Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning everyone.
JOURNALIST: Good morning Minister. The Australian this morning has details of asset sales the Government will pursue as cost saving measures in the Budget. Can you confirm that the details that The Australian has are correct?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has been pursuing a Smaller Government reform agenda ever since our election back in September 2013. This is part of our efforts to ensure taxpayers get value for money from their public service. It is also part of our efforts to ensure that the public service is as efficient, as effective and as well targeted as possible, is involved in those areas where as a public service we should be involved in, but it gets out of those areas where the private sector can perform better. So it is about cutting waste and duplication and it is making sure really, fundamentally, that taxpayers get the best possible value for money from their public service.
JOURNALIST: Is the Treasury building among the buildings for sale?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. We have already confirmed that the Government will not proceed with the sale of the Treasury and Finance buildings at this point. We have however decided to proceed with the sale of four other properties in the Parliamentary triangle.
JOURNALIST: The value to the Budget? What money might this return?
MATHIAS CORMANN: So far, we have identified $1.4 billion in savings from pursuing our Smaller Government reform agenda. We provide regular updates on how we are tracking with the Smaller Government reform agenda. This is now in this Budget the fourth tranche, which builds on the first, second and third tranches of the previous Budget and Budget updates. We will continue to provide updates in future Budgets on how we are going.
JOURNALIST: Part of this efficiency of course has been job losses in the public sector. What will the Budget tell us about further public sector job losses or won’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In the lead up to the last election we made very clear commitments about wanting to reduce the size of the public service, making sure that the public service is as efficient, as effective and as streamlined as possible. We have been implementing that commitment. In the Budget it will be clear, as we said last year, that we have gone back below the levels of 2006-2007 when it comes to public sector staffing numbers. That is what we intended to do. That is what we have achieved. From here on in what we will be doing as part of a rolling process of reform is making sure that all Government Departments are as efficient as possible and that their functions are in line with the priorities for the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: On the childcare package, have you spoken with your Nationals colleagues on the stay-at-home mums aspect? I know that the Nationals have been very critical of money being taken away from stay-at-homes mums.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I talk to my Nationals friends and colleagues all the time. I talk to them about a whole range of issues, all of the policy issues that come up from time to time.
JOURNALIST: But all of them are supportive of the stay-at-home mums and withdrawing childcare subsidies for those families earning over $65,000?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are a strong and united Coalition and any measure that is adopted by the Government in the Budget has the strong and united support of the Coalition.
JOURNALIST: But it doesn’t seem as if it does. At least three National Senators are against it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I say, all of the measures in the Budget are measures of the Coalition Government. We are a strong and united Coalition and all of those measures have the support of the Coalition.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the Government has gone from being a champion of the paid parental leave scheme far more generous than we currently have to now cutting back on paid parental leave to the point where right or wrong, perhaps up to 80,000 mothers will miss out on some payments that they might have expected. Are you comfortable with how dramatic that change has been?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We said very clearly in the lead up to the last election that we would stop double dipping when it comes to paid parental leave. The truth is across Australia most women can only access one paid parental leave scheme and that is the taxpayer funded paid parental leave scheme. Some women, including and in particular across the Federal public sector, are able to access two paid parental leave schemes. One which is paid at the full replacement wage, whatever that is, and the other which is funded by the taxpayer. We don’t think that is fair. We think that it is a sensible, equity and integrity measure. That is the basis on which we have made the decision that we have made.
JOURNALIST: How many people are double-dipping?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Treasurer has announced the measure yesterday and the saving that we are expecting to achieve through this is just shy of a billion dollars.
JOURNALIST: Senator Cormann can you rule out any sort of bank deposit tax in this year’s Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I can absolutely rule that out. The Government is not introducing anything like a bank deposit tax. The Labor Party of course introduced the Financial Stability Fund in their period in Government. This Government, our Government, has not made any decisions whatsoever to introduce a bank deposit tax. What we will have to do later this year is to make a judgment and that will be part of our response to the Financial Systems Inquiry. We will have to make a decision on whether or not to keep Labor’s bank deposit tax, if that is the way you want to describe it. There is absolutely no truth to the proposition that has been put by various media outlets over the last few months that the Government is considering any such thing. We never have. We are not. But what is still reflected in the Budget numbers is a decision taken by the Labor party when they were in Government.
JOURNALIST: So if it is not a bank deposit tax, could it be a temporary bank deposit levy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t think you are quite understanding what I am saying. We are not, in any way shape or form, introducing any such thing. The Labor party did. The Labor party initiated it, the Labor party banked it in their last Budget. The Government has to make a judgment, which we will do later this year and which will form part of our response to the Financial Systems Inquiry on whether we will keep Labor’s bank tax, if that is what you want to call it, or whether we don’t.
JOURNALIST: Minister is there a very real chance in your eyes, that you might not keep it, that you might scrap it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to pre-empt our response to the Financial Systems Inquiry which is due later this year.