ABC TV – News Breakfast

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Acting Prime Minister
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia






Company tax cuts, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministerial staff

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Let us return to federal politics now and it seems Mathias Cormann has had his hands very full as he takes over as Acting Prime Minister.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Barnaby Joyce is speaking out in the media this morning and Tony Abbott has been slinging barbs from the backbench. Senator Cormann is just the fourth Upper House Member to get the job of Acting PM and we are delighted to say he joins us now from Canberra. Acting Prime Minister, good morning.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.             

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Mathias Cormann, what did your parents say when they found out that their son was Acting Prime Minister of Australia.

MATHIAS CORMANN: With the time difference, they found out about it from the Belgium media before I was able to get to them. Over the years they got used to the media from time to time showing an interest. I would like to think that they are proud overall.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: That is good to hear. Have you set yourself a benchmark, at least one thing you want to get done in the brief time that you have the job?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I would like to make progress with convincing the Australian people that families around Australia need the Senate to pass our business tax cuts in full, to secure more jobs and higher wages and to ensure that families around Australia today and in the future have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. So if I can make some progress, using this position over the next few days in relation to that, it would be time well spent.             

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Tell me how realistic you think that possibility is at this stage? Given what you know about the Upper House and how there has been such strong pushback against those business tax cuts. How realistic is that hope?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, this time last year, people were telling me that we would get nothing through and we got the first three years of our business tax cuts, of a ten-year plan to cut business taxes, through. People did not expect that that would happen, but it did. The case is even more compelling now. Since we passed the first three years of our ten-year enterprise tax cut plan last year, the US has reduced their corporate tax rate down to 21 per cent, France has decided to reduce their corporate tax rate from 33 to 25 per cent. Australia, we are competing with the world. If we want to have more new jobs, more new secure jobs and higher wages, we need to ensure that the businesses that employ Australians, that create those jobs and pay for those wages can be more profitable and more successful into the future. We cannot hold Australian businesses back by forcing them to compete with businesses in countries where their Governments and their Parliaments are giving them access to a more globally competitive business tax rate.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: This is how the Financial Review today, the cartoonist David Rowe depicts the job that you have in front of you while Malcolm Turnbull is way. We can show it to our viewers now. Keep Barnaby Joyce in the naughty corner and try and swat the rat that is Tony Abbott, at least you have The Terminator's red eye there. But is all of that about the size of it, Mathias Cormann?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Look, I let the cartoonists and the journalists and commentators assess how things are going. As far as I am concerned, we have one single job and that is to focus on the Australian people, focus on making sure that the Australian families have the best possible opportunity to get ahead, to make sure that Australia is safe and secure. That is what the Turnbull Government is focused on and that is what I will continue to play my small part in.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well, sure, of course, and any Acting Prime Minister or Prime Minister would say that, but your problem is obvious. You have got Barnaby Joyce pleading his case in the media today, you have got Tony Abbott throwing bombs from the backbench and openly criticising your policy. You have got at some point, don't you, take account of the fact that you've got these bomb-throwers in your Government and it is very hard to get your job done?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, Tony Abbott has been quite open with his views on a range of matters for some time, that is not a new phenomenon that has emerged over the last 24 hours. Now as far…interrupted.                                                 

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: No, but the accumulation of that for you? How does that accumulate in terms of thinking, "Hey, this is a colleague I've got to work alongside.”?

MATHIAS CORMANN: He is a colleague that we work alongside. The Liberal National Party has got a very clear economic plan to create more jobs and better opportunity for Australian families to get ahead. We do not get distracted. As far as Barnaby is concerned, he had to deal with some deeply personal matters, which spilled over into the professional sphere. He has taken a week off in order to put some order into some of these matters and that is entirely appropriate and that is really all there is to it.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Now, as Finance Minister, I do want to ask you one question on this particular matter, as Finance Minister, were you aware whether Vikki Campion received a redundancy?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, I am not aware of all of the specific arrangements in relation to specific staff members. What I would expect is that all staff in the Coalition are treated in the same way. She came into Government as a highly qualified media operator, as in, she was appropriately qualified when she took on the job. She was a staffer for National Party Ministers and the National Party team overall and whatever the arrangements are when there is a change, a reshuffle or whatever, would have applied equally to all. 

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But you are saying this morning you are not aware one way or another as to whether a redundancy was paid?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of the specific circumstances of individual staff members and I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to comment on the individual circumstances of individual staff members, but what I am saying to you is that the arrangements for all staff, whether it is our Government or previous Governments, are consistently applied.                

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And on the issue of Barnaby Joyce and the wrecker that Tony Abbott has been. Are you afraid that if Barnaby Joyce loses the position of the Leader of the Nats and goes to the backbench, that he becomes a wrecker like Tony Abbott, is that a concern for you?

MATHIAS CORMANN: You are here trying to put forward a scenario that is not in front of us…interrupted.                        

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: No, I am asking a pretty straight question about a man who is in a difficult political position.

MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not a straight question. You are making up a scenario that is not in front of us. Barnaby Joyce is the Leader of the National Party. The leadership of the National Party is a matter for the National Party. Barnaby is a good friend and valued colleague. He has made a significant contribution to Australia over the past and I am confident that he will make a significant contribution into the future.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And so far is being Acting Prime Minister living up to the dream?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Look, it is what it is. It is not something that was on my horizon. It is not something I planned for. I am giving it the best I can, I am doing the best I can and on Monday morning, Malcolm Turnbull will be back and will take back the reins here in Australia.                  

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Alright. Good to talk to you, Mathias Cormann. Thanks for your time.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.


Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth