Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
JOURNALIST: Senator, I know you touched on this in the Budget breakfast but do you support holding an inquiry into the iron ore industry?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I support holding a sensible inquiry. I don’t think that what was on the table last week in the Senate was as sensible as we would need. So there is some more work being done. Let's see where we land.
JOURNALIST: What would a sensible inquiry entail?
MATHIAS CORMANN: An inquiry that looks at the facts and which is conducted by responsible, mature people. It is an important industry for Australia and we have to make sure that we treat it as such.
JOURNALIST: What can it tell us that we don’t already know?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These sorts of inquiries are always very good at getting to the facts. I don’t know what we don’t know. That is the whole point of holding an inquiry.
JOURNALIST: You talk about separating fact from fiction. What’s the fiction going around about the industry?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t know. The thing is, all sorts of people make claims and counter claims. Let us try and get to the bottom of what is fact and what is fiction.
JOURNALIST: Does it risk sending a message to our trading partners that Australia is considering regulating the market though?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are your words. Australia is not considering regulating the market at all. You are trying to pre-empt what may or may not happen at the end of an inquiry which has not yet been instigated. You’re getting 20 steps ahead of yourself that is not where we are at at all.
JOURNALIST: But is there a risk that China could pre-empt that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Clearly there is a risk that you are pre-empting it, but I don’t think there is such a risk.
JOURNALIST: What about the risk of alienating BHP Billiton and Rio with this inquiry?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Treasurer is obviously having conversations with a whole range of very important stakeholders. This is business as usual. Parliamentary committees inquire into matters of national interest and when there are issues of national interest to be considered, they look at the facts and if appropriate, they make recommendations. At this stage, let’s just see what the Treasurer ends up developing in the context of the consultations that he is conducting at the moment.
JOURNALIST: What could the Government do if the committee said it should intervene in the market?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a hypothetical question. You are getting way ahead of yourself.
JOURNALIST: But would the Government have any powers to do that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are getting way ahead of yourself, as I say, that is not actually something that is on the table whatsoever.
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer Joe Hockey has told Fairfax radio that you may not have known that your wife was claiming paid parental leave from her employer and the Commonwealth. Did you know this? Was this something that the pair of you discussed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: My wife is an independent professional. She is quite entitled to run her own affairs. And this is not a matter about my wife. This is a matter about the Government making a judgment to change a system, which currently exists, that we think can be made fairer into the future.
JOURNALIST: But did the Treasurer make it about your wife when he made those comments?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not providing commentary on commentary.
JOURNALIST: Do you use the term double dipping yourself?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In the lead up to the last election, on many occasions, we made the point that we would stop the opportunity for people to claim a taxpayer funded default paid parental leave scheme on top of the more generous paid parental leave scheme available through a public or private sector employer. That is something that I, along with many of my colleagues, have talked about in the lead up to the last election.
JOURNALIST: Just on today’s Fairfax poll, does that show that the Budget has hit the mark?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Budget was our next step in our responsible long-term economic plan to strengthen growth, create more jobs and to get the Budget back to surplus as soon as possible. We are obviously pleased to see that people recognise that we are heading in the right direction, making progress. We understand that there is more work to be done, but we will just focus on what we were elected to do, strengthen growth, create more jobs and repair the Budget.