Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government continues to make progress implementing our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and to repair the Budget. This week, we have been able to pass our small business and jobs package and we've been able to lock away more than $6 billion in additional savings. We are making progress, heading in the right direction. Economic data is showing that the economy is strengthening, that more new jobs are being created across the economy. We’re very confident that over the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be able to pass further Budget improvement measures through the Senate. In the meantime, Bill Shorten has added another $2.4 billion hit on his Budget black hole. Bill Shorten clearly doesn’t have what it takes to get the Labor party to do the right thing when it comes to strengthening growth, creating more jobs and to repair the Budget. It is telling that since Bill Shorten became the Leader of the Opposition, as the alternative Prime Minister, he has not identified a single alternative spending reduction. The only thing we’ve had from Bill Shorten since he became the Opposition Leader is further proposals for tax hits on people saving for their retirement and further ill thought out tax hits on business. So let me conclude where I started. The Government continues to make progress implementing our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and to repair the Budget. We have made significant progress this week. We are confident that we’ll make further progress in the weeks ahead. The data is showing that our long term economic plan is working. The economy is strengthening, more new jobs are being created and the Budget is heading in the right direction. Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: What do you make of the latest allegations against Bill Shorten?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten has some questions to answer. I’m sure that will have to be done in the not too distant future. But I will leave that to him. What I’m more concerned about is that Bill Shorten is too weak to get the Labor party to do the right thing by Australia. I’ve used a description in the past, that created a bit of commentary. Let me use a different description, Bill Shorten clearly is, when it comes to the economy, when it comes to Budget repair, Bill Shorten clearly is an economic boy-man. He doesn’t have what it takes to repair the Budget. He doesn’t have what it takes to get Labor to support the sorts of policy choices we need to make to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future.
QUESTION: Senator, how would you characterise your negotiations with the Greens on the fuel tax? Would you say you’ve got a handshake deal to sign off something in the Spring session?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We’ve been very impressed with the constructive approach that the new leader of the Greens, Senator Di Natale has been taking to his engagement with the Government. We understand and appreciate that the Greens have a policy perspective on many issues that is different to the policy perspective of the Government, but we are working positively and constructively in an effort to find common ground and to make positive judgements in the national interest. We are having some conversations. Those conversations are ongoing. If and when we’ve got something to announce, we’ll announce it.
QUESTION: We understand that the citizenship laws aren’t going to go back to Cabinet and some people in the Cabinet are very upset about that. Do you think that they do need to go back to Cabinet to be signed off on?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The citizenship changes, the important improvements to our national security as part of our efforts to keep Australia safe and secure, were endorsed by the Cabinet. They were endorsed by the party room. These are matters that are appropriately handled by the National Security Committee of the Cabinet, which is a sub-committee of the Cabinet, which is tasked by the Cabinet with dealing with exactly these matters. This is just proper and due process at work.
QUESTION: So you’re saying it only needs to go through the NSC, the legislation?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These changes have gone and will continue to go through all of the proper internal processes. They have already been endorsed by the Cabinet. They have already been endorsed by the party room. These are matters that the Cabinet as a matter of course delegates to the National Security Committee to deal with, before the matter no doubt will be considered by the party room again.
QUESTION: Does Cabinet need to see legal advice from the Solicitor General on this one?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Cabinet processes under this Government are handled consistent with Cabinet processes in previous governments. Indeed, arguably there is a much more significant level of consultation and engagement taking place under this Government than under the previous government. These changes have followed proper process. They were strongly supported both by the Cabinet and by the party room.
QUESTION: Given how much of a priority the Government is making of this legislation and given that you know that there are people in Cabinet who believe that it might not be constitutionally appropriate to do this, why not let it get signed off by the full Cabinet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You’re really going outside my area of responsibility now. If there are no other questions about the Budget or the economy I probably might leave it here. But let me just make this final point again. These are very important changes as part of our overall plan to ensure Australia is safe and secure in the face of a heightened threat environment. In the face of a changing world, we are modernising our relevant laws and administrative arrangements as we must. All of these proposed changes have gone through the proper processes, including Cabinet and party room consideration. They will continue to go through the proper process. Any other questions?
QUESTION: Labor’s support for this citizenship legislation is waning by the looks of things is that a concern to the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten is weak. Bill Shorten is not in control of the Labor party. Bill Shorten cannot get the Labor party to do the right thing, either on economic security or national security. What the Australian people should be concerned about is that if you have a leader of the Labor party that cannot get the Labor party to do the right thing then you can’t trust that person with leading the nation. That is clearly now very apparent. Bill Shorten is not in control of the Labor party. He cannot get Labor to do the right thing in the national interest. If you can’t lead your own party, you can’t lead the country. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Just on fuel. Senator, just one of fuel tax. Is there a condition that the Greens are imposing on this negotiation that you have to spend money on rail still or have they dropped that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to run our conversations with the Greens here at a morning get together with you at the doors. I will continue to have the conversations privately with Senator Di Natale and his team. We’ve given some public indications about some of the things that we are prepared to look at. We’ve got some more homework to do. We’re having these conversations and if we’ve got something to say in terms of a conclusion to our conversations we’ll make the relevant announcement. Thank you.