Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SANDY ALOISI: The Government’s legislative plans for the final sitting weeks of the year are facing chaos, with the High Court being asked to rule on the disputed position of departing Family First Senator Bob Day. The Government is seeking advice from the High Court on the Senator, following revelations he may have breached the Constitution because of a financial interest. For a Government view, Marius Benson is speaking to the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, Good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning, Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: You have a busy schedule for the legislative program over the next couple of weeks, starting next week with issues like the lifetime ban on asylum seekers, workplace relations, the ABCC, the building industry watchdog. Are you changing your plans because of the new uncertainty created by the position of Bob Day?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are quite right, we do have a full program of legislation to continue to implement our plan for the economy and jobs. It does include the appropriation bills. It does include our proposal to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to bring down the cost of construction across Australia and help create more jobs. It does include a whole range of other legislation. We will continue to work with all Senators from across the political divide in relation to these measures, explaining why for example, the restoration of the ABCC is so important to our future economic success.
MARIUS BENSON: So no change because of the uncertainty over Bob Day, just business as usual from your point of view.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government continues to implement our plan for the economy and our plan for jobs. That is right.
MARIUS BENSON: The paid parental leave scheme, which you are hoping to save $1.2 billion over a period of four years by stopping what you call double dipping. Nick Xenophon has now raised new doubts about his support for that scheme. Are you resigned to that not getting through the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is an important Budget measure, designed to make the system fairer. As with all unlegislated Budget measures we continue to work with all representatives in the Senate to get a majority for them.
MARIUS BENSON: But is double dipping in your terms unfair?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we have said is that the system can be made fairer by making sure that those Australians who receive a more generous paid parental leave arrangement through their private or public sector workplace do not also access the Government’s minimum default scheme on top of that. That is a measure that is on the public record. It has been on our books for about a year. We will continue to pursue that measure through the Parliament working with all Senators from across the political divide.
MARIUS BENSON: But are parents who are going to lose their entitlements under your plan to end this double dipping, which is the term that has been used by the Government, are they entitled to look at people like Joe Hockey, the Australian Ambassador to the United States, he is giving a speech today. Andrew Robb, the former Minister, he is also giving a speech today, I think at the Australia China society. Philip Ruddock who is working for the United Nations. All of these people are on very, very substantial pensions, still on the public purse to that extent and they are at the same time being paid from private sources, or in the case of Joe Hockey from public sources. Are people entitled to say look at those politicians double dipping at a level I could never dream of and they are stopping parents doing it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Those former Members of Parliament who continue to work in the public service do have adjustments, if they are on the old pension schemes, there are adjustments to those pension arrangements. Those pension payments are reduced to take into account whatever payments they receive from the Commonwealth for other services they provide ... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: But they are still double dipping in your term, at a level that parents can’t even envy.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t think that that is comparable. If ... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: What is the difference?
MATHIAS CORMANN: If people continue to provide a level of public service then it is not inappropriate for them to be remunerated for that public service.
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Robb’s private service, is that different because that is what you are saying. You can’t have it private and public simultaneously. That is what you are saying to parents.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it is quite a different proposition here. If you ... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: Well can you explain the difference?
MATHIAS CORMANN: If you receive a paid parental leave benefit, which is more generous through your private or the public sector employer then our proposition is that you shouldn’t also be accessing the minimum default scheme. I don’t think that anybody is suggesting that ... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: Yeah, but the principle is that you can’t get into the public purse, while you are getting into the private purse. And that principle is ignored by ex-politicians.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that what you are suggesting is quite wrong. Any public servant ... interrupted
MARIUS BENSON: Well, can you point out where it is wrong? Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: If I may finish my sentence Marius. Any public servant or any private employee who is either on a pension or who is accessing their superannuation arrangements is able to do further work and be paid for that further work. That is a very different proposition from accessing an arrangement such as a paid parental leave arrangement.
MARIUS BENSON: Kevin Rudd is critical of the Government’s decision to impose a lifetime ban on asylum seekers coming to Australia if they have come in the last three years. He says Malcolm Turnbull has given into the mad right of your party and he says he has given into the political thugs like Abbott, Dutton, Abetz and Andrews. Do you have political thugs in your ranks?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Kevin Rudd has just completely lost the plot. He has got no credibility on this issue whatsoever. He was the Prime Minister who caused the chaos and dysfunction at our borders. He is the Prime Minister that dismantled the successful border protection policies of the Howard Government, which lead to 50,000 illegal arrivals and tragically 1,200 children, women and men dying at sea from what we know. At the tail end, when he came back after years of badgering Julia Gillard for the top job, he is the one who then finally conceded that he got it wrong and started to reintroduce offshore processing. He has got absolutely no credibility in relation to this issue whatsoever. The Government is not going to take advise from somebody with such little credibility as Kevin Rudd.
MARIUS BENSON: Tony Abbott has made it clear via a friend that he wants to be back in the Ministry. He specifically wants to be in Indigenous Affairs Minister, that position is held by Nigel Scullion. Is Nigel Scullion safe in the Ministry?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, matters related to the composition of the Cabinet are entirely matters for the Prime Minister. Secondly, there is no vacancy in the Indigenous Affairs portfolio. Finally, all of the statements Tony Abbott has made in relation to these matters in the past are that he looks forward to being the Member for Warringah and does not aspire to come back into Cabinet.
MARIUS BENSON: And he is to be believed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I always believe my colleagues with what they say on the public record.
MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you.