Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Date: Wednesday, 16 September 2015
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning everyone. There is a lot of work to be done to continue to put Australia on a stronger economic and fiscal foundation for the future. I am very much looking forward to doing everything I can to support our new Prime Minister, to support our new leader Malcolm Turnbull, in making sure that we are a very successful Government, which will provide good, strong and effective Government for the Australian people. I will do everything I can to help our team be successful at the next election. Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: You declared your full support for Tony Abbott the night of the challenge and you are also part of the team if you like, that Malcolm Turnbull was very critical of, when it comes to selling the economy. Do you expect to retain your Finance portfolio?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Everybody knows how I voted in the leadership ballot on Monday night. The party made a decision. I support unequivocally our new leader. I am a team player. I always have been, always will be. Malcolm Turnbull will have my complete, absolute, unequivocal and loyal support as Prime Minister. I will support his efforts in whatever capacity he sees fit.
QUESTION: Do you agree with him that the salesmanship of the economy and what the Government has done so far was not up to scratch?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We can always do better. When we came into Government, we inherited from the previous Labor government a very challenging situation, with a weakening economy, rising unemployment, a Budget position which was rapidly deteriorating. At a time when we were facing global economic challenges, the previous Labor government put more and more lead into our saddle bags. We have been working over the past two years to improve our competitiveness as an economy. We’ve been working over the past two years to do everything we can to help business be more successful in what are challenging times. I look forward in the months and years ahead to work with Prime Minister Turnbull to do everything I can to help put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future.
QUESTION: What do you say to calls for Ministers who supported Tony Abbott to stand down?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Now that the decision of the party room was made on Monday night, it is incumbent on all of us to reunite behind the leadership team of Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop. That is certainly what I am calling on all of my colleagues to do. The Australian people need us to provide good and effective Government. I will do everything I can to help Prime Minister Turnbull and our leadership team, with Julie Bishop and Warren Truss, to be successful in providing good Government and in winning the next election.
QUESTION: What about the deal with the Nationals, is that still strong? And I suppose related to that, are you comfortable with an effects test being put in place?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The agreement with the National Party was essentially a formal reconfirmation of existing policies and existing Budget commitments in the main. There was also in there, a commitment for full Cabinet consideration of relevant recommendations of the Harper Review into competition policy. That is entirely appropriate. I might just say here that there were some reports in the media today about the cost of that agreement. Let me just say that the number that is quoted there is not correct. As I have indicated, overwhelmingly the features of that agreement are a formal reconfirmation of existing policy and existing Budget commitments. The part of the agreement which deals with additional support for lower income families is something that Minister Scott Morrison has been discussing with Senator Matt Canavan and other Senators like Senator Bob Day and Senator John Madigan for some time. It is part of a broader revised families package, which will be fully offset and as such, be Budget neutral. I might just say for completeness, that the impact on the Budget bottom line of any additional spending measures in the context of this agreement or any other decision of the Government will be reflected in our half-yearly Budget update later this year. The commitment of the Government is to offset any new spending on higher priority areas, on identified higher priority areas, with spending reductions in other comparatively lower priority areas.
QUESTION: Last night Julie Bishop revealed that she knew that Malcolm Turnbull was planning to challenge in the days leading up to it. Should she have warned Tony Abbott earlier?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to provide a running commentary on the ins and outs of this. All of this is now ancient history. The party made a decision on Monday night. I support the new leadership team. I support Prime Minister Turnbull. I think that all of us now have to put the past behind us. We have to look forward to being the best Government we can be and making the best possible effort to win the next election, because the Australian people need us to defeat a very poor alternative government, led by a very poor and weak alternative leader in Bill Shorten.
QUESTION: It is expected that Scott Morrison will replace Joe Hockey as Treasurer, should Mr. Hockey resign?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are entirely matters for the Prime Minister.
QUESTION: Are you willing to put forward a view on, a personal view on the effects test, because this is something that would be seriously challenged by the big supermarket chains, it would likely push up costs for consumers as well. Is it worth that happening to hold the Nationals together?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’ll be an active participant in the policy conversation in all of our relevant party forums and at the end of that process we will be making a decision. I am confident that that will be the right decision. Thank you very much.