Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
EMMA GRIFFITHS: The State Government here says that the Federal Budget has dudded you resident of Queensland. That there is nothing in this Budget for the Great Barrier Reef, that there is nothing in this Budget for the Cross River Rail. Mathias Cormann is the Federal Finance Minister. Hello Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: G’day.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Have you dudded Queensland?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. There is very significant investment available, not least of which a $10 billion new National Rail Program that the Queensland State Government can apply for.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Can apply for though and the money is not available for a couple of years.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well actually, if there are projects that are available and that pass business cases, that can come forward with positive business cases, the money can be brought forward. We have made $10 billion available. We have made some assumptions on how quickly states will be in a position to access it based on where their projects are likely to be at.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Do you like the sound of the Cross River Rail project?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it’s not a matter of whether I like the sound of it. The Federal Government has already contributed $10 million to do a full business case on the Cross River Rail project, but it has got to go through that process. That is just normal good process. Across Queensland, we are investing significant funds into infrastructure. The Bruce Highway alone is getting $6.7 billion worth of funding with $552 million in 2017-18.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: And the State Government says that is reallocated funding, it is not actually new money.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The infrastructure project is a rolling program. That is the way infrastructure projects work and there is significant additional investment. So in 2017-18, $552 million will be provided towards the Bruce Highway. The Gateway Upgrade North, up to $914.2 million going towards that project with $270 million to be provided in 2017-18. The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing up to $1.1 billion with $250 million to be provided this…interrupted
EMMA GRIFFITHS: So what is wrong with Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it hasn’t gone through the full process yet that these sorts of projects have got to go through to ensure that they stack up.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Okay, I want to ask you as well about first homebuyers and the measure that you have got there to make extra contributions to the superannuation fund to build a deposit. How are you going to measure its success?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The most important measure of success is to what extent people take it up.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: So how many people do you think have a couple of thousands of dollars spare to put into a superannuation account?
MATHIAS CORMANN: People are saving now but have to pay more tax. People will be able to save more faster because this will be a more attractive tax arrangement where they only have to pay 15 per cent on income that they divert into savings for a first home deposit. They only pay 15 per cent tax on their earnings instead of their top marginal tax and they get a 30 per cent discount on the top marginal tax rate as they take the money out, so this is a very tax advantageous way of saving for a first home deposit.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Mathias Cormann, so if the measure of its success is how many people take it up, how many people are you, or have you had advice about how many people may take it up?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In the end we want as many people as possible to take it up and we will be able to assess after the event, how successful it has been.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Have you set some benchmarks for its success?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have put forward a program and we now hope that people take it up and after the event we will be able to have a conversation about how many people have taken it up.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Minister the other measure that I wanted to talk to you about was around welfare, people receiving Government benefits. Some may be drug tested if they are at risk of substance abuse. Who decides if they are at risk of substance abuse?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is proposed to be a trial and the specific arrangements on how the trial is to operate will be released by my friend and colleague, the relevant Minister in this space. The principle here is this, that if you have got somebody who is on unemployment benefits, what we obviously want to achieve is to get them back into work as soon as possible if it becomes obvious as a result of a random drug test that they have a drug addiction problem, then it is clearly in that persons interest and it is in the interest of taxpayers for…interrupted
EMMA GRIFFITHS: So who does the random drug test?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These arrangements will be announced in the not too distant future.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Who is going to announce that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is Christian Porter’s and Alan Tudge's portfolios as the Ministers for Social Services and Human Services.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: The other thing that has got me wondering today is around the Skilling Australia Fund and talking to the relevant minister Karen Andrews about this after 5, but that is around training Australians. It is funded by the fee businesses have to pay to bring in foreign workers into those skilled jobs. So how sustainable is that funding if we are funding training for Australians to take those jobs through bringing foreigners in? I’m confused by that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well foreigners are coming in to Australia now in order to deal with skills gaps that we have in our economy, but in order to address skills gaps in our economy with local workers, we have to ensure that we can fill any such gap by training Australians.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: So if that is successful, then the money is going to run out won’t it because we won’t be bringing in the foreign workers?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That will be a good problem to have. Karen is coming onto your program. Let her explain all of that to you.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: You are just going to let her do it then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well that’s entirely and squarely in her portfolio.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Minister Mathias Cormann, thank you so much for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to talk to you.