Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go to live to Josh Frydenberg’s Cabinet colleague, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, joining us as he does every Friday, live from Perth. Minister thanks for your time. In terms of the overall issue here, you talk to people in industry and the one thing they complain about almost more than anything else is a lack of certainty. And as you see the different points from the State Ministers and then Josh Frydenberg saying look we have got a lot of time, we have got many months to work out the clean energy target. States want a commitment right now. This uncertainty looks like there is no sign of abating right now.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The best way to ensure certainty over the medium to long term is to ensure that there is a strong consensus, in order to build a strong consensus across the community as well as across all of the various Parliaments is to take the time now to get the policy settings right. The Finkel review provided a blueprint for the way forward only a few weeks ago. The Federal Government has supported in principle all but one of the recommendations and is doing some more work now in relation to the recommendation about the clean energy target. It is very important for us to take the time to get this right, because in the end, nobody is going to be helped if there is a way forward that is adopted that does not have broad and sustainable support.
KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of the overall issue here, we have had comments from one your colleagues Craig Kelly about renewable energy this week that it could lead to people’s deaths in winter because it drives up power prices, the subsidies. But when you look at the breakdown of the power bill and the increases about thirty per cent is due to generation, ie the sources of the power. And the big driver within that thirty per cent of the power bill is gas. That’s what’s been the big issue here, not the renewables and the price of renewables.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are certainly right to say that the increases in the price of gas are a key factor in driving up the cost of electricity. Overwhelmingly they are the most important factor when it comes to driving up the cost of electricity generation. The way to address that is to increase the supply of gas into the domestic market. The Federal Government has done its bit by restricting gas exports or taking steps to restrict gas exports, but we also need the States to act. States and Territory Governments that are currently imposing moratoriums on gas exploration and development must lift those moratoriums. It is absolutely critical that we develop the significant gas reserves we have, including those significant gas reserves across the Eastern seaboard and the Northern Territory.
KIERAN GILBERT: Indeed and one of the key projects is that Narrabri projects, isn’t it, New South Wales. It is not just the Labor States that need to get off their hands and get this done.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is not a partisan point. We do have a challenge in Australia where we need to ensure that we can continue to have reliable energy supplies and that we can put downward pressure on prices. We need more affordable, secure energy supplies. In order to be able to secure that, we need to ensure we increase the supply of gas into the domestic market. All States, irrespective of their political persuasion that are currently imposing moratoriums on gas exploration and development ought to lift those moratoriums.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Government hoping to, on another matter, get some protocols in place with the big tech giants, Apple, Facebook and the like to deal with encrypted technologies. What is your sense of it? Do you think that they will be forthcoming? Or will there be push back from those very powerful companies?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government will be working with all of those relevant companies. We cannot allow terrorists and criminals to use encrypted messaging apps to pursue their illegal, criminal and terrorist activities. It is going to be important for us to ensure that the rule of law applies across all of those internet based applications. Our commitment to national security necessitates that we take all of the appropriate steps to ensure that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies can have appropriate access to relevant intelligence and information. This has been the most significant degradation in intelligence gathering capacity for a very, very long time. We need to find ways to address it.
KIERAN GILBERT: Do you see it as part of their social licence? Like we have seen from the telecommunications companies over many years cooperation with our intelligence agencies that is the next generation of that sort of framework?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Indeed. The bottom line is that we can’t allow criminals and terrorists to use these encrypted messaging apps to do harm. To the extent that we need to ensure that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies can have access to appropriate information in appropriate circumstances, we need to ensure that we can take those steps.
KIERAN GILBERT: The front page of The Australian today, bosses face super gap crackdown. Employers will be forced to pay workers full superannuation entitlements. This it seems, well it is a bit of a legal loophole here that some employers have been exploiting. Will they be forced to pay the superannuation entitlements retrospectively as well?
MATHIAS CORMANN: My friend and colleague Kelly O’Dwyer will have more to say about this later today. She will be making relevant announcements. The bottom line is this, employers must comply with all of their obligations when it comes to paying superannuation guarantee entitlements to their employees. Employees must receive the superannuation payments that they are entitled to under their employment contracts. To the extent that there are loopholes, the Government is committed to closing them. There have been various reviews. There have been some work undertaken internally within in Government involving all of the relevant agencies and the Government will take the appropriate steps to ensure that any loopholes are closed. Kelly O’Dwyer will have more to say about that later today.
KIERAN GILBERT: And in relation to it can you share with us yet as to whether this is prospective, this is income to be earned by employers that might be found in this situation? I think it is about 350,000 employees, so it is quite a significant number. Is it simply prospective or would you look at payments paid in the past as well?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will let Kelly O’Dwyer go through all the details. The bottom line is that employers must make all of the payments they are required to make when it comes to the superannuation guarantee, all of the payments they are required to make under relevant Federal legislation. We are committed to ensuring compliance with all of the applicable laws. To the extent that there are loopholes, we will be closing them.
KIERAN GILBERT: And finally on the issue of conservatives within the broader Liberal tent, John Howard last night at an event of US Studies Centre in Sydney urged any conservatives within the Liberals who might be thinking of breaking ranks in the way that Cory Bernardi did, not to do that. Reasserting that just like Malcolm Turnbull suggested last week in London that the best place for them is within the Liberal party.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well that is self-evidently right. The best place for conservatives to make a difference to public policy in our country is from within the Liberal party. The Liberal party is the custodian of both the classical liberal and the conservative traditions. We are at our best and do our best work for Australia when we work as a strong and united team, bringing together the classical liberal and conservative traditions. That is of course precisely what we are doing. That is also entirely consistent with the Prime Minister’s views.
KIERAN GILBERT: Is it time to move on from this sort of debate, at least publicly, because people, voters are probably over the navel gazing.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus is on delivering outcomes. Our focus is on fixing problems and making decisions to put Australia on the strongest possible foundation and trajectory for the future. We want to ensure that Australians today and future generations of Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. We want to ensure that our country is safe and secure. That is our focus every single day, but you asked me the question so I answered it.
KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah indeed, but the Prime Minister gave a speech on it that is what brought it all to the fore. That is the fundamental point underpinning this. Should he have done that? Should he be doing what you said, delivering and getting on with it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is what we are doing. From time to time, it is appropriate to explain what we stand for. As the Prime Minister spelled out very clearly, we are in the Liberal party the party that stands for both the classical liberal and the conservative traditions. We are a broad church and that is something that many of his predecessors have pointed out in the past. I was a bit bemused by the interpretation that some have put on it.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, Minister, as always, appreciate your time. Thanks for that Finance Minister.