Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Thursday, 24 August 2017
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has slammed Labor’s policies, likening them to those of communist East Germany in a speech to the Sydney Institute. Minister Cormann unleashed on the Opposition Leader telling the audience Bill Shorten is using the politics of envy in a bid to appeal to young Australians. He says roughly 18 per cent of enrolled Australians were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Bill Shorten wants to lead the country along a similar path. This is what he had to say.
MATHIAS CORMANN [EXCERPT]: Bill Shorten now believes the politics of envy will work for him politically if not economically. That people will believe him when he pretends that the path to a better life for them is to tax their neighbours, their friends and their family members harder, to demonise aspiration and go after hard working Australians and successful businesses.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: And joining us now live from Adelaide is the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Sam and Happy Birthday.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Thank you. Now Bill Shorten’s Newspoll numbers are up but you are pretty down on Bill Shorten. Why?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten is pursuing a political strategy that is focused on his own personal success rather than what is in the best interests of our country. Australians support aspiration. They support opportunity. They support an approach which will help everyone to have the best possible opportunity to be successful and get ahead. What Bill Shorten is putting out there, if you listen to his recent speeches, if you listen to his rhetoric, if you look at the various tax grabs that they have announced in recent times, Bill Shorten is deliberately and consciously pursuing the politics of envy. He is seeking to turn Australians against each other. He is sneering at successful Australians. He is sneering at millionaires while proposing to increase taxes permanently to nearly fifty per cent for Australians earning more than $180,000 a year. Somebody earning $180,000 a year is not a millionaire. So his rhetoric is wrong. He is actually targeting the middle class. He is attacking aspiration. He is attacking Australians who want to be the successful Australians of tomorrow. His whole analysis of suggesting that Australia is this country of inequality wherever you look, is just false. This is a debate that Australia needs to have as we approach the next election in just under two years time. Because it will be a directional decision about what sort of country we want to have, what sort of country we want to be. The Turnbull Government wants to support aspiration, wants to support opportunity, wants to continue to put in place the policies that maximise the opportunities for Australians to get ahead. That is going to be the divide in the lead up to the next election. More opportunity to be successful under the Coalition and the politics of envy and division under the Labor party.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN:Now of course, you once described the Labor leader as an economic girlie man, but your criticism seems to have taken a darker turn, with the suggestion that he is a snake oil salesman slithering his way to The Lodge. What is going on here? Have you swallowed a dictionary, or do you just think he is a serious danger to Australia?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I know is, he clearly has made a judgement that people have forgotten the historical failures of socialism. He clearly has made a judgement, looking at the Bernie Sanders example in the United States and the Jeremy Corbyn example in the United Kingdom, that running this sort of anti-success, anti-opportunity, anti-aspiration rhetoric and pursuing these sorts of policies targeting the supposed rich, that this is going to be successful for him personally politically. I do not think that in his heart of hearts he actually believes that it is the right way forward for our economy. I think that in his heart of hearts, this is actually not what he genuinely believes. But it is a political strategy that he is prosecuting because he believes it will carry him into The Lodge.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Because the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has accused Bill Shorten of never meeting a millionaire that he did not like to suck up to.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is certainly his track record. The Prime Minister is quite right. There used to be a time when he was, he quite enjoyed the company of millionaires, but these days, as he aspires to become the next Prime Minister of Australia, he clearly has decided that demonising Australians is the way to his political success. There are people across Australia who are anxious, who are doing it tough, and his message to them is that the way they are going to be better off is if the Government goes harder against Australians who have been successful. That is not the recipe for everyone to get ahead. The Shorten recipe, ‘Shortenomics’, attacking success, attacking aspiration, attacking opportunity, will lead to worse outcomes for everyone, because it will lead to fewer jobs and lower wages. A less successful economy means fewer jobs and lower wages. There is no question, if you make it harder for people to be successful, there will be fewer successful people. If you have got fewer successful people in Australia then the Australian economy as a whole is going to be less successful. I think it is very important for people across Australia to fully appreciate the consequences of the sort of choices that Bill Shorten is putting in front of them.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Isn’t it a bit extreme, though, to compare the Labor leader with the regime of East Germany? I mean, you have experience growing up in Europe, isn’t that really just a bridge too far?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Have you read the speech?
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: I have read the speech.
MATHIAS CORMANN: If you have read the speech you would have seen that I did not compare him to communist Germany. What I said is, if you look at the examples across Europe, socialism is a recipe for failure. It is a recipe for mediocrity and inferior outcomes. There is no doubt that Bill Shorten has taken the Labor party down the path of a socialist agenda. I am not comparing Bill Shorten today with the outcomes of forty years of failed economic policy. But what I am saying is, if we put ourselves on the path of attacking opportunity, of attacking success, of wanting to tear successful people down because it suits our political objectives, then the outcomes over an extended period will be worse for Australia. It means less opportunity. It means more inequality. That is what I am putting. I am setting out the consequences of following the socialist agenda that Bill Shorten is putting on the table.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Okay, when you listen very carefully to what Labor is talking about, they seem to be outlining something that is quite different to when Kevin Rudd pursued a change of Government in 2006, where he was at pains to say that he would keep the union movement in check. Labor is saying that it does need to make changes to enterprise bargaining. They are running, if you like, a big target strategy, I mean they really are going to the next election are they not, asking for a mandate for some significant reforms in the area of tax and industrial relations reform?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten is thrashing the proud Labor legacy of Hawke and Keating. It was Hawke and Keating that opened up the Australian economy to the world, that opened Australia up to global competition to become a successful trading nation. As you quite rightly point out, Kevin Rudd whatever he ultimately did in Government, in the lead up to the 2007 election, he sold himself as an economic conservative. Bill Shorten is selling himself as a socialist, because he believes that that will help him win votes. He is getting quite cocky. He is essentially of the view that he is already there. He thinks he has already got this won on the basis of his anti-success, anti-opportunity rhetoric, because he believes that people who are anxious across Australia will believe him when he says all I need to do is go after these nasty, successful people over there and you will be better off. That is not a recipe for success. That is not a recipe for a brighter future.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Can I just ask you just about the citizenship fiasco that is before the High Court today. Do you believe that the Labor leader Bill Shorten should release the documentation that apparently is held in Labor’s headquarters here in Canberra that shows that he is absolutely not a dual citizen. Why do you think he will not release that? Do you think he is trying to run a bit of a protection racquet for other Labor MPs who many not have their matters in order?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not believe that Bill Shorten is a dual citizen. I am not going to give public advice to Members of other parties on how they should handle this. I think that every Member of Parliament needs to make their own judgements in relation to this. A number of Members of Parliament have decided to explain their circumstances publicly. A decision was made to refer them to the High Court with the support of the party leaders of the relevant parties involved. If anyone in Australia wants to challenge the eligibility of any Member of the Australian Parliament, there is a well-established process through the High Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. That is the way these things are appropriately handled.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Okay and just finally Bob Katter on Sky News yesterday, an interview with Andrew Bolt said that he believed that he would be more likely to offer confidence and supply if Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister. He would be seeking a one on one meeting with Tony Abbott. Does that concern you? He is a key Crossbench MP in the House of Representatives?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It doesn’t concern me at all. It is a free world. Bob Katter can have meetings with whomever he wants. I wish him all the best of luck. The Government has a solid and stable majority in the House of Representatives. We continue to do the job that we were elected to do. That is to deliver better opportunity for all Australians to get ahead.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Do you think he is trying to stir the pot there? Do you think he wants the Liberal party to re-install Tony Abbot as the Liberal leader. Do you think he should do that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator. You have to ask him what he is trying to do. Let me just say that it is a free world. Members of Parliament can have meetings with whatever other Member of Parliament they wish.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Alright Mathias Cormann there in Adelaide, thank you for your time this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.