Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
ANDREW O’KEEFE: The Budget that Joe Hockey handed down on Tuesday has already given the Government a push on in the polls. Obviously, it has proven to be quite popular.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: But is it any fairer than last year’s Budget that divided the nation? Well Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is with us here in the studio this morning. Good morning to you Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Thanks very much for coming in. Minister, there seems to be broad agreement that this is a much fairer, kinder Budget and gentler than last year. Did you deliberately set out to make amends for the issues with the last Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a Budget that builds on the progress that we have made since last year in strengthening growth, creating more jobs and getting the Budget back into surplus. But yes, it is a measured, responsible and fair Budget.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Minister, one of the central planks of this Budget, is of course you know the childcare package which people are welcoming. Many parenting experts though are obviously concerned that even though there will be extra funding for childcare places, there simply aren’t the places. What do we do about that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: When you put $3.5 million in additional resources into any industry, including childcare, you would expect that over time the supply of services will increase and that accessibility will improve. What we are trying to do with this package is to help families get access to more affordable, simpler, more flexible and more accessible childcare. That is what our reforms are all about.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: So by boosting demand, you hope to boost supply?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No by boosting resources into the system, obviously you are boosting both demand and supply.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: So will you put more money into childcare centres to build more childcare centres?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, what we are doing is that we are essentially making it easier for parents to access childcare, we are making the system simpler and we are putting $3.5 billion additional resources into the system. So it stands to reason when you put more resources into any market, there will be an increase in the supply of services available which will help with accessibility.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Now a similar debate is unfolding around jobs themselves. I mean there are reforms to help unemployed young people and indeed older people to find work. And the childcare subsidies of course are to intended to help mums enter the workforce. Again, where do the jobs come from?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have got a long term economic plan which is designed to strengthen growth and facilitate stronger job creation...interrupted
And it is sort of dependant on small businesses employing new people?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The small business tax cuts, the incentives that we are providing to small business to invest, the $20,000 immediate instant asset write off. These are all initiatives to help small business to be more successful, to help small business employ more people. One in two jobs across Australia right now is created by small business. So, economic growth has been strengthening and what we are doing here is trying to keep the momentum going by supporting a very important sector in our economy.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Minister, ACOSS, the Australian Council of Social Service, has pointed out that the changes to childcare funding rely on cuts to payments for low income families. There are still generous subsidies for families on higher incomes. Is that fair? There have been some questions around that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We want to help families to get access to more affordable, simpler, more flexible childcare. We want to make that additional investment. But whenever you want to spend more on a higher priority, you have to be able to pay for it by spending less in other areas. That is what we are doing and we have put a package to the parliament which we believe is balanced, which is fair and it will obviously now go through a process where all parties will ask questions, scrutinise what we have done and in the end, I am confident that there will be a good package that will go through the parliament.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: There haven’t been just questions around whether or not low income families are treated as equally as higher income families in this regard but community groups are saying that this Budget has really overlooked or in fact failed to speak to the most disadvantaged Australians, being you know, Indigenous Australians, the homeless, victims of domestic violence. How do you respond to that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have put additional resources into services for the homeless for example. There is always more that you can do but right now we do face a pretty challenging Budget position. There are a lot of meritorious areas where we would like to spend more money. Essentially, we are spending as much as we can afford right now while still being on a credible pathway back to surplus. That is very important in terms of our economic success as a nation over the medium to long term.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: How concerned are you that the public will actually trust this Government to be able to deliver on those promises? Any of the big ticket items when we look at say the paid parental leave for example that you couldn’t get through? Why should people trust you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are doing the best we can every day to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. In the end, the way the system works is that after we have given it our best for three years people will pass judgment on our performance and they will pass judgment on whether they believe we have a strong plan for a second term. If they think we do, hopefully they do, they will vote for us. If they do not, they won’t. That is the way the system works.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Are the signs looking promising in the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a question for Bill Shorten as the alternative Prime Minister. If Bill Shorten stands up for the national interest, if he joins the Coalition and supports our plan for stronger growth and more jobs and to repair the Budget, then we wouldn’t have a problem in the Senate.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Alright. Well over the coming weeks, no doubt, as people dissect the Budget a bit more, we will see who is onboard and who aint. Mathias Cormann, after such a busy week, thank you so much for joining us this morning. I hope you enjoy actually seeing your family at some point.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to be here.