Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Special Minister of State
Date: Tuesday, 23 February 2016
QUESTION: Senator, just on Senate voting reforms it appears senior Labor figures are against the idea. Why is this reform necessary?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor party position is rather confusing. One of the strongest advocates for Senate voting reform over the last year has been none other than the Labor shadow Minister, Gary Gray. He was part of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters that inquired into the conduct of the last election. He was part of putting together a unanimous set of recommendations to improve the Senate electoral system. I think that what appears to be happening here is that Bill Shorten is just too weak to stand up internally for what is right. He knows that the proposal that we have put forward to reform the Senate is in the national interest. He knows that it is in the interests of individual voters across Australia to be able to determine what happens not just to their primary vote when they vote for the Senate above the line, but also to their preferences, instead of having those preferences directed by political parties in secret backroom deals that are not transparent to voters.
QUESTION: Is there a direct link between pushing for these reforms and having a double dissolution, an early election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. These reforms are the Government’s response to the unanimous recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which reported some two years ago. There will be an election in the ordinary course of events later this year. It is important, as was recommended by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, as was urged on the Government by none other than Labor’s spokesperson on these matters, Gary Gray, it was important for us to get these reforms in place, in good time before the next election. The electoral commission will need some time to bed these reforms down between passage of the legislation and implementation at an election. That is why we are getting on with it now.
QUESTION: But you must admit that the timing certainly looks a bit suss. It definitely gives three months and then it does look like that is the direction that the Government is heading in. I mean you must admit that it does look that way?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t accept that at all. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which is the Committee of the Parliament that was tasked with conducting a review into the conduct of the last election made a series of recommendations, unanimously supported by Labor, the Coalition and the Greens on how the system could and should be improved. The Government is acting on those recommendations in good time before the next election. In the ordinary course of events there is an election due within the next six or so months. You would expect the Government to ensure that we deal with this sort of reform proposal, put forward by a cross-party Committee of the Parliament in a unanimous fashion some two years ago.
QUESTION: Just on capital gains tax if we can. The Prime Minister in Question Time yesterday said that there is no plan to change that. Then in a statement said that that was only relating to property. Then said that other changes might be possible. Just to be clear, what is the Government’s policy on capital gains tax?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister, absolutely appropriately criticised Labor’s ill thought out policy, which would have very bad effects on individuals working to get ahead and on our economy. What the Prime Minister said yesterday was 100 per cent correct. What the Government is doing, building on the work that we have done since we came into Government is to review all aspects of the tax system for opportunities to make the tax system more growth friendly in a way that is also fair. In last year’s Budget, we delivered tax cuts for small business. Before that we abolished Labor’s disastrous, job destroying carbon tax and mining tax. In the lead up to this year’s Budget, we are looking across the board for opportunities to make the tax system more growth friendly, to raise the necessary revenue for Government in the most efficient, least distorting way in the economy possible. Once we are in a position to make specific announcements about our tax package, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will make those announcements.
QUESTION: So what were the comments yesterday, if they said that you were able to, said that this was not part of your thinking whatsoever, considering you are not ruling anything in or out, how is that not ruling anything out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we have been doing since September is working through all of the different options. As you work your way through options, as you reach landing points on specific issues, then you make these judgements and you make announcements as appropriate. That is what the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will continue to do.
QUESTION: Just one more with the tax debate though, do you concede that it is getting a little bit confusing for the public, because every day we are hearing different reports of things potentially in or out. This idea may be a good or bad idea. The general public, do they not deserve more detail sooner than later?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The general public will have all of the information and the detail they need in good time before the next election. Before the next election, they will be able to compare and contrast the tax, spend and borrow approach of Labor and the stronger growth, more jobs and fairness approach of the Coalition. There is a conversation, a public conversation that is underway at present. That is healthy. That is appropriate. That is the way things should happen in a democracy. In good time before the next election, people will be able to form their informed judgements.
QUESTION: Given that the tax reform agenda, most of it will come out at Budget time, how much time do you personally think will be needed to get people on board and to really educate the public on what you are trying to do.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to make judgements in an orderly fashion. We will make these announcements when we are in a position to make them. We will do the ... interrupted
QUESTION: But how much time do you think the public will need to absorb those announcements feasibly?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The public will have all of the time they need to make an informed judgement. Ultimately, the judgement the people make at an election will be a matter for them. We will do everything we can to ensure that they have the appropriate level of information in front of them in a timely fashion.
QUESTION: Sorry Minister, so does that mean, just to clarify from before, does that mean that the Government has reached a landing point on capital gains tax?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government is working through a whole series of options as we publicly said we would. When relevant announcements can be made, we will make them.
QUESTION: And just to be clear Minister, the Prime Minister’s comments in Question Time yesterday only related to Labor’s CGT proposal specifically?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister in Question Time yesterday, appropriately, criticised Labor’s ill thought out policy, which would have bad impacts across our economy and bad impacts on individual Australians. Thank you very much.