger foundation for the future, helping families, our position in the community improves and whenever the talk is all about politics, our position deteriorates. There is no doubt that in recent weeks, Bill Shorten predominately focused on politics whereas the Prime Minister and the Government have been focussing on the issues that matter to the Australian people.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.