Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a lot of work to be done by this Parliament, to put Australia on the strongest possible economic and fiscal foundation for the future. The first thing we should do is to very swiftly deal with those issues where there is broad bipartisan agreement across the Parliament. Specifically, the Government has put forward an Omnibus Savings Bill, which captures all of the savings measures, which Labor banked in their pre-election costings in the lead up to the last election. What we would call on Bill Shorten and the Labor party to do is to join in with the Coalition in passing that legislation very swiftly through the Parliament, so we can then get on with and work our way through those issues where there remains a level of disagreement.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: You said that the Government was keen for the Omnibus Bill to be dealt with swiftly but the Government wasn’t swift in giving Labor a copy of the Bill. Why is that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are following proper process. We took that Bill through our party room yesterday. As soon as it went through our party room it was provided to the Labor party. People would expect us to go through our own internal processes. The important point here is that every single savings measure in our Omnibus Savings Bill is a saving that Labor banked in their pre-election costings. You have to remember, Labor went to the last election admitting that they would deliver bigger deficits, $16.5 billion worth of bigger deficits over the forward estimates, which respected economists said would hurt our economy and would threaten our AAA credit rating. That $16.5 billion in bigger Labor party deficits was after they banked all of the savings in the Omnibus Savings Bill. So what we say to the Labor party in relation to all of the savings in the Omnibus Savings Bill, the time for playing political games is over. Join us, let’s pass this swiftly, so that we can get on with doing the work in relation to all these other matters that we have got to work our way through.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair to dump them with a 600 page Bill and expect them to get across it straight away? Shouldn’t you be a bit flexible?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor party should already be across it because these savings are savings that the Labor party themselves banked in the lead up to the last election. We are now following proper process. It went through our party room yesterday. It will be introduced into the Parliament on Wednesday. When we come back after next week, we will expect to deal with it. That gives Labor ample time to work their way through it.
JOURNALIST: Reports today that there is within this Omnibus Bill, there’s a saving on payments for psychiatric prisoners that Labor previously voted against. Can you confirm that? If that’s the case, why should they vote for this Omnibus Bill without looking at it more carefully?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Every single saving that is in this Omnibus Bill was banked by Labor in their pre-election costings. Labor when they went to the last election admitted that they would deliver $16.5 billion in higher deficits, which respected economists said would threaten our AAA credit rating, which would have damaged our economy. That $16.5 billion in bigger deficits under Labor assumed that Labor would deliver all of the savings reflected in our Omnibus Savings Bill. Labor as they always do, they don’t necessarily always play with a straight bat. They only listed during the campaign those savings measures that they would continue to oppose. There were a whole range of things that they were silent on. What we are saying to you, is that every single measure that is in this Savings Bill was necessary for Labor to be able to limit the bigger deficits under Labor to $16.5 billion. If there is any saving in that Omnibus Savings Bill that Labor now says they didn’t really support, that means that the deficit under Labor would have been bigger than the additional $16.5 billion. If that is the case, if Bill Shorten went to the last election misleading the Australian people, if Bill Shorten went to the last election telling the Australian people that he would deliver $16.5 billion in higher deficits, when in fact it was going to be more, then he should come out today and say so. We are taking Labor at its word. We are taking Bill Shorten at his word. We are assuming that what he said to the Australian people before the last election was the truth. That means that all of the savings in our Omnibus Savings Bill are necessary in order to keep faith with what Bill Shorten said to the Australian people before the last election.
JOURNALIST: It’s gone though, from that Omnibus Bill from 21 to 24. You said that if Labor had stayed silent on it, you assumed they were supporting it. So it is a case if they didn’t mention it, that now you are including it, has the goal post shifted there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly I don’t accept that characterisation at all. We released the Bill yesterday. I don’t know where you get the commentary from in relation to the number of measures. What I would say ... interrupted
JOURNALIST: So it was still 21 was it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is what was released yesterday. We released the Omnibus Savings Bill yesterday. The important point is, if Labor didn’t pay for their promises before the election, by identifying savings then that means they supported the approach that we have taken. In relation to those savings that they opposed, as part of the pre-election process they needed to identify how they would pay for it. In relation to some savings measures of the Government that is what they did. In relation to a whole series of others, they banked them as part of their pre-election costings. I say it again, every single measure in the Budget Omnibus Savings Bill that we have put forward, every single one of those savings measures is reflected in Labor’s pre-election costings, is necessary for Labor to be able to keep faith with what they said to the Australian people before the last election.