Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning. We welcome the contribution of the Business Council of Australia to the debate about the economy and the Budget today. We agree that it is incumbent on everyone to take a medium to long term view about the state of our public finances and about where we're heading when it comes to the economy, jobs and opportunities for everyone to get ahead.
When we came into Government, we inherited Government debt heading for $667 billion within the decade and rising. As a result of the measures we've taken so far, we've been able to bring that down by nearly $170 billion and with debt expected to fall further beyond that. Everything the Government is doing is focused on putting Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. Everything we're doing is focused on getting us on a better trajectory over the medium to long term and that is how we are approaching the next Budget as well.
To also just note, in the Senate last night, another $740 million in savings were passed by the Senate with the successful passage of the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment Bill No 5, which comes on top $1.3 billion in savings passed in the last Senate week. So bit by bit, it is all adding up and we're making progress. There is still much more work to be done. We are focused on the medium to long term and getting Australia on the strongest possible foundation for the future, but obviously we are pressing ahead in taking action every day to get Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Has Cabinet agreed to drop the GP co-payment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Health Minister has been consulting with the medical profession and other stakeholders and the Government has considered the outcomes of that consultation. This morning the party room will have the opportunity to consider the outcomes of those consultations and to come to a view. As soon as we're in a position to make some announcements in relation to the co-payment measure we will.
JOURNALIST: Is the Government considering a system in which you would give a lump sum to doctors per patient as opposed to per service?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has been considering the findings of the consultations conducted by the Health Minister Sussan Ley. Those findings and the Government's decisions in relation to those findings will be considered by the party room this morning. No doubt soon after that, relevant announcements will be made.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the decision to send more Australian troops into Iraq?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have been involved in international efforts in Iraq for some time and obviously we are continuously engaged in conversations with our international partners, with the Government in Iraq. It is an evolving situation. If and as further announcements are to be made, they will be made by the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister
JOURNALIST: What is your response to Labor's calls for the Attorney-General to stand down following yesterday's events?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are ridiculous suggestions. The Attorney-General provided a full and proper explanation of the events of last week. Again, we have all got to remember that we inherited a situation where as a result of the failed border protection approach of the previous Government, 2,000 children were in detention. That was an unacceptable situation. As a result of Scott Morrison's achievement in stopping the boats, we have been able to reduce that number down to about 200 and we are totally focused on reducing the number of children in detention to zero. That is what we are focused on. As far as the Attorney-General is concerned, he is doing an outstanding job and he has provided a very good explanation yesterday of all of the events of last week.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that the disquiet among the backbench has eased now considering the poll result that we saw yesterday?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What the polls showed yesterday is that when we talk about the issues that matter to the Australian people, when we talk about our efforts to strengthen the economy, create more jobs, help families, ensure our nation is safe and secure, our position in the community improves. When we talk about ourselves, our position in the community deteriorates. All of us want our position to continue to improve, which is why all of us will exclusively be focused on the issues that matter to the Australian people and that is to strengthen the economy, create more jobs, help families and to ensure that Australia is safe and secure.