Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Date: Monday, 8 February 2016
QUESTION: Senator Cormann, are you convinced that it’s time to increase the GST?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I’m convinced of is that we need to keep working to strengthen growth and create more jobs. As part of that objective we need to ensure that we continue to make our tax system more growth friendly. That has been our focus all the way through since we got into Government. That will be our focus moving forward. We are currently weighing up various potential options. Our commitment is to focus on making our tax system more growth friendly in a way that is also fair.
QUESTION: Do you think the Prime Minister is backing away though from that idea of the GST and why is that the case?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think the Prime Minister very candidly is expressing where the Government is at. He yesterday took the Australian people very candidly into his confidence. What all of us are weighing up is how we can best make our tax system more growth friendly in a way that is also fair. We haven’t reached any final landing point. We haven’t reached any final decisions. We will continue to weigh all of these matters up very carefully. In good time before the election and you would expect between now and Budget time we will be making some relevant announcements.
QUESTION: For the sake of business confidence, is the GST increase off the table?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus is on how we can strengthen growth and create more jobs. As part of that focus, we are committed to ensuring that our tax system is more growth friendly into the future. That is why when we came into Government we got rid of the mining tax and the carbon tax, because they were drags on growth. That is why we delivered a company tax cut for small business to encourage small business to invest and employ more Australians. That is why we continue to consider how, most sensibly, we can make our tax system more growth friendly into the future.
QUESTION: Is the Government responding to the unease around the backbenchers in terms of moving away from a GST increase?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our backbench and the other parties around represented in the Parliament are all engaged in this debate and that’s a good thing. There is a diversity of views inside the Labor Party with the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill promoting an increase in the GST to 15 per cent, whereas Bill Shorten is running a scare campaign against it. There is a diversity of views in our party. It is incumbent on the Government to very carefully weigh up all of the economic and public policy arguments, because we are not pursuing tax reform as an end in itself. We are pursuing tax reform to make our tax system more growth friendly, because we want to strengthen growth, create more jobs and create the best possible opportunity for people across Australia to get ahead.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister is not convinced that the GST rise is the right way to go. How are you going to convince him?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not a matter of me convincing him. It is a matter of as a team, for us to continue to work through the issues. All of us remain to be persuaded on the best way forward because if we were persuaded on the best way forward in relation to these matters we would have made a decision and made an announcement by now. We, as is our responsibility, continue to very carefully assess all of the arguments. We continue to very carefully assess all of the information in front of us. Our commitment is to make the best possible decision to facilitate stronger growth and more jobs into the future. Our commitment is to do that in a way that is also fair.
QUESTION: The Business Council of Australia is asking for more of the internal work of these various ideas that are on the table. You say that details will be released between now and the Budget, but do you concede that there is some unease and uncertainty about what is going on because the internal information hasn’t been produced yet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Business Council has been a very active participant in this conversation and good on them. We have very much welcomed the engagement of the Business Council and other stakeholder organisations in this process. Many of those organisations including and in particular the Business Council, have put a lot of information on the table themselves. These are the sorts of pieces of information that the Government is currently considering. These are the sorts of pieces of information on top of our own advice that we are currently working our way through. Sometime between now and the Budget in the usual course of events, we will be reaching some decision points, we will be making some relevant announcements and people across Australia will have the time to consider all of the decisions we have made between now and the election.
Thank you very much.