Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
QUESTION: Is this a poor reflection in terms of the Government that the growth rate is at such low levels, I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this since the 60s?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The good news is that the Australian economy continues to grow despite the biggest fall in our terms of trade, in about fifty years. Other commodity based economies like Canada and Brazil are in recession. The Australian economy continues to grow. Importantly, we are in a much stronger position now than we would have been if we had not got rid of Labor’s anti-growth and anti-job taxes like the carbon tax and the mining tax. If we had not got rid of more than $2 billion worth of red tape costs for business, if we had not pursued key free trade agreements with key markets in our region. We are continuing to grow, that is good news. The employment growth is better than had been anticipated. The unemployment rate is better than had been anticipated. It is a matter now to continue to implement our plan for stronger growth and more jobs and not to go back to the bad old Labor ways.
QUESTION: Is a RBA, is a rate cut to the interest rates is that needed, is that required?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The official cash rate is entirely a matter for the RBA. They make these decisions independently based on the way they assess the situation and that is entirely appropriate.
QUESTION: Are you saying there is nothing more the Government could have done, I mean interest rates are at extraordinary lows?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is always more the Government can do and we are. We have done a lot and we are planning to do more. Since we came into Government we have implemented our plan for stronger growth and more jobs, including scrapping the carbon tax, scrapping the mining tax and reducing red tape costs for business by more than $2 billion per year, rolling out a record infrastructure investment program, signing up three free trade agreements with key markets in our region. We are now in a much stronger position than we would have been if we had not changed direction. We were on a bad trajectory under Labor, with a weakening economy, rising unemployment and a Budget position which was rapidly deteriorating. We are on a better trajectory now. But yes, there is more work to be done. We need to continue to press ahead with our plan to strengthen growth, including with the signing of the very important Australia-China Free Trade Agreement, which will deliver stronger growth and more jobs for Australia.
QUESTION: Do you think Labor are playing dead in the electorate of Canning?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not a commentator on our opponents. We have an outstanding candidate here in Canning in Andrew Hastie. He is working very hard to win the trust of the people of Canning to represent them in the Federal Parliament. I will leave the Labor party to make their own judgements on what they should and shouldn’t do.
QUESTION: Just a quick question about the Perth Freight Link, are you able to say what will happen to the Federal Government funding committed to the project for stage two of the Freight Link, if the WA Government either abandons it or doesn’t do it within the Federal Government’s timeline?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Perth Freight Link is a very important project for the economic future of Western Australia. It is a project that has been talked about for decades. The Abbott Government together with the Barnett Government is finally making it a reality. We are very confident that the Perth Freight Link project will go ahead as planned, on time and on budget. We are very confident that both phases of the Perth Freight Link project will get underway by next year.
QUESTION: But if they don’t happen in that timeframe?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not a consideration for us based on all of our conversations with the State Government here in Western Australia. We are very confident that the Perth Freight Link project will go ahead as planned. It is a critically important piece of infrastructure to ensure we can get our products to market at the lowest cost, in the safest way possible and causing the least amount of disruption to local communities across the transport routes in Perth.
QUESTION: What is your understanding of the cash flow there, is it happening in one bit hit or is it spread out in terms of milestones?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a $1.6 billion project. The Federal contribution to this project is just under a billion dollars. These arrangements are managed in the usual way. As I am advised, contracts for the Roe 8 extension, which is well and truly long overdue, will happen very soon and phase two of the Perth Freight Link project will happen sometime thereafter. We’re very confident that work on both phases of this project will be well underway early next year.