Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MICHAEL ROWLAND: There's plenty of policy debate on the agenda as politicians begin returning to Canberra for this week's parliamentary sittings. For more, Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann joins us from Parliament House. Senator Cormann, good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: One of the biggest potential policy debates this year is a rise in the GST. You would have seen the Newspoll out this morning showing 54 per cent of Australians surveyed oppose an increase, 37 per cent support, 9 per cent undecided. That underscores the difficulty doesn’t it if the Government does press ahead with the plan to increase the GST?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The plan that we want to press ahead with is a plan for stronger growth and more jobs. As part of that conversation we are looking at how we can make our tax system more growth friendly. That is how can we improve the tax mix without increasing the overall tax burden in the economy. Right now we're engaged in a conversation with State and Territory Governments. We're engaged in a conversation with the community. Sometime between now and the next election we will be releasing our proposed way forward. At that point we would be focused on convincing a majority of people across Australia that our way is the best way forward.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Prime Minister on Friday said the Government was actively considering a rise in the GST. How actively?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What the Prime Minister said is that any conversation about how the tax system can be improved will also focus on the GST, because the GST manifestly is part of our tax system. What we are focused on right now is how we can improve the tax mix, how we can raise the necessary revenue for Government in the most efficient, least distorting way in the economy, so that people across Australia have the right incentives to work, save and invest and that we raise the money for government in a way that doesn’t detract from our economic growth opportunities any more than necessary.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mike Baird, the NSW Premier who has long supported an increase in the GST, this morning has come out with his new plan which would provide the Federal Government with more money to compensate low to middle income earners if you did decide to campaign on a higher GST. Are you attracted to the New South Wales’ Premier’s plan?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We welcome the fact that New South Wales Premier Mike Baird and South Australian Premier Weatherill have engaged constructively with the Commonwealth. We have engaged in good faith in a conversation with all of the State and Territory Governments. That conversation is ongoing. We are considering all of the various proposals that are being put forward and at some point in the next little while, certainly in good time before the next election, we'll be making some decisions on the best way forward.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Moving on to another issue, we have had the former Howard Government Minister Amanda Vanstone on the show earlier arguing that Tony Abbott should leave politics and leave quickly otherwise she fears he'll become a destabilising force for Malcolm Turnbull. Do you agree with her view?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No I don't. Tony Abbott has made a decision to stay. That is because he feels that he still has a contribution to make. I don't agree at all that Tony Abbott is a destabilising force.
MICHALE ROWLAND: And do you we've he'll be true to his word not to be a wrecker, not to undermine the Prime Minister? Because as Amanda Vanstone argues, every time he makes a public statement that will be viewed through, from our point of view, the awful events that happened towards the end of last year.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I absolutely believe Tony Abbott will be true to his word. In fact he is being true to his word. I don't believe Tony Abbott is ever a wrecker. I think that Tony Abbott is always focused on making a positive contribution to our country.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: She has also made the point that she's heard that Tony Abbott has been telling people that he's young enough to have another crack at the leadership. Do you ever see a circumstance where we'll see Tony Abbott re-dice, another Prime Ministership by Tony Abbott?
MATHIAS CORMANN: He hasn't put that to me. That's just speculation. We are a strong and united team under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull will continue to lead our Government for as long as the Australian people put their trust and confidence in us.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now Amanda Vanstone has also had a go at some of your more senior colleagues, people like Philip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop. In her words describing them as old stock and dead wood who should move out of their seats in favour of younger blood. Was she being a bit too harsh in your view?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm not going to provide a running commentary on all of my colleagues. Every one of my colleagues who feels that they continue to have a contribution to make should continue to put their hand up. For as long as any of us have the confidence of our party to represent the Liberal party at the next election or at the election after that for that matter, as long as we have the confidence of the people that elect us in our electorates, we can continue to serve. I'll leave the commentary to commentators like Amanda Vanstone.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: When the Prime Minister says the election won't be until August, September or October Mathias Cormann, do we believe him?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We always believe the Prime Minister. We've said all the way through that we still have a lot of work to do. That the next election in the ordinary course of events is due in around September/October. So that is when I would expect the next election to be.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mathias Cormann in Canberra, thank you for your time this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.