Transcripts → 2017


ABC TV - Lateline

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia


Date: Tuesday, 14 February 2017

WA Liberal preferences, Budget repair

DAVID LIPSON: Well for more, I spoke to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann earlier from Canberra.

Minister Cormann, thanks for your time.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.

DAVID LIPSON: The WA Nationals have now retaliated to the preference deal that you personally helped to broker with One Nation. They are going to now preference the Greens ahead of the Liberals. Any regrets at your end?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Nationals in Western Australia have preferenced other parties ahead of Liberal party candidates in the Upper House in WA ever since Brendon Grylls has been the leader of the National party at the 2008 election. So since 2008, the Nationals have preferenced One Nation, Family First, the Christian Democrats, the Shooters and Fishers and now the Greens again ahead of Liberal party candidates. That is consistent with the approach for some time. That is because in Western Australia, the National party is not in Coalition with the Liberal party. Not because we wouldn't want to be, but because that is the choice that the National party has made.

DAVID LIPSON: It is an Alliance, though. What does it say about your ideals in the West for the Nationals and the Liberals that you are preferencing against each other, one to the far right, one to the far left? What happened to middle politics?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Liberal-National party Alliance Government in Western Australia under the leadership of Colin Barnett has provided very good government for eight and a half years. In that whole period, we have preferenced each other, provided first preferences to each other to our respective candidates in the Lower House. But as I indicated, since 2008, the WA National party has preferenced other parties ahead of the Liberal party candidates, including One Nation. Since 2013, the WA Liberal party has done the same. That hasn't stopped us from being a strong and united and effective government for the people of Western Australia.

DAVID LIPSON: But what has changed since the recent federal election when Malcolm Turnbull said that Pauline Hanson is not welcome and not a welcome presence in the Australian political scene. Now you are giving her party a leg-up.

MATHIAS CORMANN: No, we don't want people to vote for One Nation. We want people to vote for the Liberal party. We believe that the Liberal party has the best policies to take Western Australia forward. We believe that Colin Barnett is an experienced Premier, who is the right Premier to continue to lead our state in the years ahead. We want people to vote for Colin Barnett and the Liberal party and the Liberal candidates in their respective electorates. There is absolutely no suggestion that we would want anyone to vote for One Nation, but … interrupted

DAVID LIPSON: What do you mean there is not any suggestion at all, sorry to interrupt, but you are preferencing her, you are helping her potentially get seats, the One Nation party that you are saying there is no suggestion...

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are campaigning for people to support the Liberal party. But in the end, the people across Western Australia at this election, as in every other election, will make their own decisions. What we are saying is that if you don't want to support the Liberal party with your first preference, give us your second, third or fourth preference. All the people across Western Australia who are considering supporting One Nation, what we would want them to do if they vote for One Nation first, is vote for the Liberal party second. That is eminently rational for us to do this, given that we would like to win this election again, so we can continue to provide good government for the people of Western Australia.

DAVID LIPSON: I want to turn to the Omnibus Savings Bill. Nick Xenophon has said that the Government's linking of savings to the National Disability Insurance Scheme were the straw that broke his camel's back, if you like. Was the funding of the NDIS ever under any threat, though?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor party left the National Disability Insurance Scheme unfunded. There is a funding gap that we need to fill. In last year's Budget we identified that a series of savings measures in the social services portfolio as well as some other funding that is still allocated in various capital funds that the Government holds, would be directed into a National Disability Insurance Scheme savings fund to ensure that that very important scheme is funded structurally and securely over the long term. What we have said in the context of the outstanding unlegislated savings in the social services portfolio is that they will either be directed into funding better access to child care for families across Australia or it will be directed into what is already a liability for the Government, which was left unfunded by Labor, so that we can ensure that this very important service available for people with a disability is securely funded into the future.

DAVID LIPSON: But if that savings bill is blocked, there has been talk of looking at potential tax increases or further cuts to pay for the NDIS. Tax increases first, would you leave on the table the prospect of a Medicare-style levy to help pay for it?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to speculate about these things. Our preference is to legislate the savings that are reflected in our Budget. In the final analysis if the Parliament were not to pass spending reductions, if the Parliament were not to legislate savings, and we need to ensure that we bring the Budget back to balance and that we pay for the Government's spending, then tax increases become the only option.

DAVID LIPSON: So tax increases are the only option rather than savings mechanisms?

MATHIAS CORMANN: No, that is not what I said. I said precisely that our preference is and our intention and our commitment is to legislate spending reductions and savings through the Parliament. But if the Parliament is not going to pass savings, if the Parliament is not going to pass spending reductions, if the Labor party continues to stand in the way of fixing the Budget mess they left behind, there comes a day when the only way you can repair the Budget is through tax increases. That is not what we would like to do. That is not our instinct. That is not our preference. We would rather pursue policies that deliver lower taxes so we can have stronger growth and create more jobs. But the way the Labor Party is carrying on, it might be that is the only thing that we are able to do at the end of the day. 

DAVID LIPSON: We will watch the upcoming budget with a great deal of interest. Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, thanks for your time.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.