Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 31 March 2017
KIERAN GILBERT: For the moment though, we are going to turn our attention to politics. The Government’s $50 billion company tax cuts hang in the balance today. Mathias Cormann he is open to compromise, but just how much will they get through the Senate as it sits again today? I spoke to the Finance Minister earlier this morning.
Minister, thank you for your time. Are you confident you will get a tax plan through today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We never take anything for granted. We are committed to legislating our ten year enterprise tax plan because we know it is good for jobs and it is good to increase real wages for Australian workers across Australia. So we will keep pressing ahead. We do not have a majority in the Senate. So we will have to continue to work with non-Government Senators to get as much of our agenda through as we possibly can.
KIERAN GILBERT: Is it possible that Xenophon still comes on board with that $50 million a year turnover?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am going to let individual Senators talk for themselves. As far as the Government is concerned we remain committed to the policy we took to the last election. We are working with crossbench Senators in particular to get as much of that agenda through as possible to give our economy the best possible opportunity to be successful in the years and decades ahead.
KIERAN GILBERT: So Xenophon at this stage from what I understand is arguing that the $10 million, that is the phase of the tax plan, but possibly the second as well which is up to $25 million per annum. Is the Government open to a compromise which would see the threshold hit $25 million?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I let other Senators talk for themselves. From the Government’s point of view …interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: But would you take the $25 million turnover?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have said before from the Government’s point of view we want to see the whole package legislated. If we are not able to achieve that, we would like to see as much of our agenda passed by the Senate as possible. We do believe it is very important for Australia’s company tax rate to become internationally more competitive again so we can boost investment, boost productivity and on the back of that create more jobs and increase real wages over time.
KIERAN GILBERT: Now, Twiggy Forrest has urged the Senate to back cuts of up to $50 million per annum turnover for businesses. I was with a number of business figures last night at a function in Canberra and their point was, not all of them large businesses. But they are saying it should be $50 million to have that reach for small and medium sized companies.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The way we put our ten year enterprise tax plan together is that it actually starts with its focus on small and medium sized businesses and builds up progressively. Starting at $10 million moving to $25 million, in the third year to $50 million and then so on, until over time, over a ten year period all businesses benefit from a company tax rate of 25 per cent, which would put us middle of the road of OECD countries. At the moment we are falling behind. We are becoming less and less competitive when it comes to attracting investment to develop our economy. That has serious implications for our future economic prosperity and success.
KIERAN GILBERT: If you could get the tax cuts through for businesses with turnovers of up to $25 million this would be the first two phases of your plan anyway. In a sense it would be still on track if you kept the rest of it in the Budget. Is that what is going to happen?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We would like to get as much of our plan through the Senate as possible.
KIERAN GILBERT: And the rest stays in the Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We want to get as much of our plan through the Senate today as possible. We want to provide certainty to business that makes decisions looking at the future and what lies ahead in terms of investment and growth. We are totally committed to the policy that is reflected in the Budget, the policy we took to the last election and the policy that we believe the Senate should pass today.
KIERAN GILBERT: And remains in the Budget for the foreseeable future then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The policy is in the Budget Kieran. The policy is what we are seeking to legislate.
KIERAN GILBERT: And we will conclude our discussion on this issue where we began. What is your feeling like as you enter in to what is going to be an important day for you and the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is an important day for the country. It is an important time for Australians wanting to get ahead. In the end, if we want individual Australians to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead, we need the businesses that employ them to have the best possible opportunity to be successful and profitable. By reducing company tax and letting business have more of their own money to invest in their future success, we enable them to hire more Australians and pay them better wages.
KIERAN GILBERT: When would you expect an outcome on this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Senate has already resolved that the Senate will not rise until the legislation on our proposal to reduce company taxes has been resolved.
KIERAN GILBERT: That could be another marathon sitting today into the weekend?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government is in the hands of the Senate. But the Senate will not rise until our company tax cut proposal has been dealt with.
KIERAN GILBERT: One thing it dealt with 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. It has not been passed by the Upper House. Was this just a lot of drama for not much result?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government is committed to improve, to strengthen our anti-vilification laws to appropriately protect freedom of speech and to improve the procedures underpinning the Human Rights Commission processes. We are disappointed that the Senate has not seen fit to strengthen our anti-vilification laws, that if has not seen fit to deal with the serious issue of harassment, but this was an important debate to have.
KIERAN GILBERT: But you could now cop a political blow back in the electorate without securing the change to the Act?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not accept that characterisation, but you are the commentator so I will let you provide the commentary.
KIERAN GILBERT: I have just seen the reaction from a number of ethnic and community groups not happy with the proposal.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We put the proposal forward in an effort to strengthen anti-vilification laws and in an effort to appropriately protect freedom of speech, which is important, and to improve the procedures that are currently underpinning the Human Rights Commission activities in this space.
KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, appreciate your time. Thanks.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.