Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SANDY ALIOSI: Federal politicians are back in Canberra today as Parliament resumes and a crowded program will see them dealing with issues ranging from gay marriage to anti-terrorist laws. To look at the Government’s plans, we are joined by Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. He’s speaking to Marius Benson.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: You will be hoping that this Parliamentary week opens on a better note than the last one ended for the Government with all that confusion and lost votes, Thursday before last.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a lot of work to do. We are focused on doing the best we can every day to implement our plan for the economy and our plan to ensure Australia is as safe and secure as possible.
MARIUS BENSON: Is the riot act going to be read today to those, to all Members to ensure that you don’t miss votes in future?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that all those that missed a vote on the Thursday of the last sitting week have learned their lesson well and truly. I am very confident that this will never, ever happen again.
MARIUS BENSON: On same sex marriage, Malcolm Turnbull says that if there is public funding for a plebiscite campaign for the plebiscite you propose to hold next year it will be spent equally. Should there be in fact, public funding for the advocates of each side?
MATHIAS CORMANN: All of the arrangements in terms of how the plebiscite will take place are a matter that will be discussed by the Cabinet. As the Prime Minister has said, any public funding arrangements would be applied equally to both sides of the argument. These are matters that are yet to be determined by Cabinet and ultimately to be determined by the party room. So I will be participating in that conversation there.
MARIUS BENSON: And will the Cabinet also decide on the wording of the question to be put in the plebiscite, whether you refer to same sex marriage or marriage equality? Or has that already been resolved.
MATHIAS CORMANN: All the necessary arrangements for the conduct of the plebiscite will be determined by the Cabinet and ultimately by the party room. So that will go through a proper process. Then it will be put to the Parliament in the form that has been determined through our process.
MARIUS BENSON: And are you prepared to express a view yourself on the wording or the funding?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, it is very important for this issue to be dealt with in a proper, in an orderly fashion. I will participate in the process in the Cabinet and in the party room.
MARIUS BENSON: Politics this week is marking a year since Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister and various assessments are being made. But I suppose you don’t have to go to the experts to get an assessment, because on July the second you got an assessment from the people of Australia. And they marked you 76 out of 150, in terms of seats in the House of Representatives. The barest pass mark.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Everybody knows what the result of the election was. Our primary vote was significantly higher than the Labor party primary vote. You are right, in terms of seats, it is 76 seats to the Coalition to 69 seats for Labor. That is a matter of public record as well. We are getting on with the job. The most important job is to ensure that our economy is as strong as possible. If you look at the most recent national accounts data coming out. The economy is now growing at 3.3 per cent. Up from 3.1 per cent earlier in the year. Up from 2 per cent when we came into Government. So we are heading in the right direction. Yes there is much more work to be done. This week we will be getting on with pursuing various pieces of legislation designed to further strengthen our economic and fiscal foundation for the future.
MARIUS BENSON: Tony Abbott just in the last few minutes was just speaking on the occasion of this week being the first anniversary since he lost power himself as Prime Minister. And he says that looking back over the three years, two with him as Prime Minister and one with Malcolm Turnbull. He says two good years followed by a good twelve months.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We delivered good Government over the last three years. Over the past twelve months we have built on the progress that we made in the first two years of our period in Government. There is no doubt about that. That is what ... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: But why if you were making progress and it was two good years, the obvious question is why did you sack Tony Abbott?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to go back through the entrails of that. That is a matter that was dissected in detail more than 12 months ago. The truth is that there was a need for change in 2013. The people of Australia voted for a change. On the second of July the people of Australia voted to enable us to serve for another three years. So we are getting on with it.
MARIUS BENSON: And more broadly, what is Tony Abbot up to?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You will have to ask him that.
MARIUS BENSON: Well he’s prepared to tell you what he is up to, he is up to talking about everything everywhere. He is talking about all sorts of policies, for indigenous policies, to internal reform of the Liberal party, 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, political donations, superannuation changes. He has a lot to say and increasing amount to say.
MATHIAS CORMANN: He is a Member of Parliament. He is a participant in the public policy debates of our nation. That is absolutely appropriate. I am not sure what that question is designed to elicit.
MARIUS BENSON: It is a somewhat disingenuous response from you surely, because everyone knows that he is the former Prime Minister. He is not terribly happy about being sacked for the job and he is becoming more active in his expressions of his own views, independent and often in contrast with the Government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the political analysis to you. From my point of view, as a Member of Parliament and a former leader he is entitled to express his views as he sees fit.
MARIUS BENSON: Can I go to one very narrow policy issue which is apparently there is going to be a protest today by farmers from Tasmania and elsewhere about the backpacker tax. This is the tax where backpackers were previously, who were an important part of picking crops, were exempt from tax for the first $18,500 and now they are facing a 32 cents in the dollar tax rate. Are you prepared to abandon that tax increase on backpackers?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, this is a matter of public record, that we are going through a process of review. The general principle is to put foreign workers on the same basis when it come to the tax treatment of the incomes that they generate here in Australia. But having said that, we are going through a process of review. We delayed the implementation of that measure accordingly to enable that review to take place. I am not going to pre-empt where that review is going to land.
MARIUS BENSON: Can you say when there will be an answer?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There will be an answer when we come to the end of that process.
MARIUS BENSON: Can you give any timetable? Any time indication?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As soon as we come to the end of that process.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, many thanks.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.