Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: We are going to talk now about some actual policy matters. The Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann who joins us now in Canberra. Good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: We wanted to talk about tax, one of the issues around this morning is we are hearing reports that One Nation will oppose the Medicare levy hike. That is obviously a concern for you if they are not going to support that increase from two to 2.5 per cent in 2019.
MATHIAS CORMANN: For any legislation, the Government needs nine non-Government Senators to vote for it. There is the Labor Party, there are the Greens and there are a number of crossbenchers. We talk and we engage with all of them on Budget measures. We will continue to do so in relation to this measure.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: The argument has been though that in one sense you are really increasing taxes in terms of the Medicare levy, while you are holding out the prospect of income tax relief on the other. Are you really just taking money through the Medicare levy that you are claiming you are going give back as some sort of income tax gift somewhere else in the Budget down the track?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are two separate things here. Firstly, what we are doing with the proposed increase in the Medicare levy is to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the way that the Gillard Government envisaged it would be funded. The Gillard Government took the first step in seeking to fund it in part through an increase in the Medicare levy. It is a very fair way of funding a scheme like the NDIS…interrupted.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: But how are you going to pay for income tax cuts?
MATHIAS CORMANN: …if I may - on the basis that every Australian makes a proportionate contribution to it. The more you earn, the more you contribute. The less you earn, the less you contribute. If you are a very low income earner, you are actually fully exempted from paying it all together. So it is a very fair way to help ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is funded on an ongoing basis. When it comes to personal income tax cuts, we are committed to deliver personal income tax cuts. That is a matter of public record. We are working our way through all of the numbers as we speak to assess what is possible, what is responsibly possible. These considerations and these judgements will ultimately be reflected in the Budget.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: How are you going to deal with those income tax cuts? Will they be offset somewhere else in the Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a lot of conversation, a lot of considerations, a lot of assessment of information at the moment. As is always the case, judgements are made at the end of that process. They are reflected in the Budget and the Budget will be delivered on the second Tuesday in May. I am not in a position to deliver that for you today.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: We have just had all of this debate about the Clean Energy Finance Corporation reports today it should be used to provide tax breaks for carbon capture and storage. What do you think of that idea?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide finance to carbon capture and storage projects. That is something that at the moment irresponsibly is resisted by the Labor Party. Carbon capture and storage is a proven technology around the world, which helps to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that that is something that ought to be supported and we have proposed to amend legislation governing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to allow them to make investments in carbon capture and storage projects. So far, that is something that is being resisted, but we are hopeful that with more conversations, that over time we will be able to persuade enough non-Government Senators to support us.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: The Barnaby Joyce saga has continued this morning with Labor trying, I suppose you would call it a bit of a stunt on the House of Representatives, calling for Barnaby Joyce to resign over fresh claims that he breached ministerial guidelines. Particularly in relation to that very generous gift in his electorate, the Armidale businessman Greg MaGuire has offered him the exclusive use of a very nice townhouse, estimated potentially at above the declarable limit to the Australian Electoral Commission. But he says he did not need to declare it when he was living in it during the by-election because he was not an MP at the time. Well, the Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann is still with us. How can this not breach the ministerial guidelines, which do talk about not accepting gifts of more than $750 if it is potentially a conflict of interest? Wouldn’t it be a conflict of interest if it is a constituent?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it is not a breach. The relevant part of the ministerial code provides that Ministers shall not seek relevant gifts. My first point is that Barnaby was not a Minister, he was not even a Member of Parliament at the time. Secondly, he did not seek a gift. My advice is that the friend of his made the offer, that Barnaby offered to pay rent, an offer which was declined and that subsequently on being elected to Parliament, he made all the appropriate declarations…interrupted.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: But the businessman gave an interview where he said that Barnaby rang him up and said can you help me out. Now Barnaby says his mate is not only generous, that he has got a faulty memory.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I cannot speak for the person involved, I do not know him, I have never met him. I can only go by what Barnaby has told the Prime Minister, what he has told the Parliament. I take him by his word.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Mathias you are a very precise individual, you like to see Budgets in surplus, you like to see the nation saving. The Deputy Prime Minister earns over $400,000 a year. Why does he not have enough money to pay his own rent?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to go into the ins and outs of Barnaby’s personal arrangements. There is a particular circumstance that he is dealing with and that is entirely a matter for him.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: What about the National Party MPs being asked to put their hand in their own pockets with the National Party paying for his wage after he got kicked out of Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator. Again, it is not a matter for me, it is none of my business.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: But you wanted to introduce laws making people work six months for the dole, but the National Party has got a scheme for Barnaby Joyce that kicks off.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The arrangements for the National Party are entirely matters for the National Party. This has got nothing to do with my responsibilities in Government.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: One thing that does have to do with your responsibilities in Government though obviously is the expenditure of public money. Now taxpayers have also been paying for, since May last year, $600,000 a year to Roman Quaedvlieg to sit at home while they investigate claims that he was trying to get involved with jobs for his girlfriend. He insists that he was not. Why has it taken that long to investigate him?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is well and truly outside my area of portfolio responsibility. That is a matter for the Home Affairs portfolio. As I understand it, there are processes underway, including appropriate procedural fairness being offered as is appropriate. I am sure that this will come to a conclusion as soon as possible.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: And just finally Jim Molan gave a maiden speech last night where he was talking about immigration and his concerns that in some cases legal immigration is running at too fast a rate that some capital cities can handle. Do you agree with him?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is always important to ensure that our infrastructure development keeps pace with population growth and that is a challenge for the Federal Government working together with State and Territory Governments. Our Government has made an unprecedented commitment to investment in infrastructure including and in particular to improve the connectivity in our cities…interrupted.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: It would be the Belgians we would really want to worry about though wouldn’t it.?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think Australia is a great country. Migrants from all around the world, from all corners of the world, all sorts of backgrounds have come to Australia, made Australia our home…interrupted.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: And you are one of them.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am one of them. Australia’s success is to a large degree based on generations of migrants coming to Australia, making Australia their home and helping to make Australia great.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Awesome, well thank you very much for your time this morning, we appreciate it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to talk to you.