Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: We continue to implement our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and to repair the Budget. The economy today is stronger than it was when we came into Government. The economic outlook today is better than what it would have been if as a country we had not changed direction after the defeat of the last Labor government. If we had not abolished Labor’s carbon tax. If we had not abolished Labor’s mining tax. If we had not reduced red tape costs for business by more than $2 billion a year. If we had not reduced taxes for small business. If we had not invested in infrastructure. If we had not finalised three free trade agreements with major markets in our region. If we had not engaged in the important task of getting Government spending under control. What Labor’s national conference the other day showed again, is that Bill Shorten and Labor have no economic plan for our country. They have no plan to get our Budget back into surplus. Bill Shorten now, is again pushing for a carbon tax. Only that it is a worse carbon tax than the Gillard version. A carbon tax of more than $200 a tonne. A carbon tax that would wipe $600 billion and more of economic growth and prosperity out of our economy. A carbon tax which would push up wholesale electricity prices by nearly 80 per cent. We have seen Bill Shorten support a xenophobic, union driven attack on our very important and historic free trade agreement with China. Since Bill Shorten became Opposition Leader, he has not identified a single, alternative spending reduction to get the Budget back into surplus. Instead, he has made another $57 billion in unfunded promises, which would put Australia’s Budget in a worse position. The Government has a long term plan for stronger growth, more jobs and to repair the Budget. Labor has no plan. Labor instead has a set of policies that would worsen our economic outlook, that would worsen cost of living pressures for families and pensioners. Labor is not focussed on the important issues for our nation.
QUESTION: What would an emissions reduction target of 26 per cent or above do to the Australian economy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The important point to make firstly is that Australia is on track to meet and indeed to exceed our emissions reduction target agreed in Kyoto. We are doing it without a job destroying carbon tax. We are right now considering our post 2020 emissions reduction target. I might just say that looking internationally, Australia’s effort so far on a per capita basis, when it comes to emissions reductions, is one of the best in the world. We would expect that moving forward, Australia’s emissions reduction effort on a per capita basis will continue to be leading the world. It is very important for us to make a strong and responsible contribution to global efforts to reduce emissions, but one which does not detract from our economic prosperity moving forward. Labor’s carbon tax, the Bill Shorten carbon tax, would wipe more than $600 billion out of economic growth. We know that Bill Shorten kept that modelling secret from some of his own team members, no doubt in an effort to weasel this bad policy through his internal processes.
QUESTION: There will definitely be an impact on the economy of a target of 26 per cent or above. What would that be?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let’s see what post 2020 emissions reduction target will be announced in due course. These are the sorts of issues the Coalition is currently considering. Let me tell you that the Coalition has a very strong track record in achieving responsible emissions reductions here in Australia in a way that does not detract from economic growth in the way that Labor’s carbon tax under the Gillard and Rudd Governments and now under the Shorten Opposition has and would into the future.
QUESTION: Should the Finance Department release its investigation into the expenses of Bronwyn Bishop, Tony Burke and Phillip Ruddock?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The point that I have made again and again is that the Finance Department is conducting the relevant investigations into those matters independently and at arm’s length from the Government. But certainly it is my expectation that any findings of those investigations would be made public. Without interfering in any way, shape or form in the conduct of any such investigations, I will certainly make it known, that that is my view.
QUESTION: Just the findings or the entire report?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to get into the weeds of all of this. I certainly believe that the findings of any investigation will need to be made public.
QUESTION: Will that sort of happen immediately? Or...
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is an investigation that appropriately is conducted at arm’s length from the Government without political interference. These are really matters for the Secretary of the Department of Finance.
QUESTION: Should those findings be released before the panel that is reviewing entitlements comes down with their final report so as to give them some sort of direction?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister initiated a review, a root and branch review into the Parliamentary entitlement framework so-called, that is due to report early next year. I would have thought that any findings in relation to relevant current investigations would be able to be released much earlier than that. But these really are matters for the Secretary of the Department for Finance.
QUESTION: Was it childish for Bronwyn Bishop not to clap yesterday when Tony Smith was taken to the Speaker’s chair to give his speech?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not a commentator. I think we should, quite frankly, give Bronwyn Bishop some space. This has been a difficult couple of weeks for her. She made an error of judgement, which she recognised and she has paid a very high price. Bronwyn Bishop has made an extraordinary contribution to our country over many, many years. I’m not going to get into that sort of commentary.
QUESTION: Just on same-sex marriage, a Private Members Bill looks likely to be put forward sometime in the next fortnight, do you support a conscience vote on the matter?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Coalition has a long standing policy position and that long standing policy position is that we support the current definition of marriage in the Marriage Act as marriage being between a man and a woman. A free vote as you call it, a conscience vote, would require a decision by the party room not to have a policy. I support the long standing policy position of the Coalition in support of the current definition of marriage.
QUESTION: So as such you believe that MPs should be bound to vote with the current position and the matter resolved in the party room?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a matter for the party room. I just explained as a statement of fact, that if there is a policy, for there to be a free vote, there would have to be a decision not to have a policy. The Coalition has had a very long standing policy position in support of the current definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. For there to be a free vote, a conscience vote as you call it, there would have to be a decision by the party room not to have a policy. That is ultimately a matter for the party room to resolve if and when that issue arises.
QUESTION: And when should that happen? Should that happen today or next Tuesday?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a matter entirely for the party room and for my colleagues who have an interest in these matters.
QUESTION: Do you risk more public dissatisfaction if you don’t make a stand or don’t reach some sort of conclusion on this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We do have a stand. We have a very long standing policy position in favour of the current definition of marriage. It is a policy position that we have taken to election after election. It is always open for the party room to make a decision to change the policy or to decide not to have a policy, but right now we have a policy position. That policy position is a long standing policy position in support of the current definition of marriage. For that to change, the party room would have to make a decision not to have a policy. Thank you.