Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Thursday, 18 August 2016
JANINE PERRETT: There’s so much to talk about with senior Government Minister, the Minister for Finance, Senator Mathias Cormann who joins us from Perth. Welcome to the show.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good evening.
JANINE PERRETT: Senator it just seems that the Government can’t get clear air, particularly on the economic narrative. Yesterday was going to be a very important economic speech for the Prime Minister. We saw it was completely knocked off course by that ridiculous protest in Melbourne. When are you going to be able to set forward the agenda clearly? What can we hope to see? It must be frustrating.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our plan for the economy and implementing our plan for the economy is a marathon not a sprint. We are at it every day. We will be at it every day between now and the next election. At the next election, we will present ourselves to the Australian people, based on our track record at that time and with our plans for what will hopefully be our third term. If you look at what we have actually achieved... interrupted
JANINE PERRETT: But we have got to get through this one first. You haven’t even started the term of the new Government.
When you say it is a marathon not a sprint, no medals yet.
MATHIAS CORMANN: If you look at the progress we have made - when we came into Government in 2013, we inherited a weakening economy, rising unemployment and a Budget position that was rapidly deteriorating. Economic growth today is stronger. Not yet as strong as we would like it to be. We face additional global economic headwinds, but we are dealing with it. Employment growth is stronger. The unemployment rate is well below what had previously been anticipated. We are working to get the Budget back into balance. Yes, there is more work to be done. We took a plan to the last election. We are focused on implementing that plan. We don’t get distracted by things on a day to day basis. We are focused on... interrupted
JANINE PERRETT: Well hold on.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are focused on implementing our plan. We are committed to the marathon to put Australia on the strongest possible economic and fiscal foundation for the future.
JANINE PERRETT: You say that you are not getting distracted and you are going to implement your plan. The problem is from the commentators to the electorate nobody can see the plan. It has been knocked off course by that election result. You are having to deal with the Senate. You have come up with this omnibus bill. We don’t even know if that will get up. Whether the crossbenchers will get there. How can you implement a plan when it is hand to hand combat over every minor thing and nobody really knows what the new plan is?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not a new plan. It is the plan that we took to the election. Janine, we won the election. We achieved the support of the Australian people, the confidence of the Australian people for us to implement our plan for another three years. You mentioned the omnibus savings bill. This should not be a matter for the crossbenchers at all. The omnibus savings bill that the Prime Minister put on the table yesterday captures all of the savings commitments that Bill Shorten endorsed during the election campaign. If what Bill Shorten said during the election campaign means anything then the Labor party should be waving this omnibus savings bill through the Senate alongside the Government, because they represent bipartisan savings. If Bill Shorten is proposing to back flip yet again, what he is showing to the Australian people, what he is demonstrating to the Australian people, is that he is completely trustworthy. That they can’t believe a single word that he said during the campaign.
JANINE PERRETT: Okay. You talked about going forward to the next election, but today we seem to be fighting, not just the last government, we are re-writing the history of the government before that, the Gillard Labor government. You had the Treasurer today, on the day of the jobless figures making an extraordinary claim that on the Malaysian solution that he didn’t support, he was only acting on his leader’s instructions, that was Tony Abbott’s decision. This is, apart from any, not just distracting, it is disturbing that you have got a senior member of the Government saying it wasn’t me, it was someone else. And you are having these, you are fighting old wars.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think you are misinterpreting what was said there. Let me be very clear, the decision that we made at the time was the right decision. Since we came into Government in 2013 when we inherited chaos at our borders, when we inherited complete dysfunction, when it came to preventing boats arriving illegally on our shores, we fixed that problem. During our period ... interrupted
JANINE PERRETT: And you supported the strategy? Or will we get ...
MATHIAS CORMANN: I absolutely supported ... interrupted
JANINE PERRETT: Well then are you surprised that Scott Morrison is say ohh, I was just following orders.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t think that Scott Morrison indicated that he disagreed with the strategy. I think he was just reflecting on some other matters. I think you are misinterpreting this. But you are quite right, we should not be dwelling on the past. We should be focussing on the future. That is certainly what I am doing. There is always a lot of noise in politics Janine. I don’t get distracted. The Government doesn’t get distracted. We remain focussed on the job at hand.
JANINE PERRETT: No, you don’t. You stay on message. You are extraordinary. You are probably the only one who can stay on message, because this week, we have had another problem. And usually, as you say, the distractions come from the other side. Your own side is causing one over 18C. We had, I interviewed Senator Paterson on Monday. He said look, this is back on the table. We are within a couple of votes. Then last night you had Cory Bernardi saying he was going to push it. You were very strong today. You said no, I’m sorry, I am a frontbencher. This is the Cabinet decision. It is not coming up. Are you concerned, given the strength of feeling among some of the members and hope it would come up again that you are going to have a split in the party? You are saying it will not be considered. That is done and dusted.
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I pointed out is that we dealt with this issue two years ago. Two years ago the Government made a decision to take this issue off the table. Clearly in the current global economic context with lower global economic growth, having to deal with the transition in our economy, there are other priorities that we have to deal with right now. We made a decision two years ago to take this issue off the table. The Government has not made a decision to put it back on the table. We are focussed on implementing the commitments we took to the election. We did not make a commitment to revisit 18C. We made a commitment to implement our plan for jobs and growth. We made a commitment to implement a whole series of policies designed to put Australia on the strongest possible economic and fiscal foundation for the future. That is what I am focussed on. That is what the Government is focussed on.
JANINE PERRETT: Would you call on some of your own members to perhaps get on board to do the big issues, argue the big issues like the economy, rather than starting all these bushfires elsewhere?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not give advice to my colleagues through the media. All of us, we are elected in our own right. All of us have a job to do. All of us have a responsibility to fulfil our duties the way we see fit. I am not going to start providing public advice through the media.
JANINE PERRETT: Okay. On another issue that is now, here and now, and did come up in the election, the banking Royal Commission. There has been a proposal, again from your own side this week, to implement a banking tribunal. It was part of a recommendation from a joint committee earlier this year. Scott Morrison said he was open, it was an interesting idea, he didn’t rule it out. Where do you stand on the idea of having a tribunal to compensate bank victims?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think this still has got a way to go. A Royal Commission into the banks is clearly is the wrong way to go, because all it would do is it would deliver another lengthy inquiry on top of previous lengthy inquiries, which will not actually give anybody any redress in relation to any grievances that they might have. You have to focus on what the policy outcome is that you are seeking to achieve. The policy outcome in relation to legitimate grievances from banking customers in relation to activities of the banks should be that you facilitate efficient and affordable resolution of any legitimate grievances. The Government does have an open mind on whether that can be done in a better way than is done at present. We remain firmly of the view and it is firmly our position, that a banking Royal Commission would be the wrong way to go. Bill Shorten pursued that particular proposal as a political strategy in the context of an election.
JANINE PERRETT: Okay. So you are saying the Banking Royal Commission is the wrong way to go, but you seem to also be leaving the door open to this tribunal idea.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Neither Scott Morrison nor I have said that this is the way we should go. There are processes underway. We are quite comfortable for those processes to keep running their course. What we say and what is important is to be very clear on what it is that we are trying to achieve. The policy objective that all of us ought to be focussed on is, how can we most efficiently and in an affordable fashion facilitate resolution of legitimate grievances that customers might have from time to time about the activities of banks. Not all grievances are legitimate, but there are from time to time instances where banks have done the wrong thing. The important thing is to ensure that these issues can be resolved swiftly, efficiently and in a way that is affordable for customers that need to pursue such action.
JANINE PERRETT: Alright. I will take that as the door is not closed on that then. And just finally, when can we expect to see, given it did not go so well yesterday, can we expect to see any other major economic statements or speeches that will try and get the economic narrative back to the forefront before Parliament sits?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You can expect that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, myself, many of my colleagues will every day make the case on why we need to implement our plan for the economy, our plan for jobs and growth and why we need to continue to work to get the Budget back into balance. I will be speaking at the Sydney Institute on Monday. So if you want to come along Janine, feel free.
JANINE PERRETT: Okay, well thank you very much for that. I see jobs and growth are still in there, front and centre.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Very important priority.
JANINE PERRETT: Okay. Thank you very much for your time tonight, Senator Mathias Cormann.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.