Doorstop – Mural Hall

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






Commonwealth Bank, Newstart, Business tax cuts.

QUESTION: Minister, are you perturbed by the revelations today that the details of accounts of some 20 million accounts in CBA have essentially been lost or at least potentially been lost?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have seen the revelations. I understand that the Attorney-General was briefed on this last night and is getting some further advice. No doubt he will make comments in due course.

QUESTION:What do you believe has led to this? Do you believe that it shows a lack of care from CBA for customers’ personal information?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to speculate. I am not going to provide commentary. The Attorney-General was briefed last night. He is receiving some briefings as we speak. No doubt he will have more to say at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Is it a concern that they weren't going to tell their customers?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Since February this year, reporting of any such data breaches is mandatory. That is the change that took effect in February this year. Beyond that, I will leave it to the Attorney General to provide comment at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Can you give us any sense of exactly what information the Attorney General has requested, what that briefing goes to and what information ... ?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, these are not matters that are irrelevant to a Finance Minister working on the budget. In terms of what the Attorney General is being briefed on and what he wants to explain and provide by way of comment in relation to that, I would refer you to the Attorney General.

QUESTION: Can you understand how people have lost confidence in the banks?

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a whole range of issues in recent times that have emerged that will need to be addressed. We have a Royal Commission into the banks that is currently taking place, which is considering all of the information in front of it. Some of the information put in front of it no doubt is contested information. But at the end of it, the Royal Commissioner Justice Hayne will form his view. He will deliver his findings and recommendations. The government will act on those as appropriate at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Are you of the mindset that they should have told their customers?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, these are matters that I have already addressed.

QUESTION: Minister, could you live on $40 a day under Newstart?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Newstart is not something to provide an ongoing income. Our focus is getting people off welfare and back into work. In the economy more than 420,000 jobs were created in the 12 months to February 2018. 3.5 per cent employment growth. Many people move on and off Newstart as a transitional measure. Many people on Newstart also receive income from other sources. The proposition that somehow the Newstart allowance should be an ongoing income on an ongoing basis is of course not right.

QUESTION: But could you live on $40 a day?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, it is always important for anyone who is on Newstart allowance for them to get themselves back into work as soon as possible. That is the focus of the Government. The Government is focused on helping all Australians to have the best possible opportunity to get back into work, off welfare and back into work as soon as possible.

QUESTION: What do you make of this report into small business that shows around half, 50 per cent pocketed the cash, and a smaller proportion of those actually employed more people. Obviously it comes at time when you are trying to sell big business tax cuts which are enormously unpalatable to the Opposition.

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Opposition is just playing politics. Bill Shorten is standing in the way of more jobs and higher wages. Bill Shorten is committed to an agenda which will see capital investment go overseas instead of coming to Australia, which will see jobs and higher wages go overseas. It is self-evident that for Australian workers to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead, to have job security, job opportunities, career opportunities and secure higher wages, we need the businesses that create those jobs and pay those wages to have the best possible opportunity to be successful and profitable into the future. If we continue to put Australian business at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world, where they pay less tax, we will see investment and jobs go overseas. That is not in the interests of working families around Australia. Nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. Their future job opportunities, their future job security, their future career opportunities, their future wage increases, depend on the future success and profitability of businesses that employ them.

QUESTION: It appears that more than half of those businesses didn't pass on that money and hire more people or invest in the company, they have just simply pocketed that, so doesn’t that fly in the face of your argument?

MATHIAS CORMANN: No, that is a very ignorant observation, if I may say so. The way the economy works is that you do need to attract investment, and the prospect of a return from your investment is what encourages you to invest in the growth of a business. A business that is more successful and profitable will hire more people. The data shows clearly that a business that has more money available to invest more, hires more Australians and pays them better wages. A shareholder that invests in a business, the reason they invest in a business in the first place is because of the prospect of a return on that investment. If you want to attract more investment, the way you do that is by offering the prospect of a better return. That is how you secure the necessary investment to continue to grow the economy and create more jobs and deliver higher wages.

QUESTION: But these aren’t publicly listed companies these are small businesses who have pocketed money they have not necessarily employed. It is not about investors and shareholders, these are small businesses who are saying and probably quite rightfully saying we done it tough for a while, we are going to keep the money.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Are you suggesting that if a business is less successful and less profitable, they will hire more people? That is a socialist Labor party proposition. Bill Shorten is running on an anti-business, anti-aspiration, politics of envy, socialist agenda, suggesting that making it harder for business to be successful is somehow going to be good for the people that work for those businesses. The truth is, if you make it harder for businesses to be successful and profitable they will hire fewer people and they will only be able to pay them less. If businesses across Australia hire fewer people there is less competition for workers and wages will be less. Bill Shorten’s agenda is an agenda that would hurt working families across Australia and it would hurt low income workers across Australia the hardest.

QUESTION: Minister, just briefly we learnt this morning that the Government is putting $50 million in seed funding towards an Australian space agency, something the Government has spoken about before. Can you explain what the rationale is behind this seed funding and what the Government hopes to achieve?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have seen that there is some pre-Budget speculation as there always is. I am not going to get into pre-Budget speculation. There will be a Budget on Tuesday night. All of the relevant announcements will be made at that point.

QUESTION: The Government has talked a bit about what it wants to do in this space though, can you talk a bit about what the ...

MATHIAS CORMANN: This is very much in the category of pre-Budget speculation. I do not have anything further to say.

QUESTION: How is the Budget going? It has been remarkably quiet build up?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are just getting on with the job. When we came into Government in 2013, our economy was weakening, unemployment was rising, the budget position was rapidly deteriorating, by $3 billion a week in the eleven weeks between Labor’s last Budget and the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook. Now our economic growth outlook is stronger, employment growth is strong. Our Budget is in a stronger position. We are on a believable track back to surplus. Our plan is working. This is not the time to change direction. Next Tuesday we will be delivering our next instalment in our plan for a stronger economy, more jobs and to get the Budget back to the strongest possible position for the future.

QUESTION: Are you using the money from that stronger growth to pay off debt?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Treasurer will be delivering the Budget at 7:30pm on Tuesday night. All will be revealed at that time.

QUESTION: Is it a more difficult Budget, considering we are heading towards an election?

MATHIAS CORMANN: After every election we are before the next election. The next election is still another year away. There is still a lot of work to be done between now and then. There will be a Budget on Tuesday. There will be a half-yearly Budget update later this year. Sometime in the first half of next year there will be an election. We will just continue to do the work that we were elected to do.

QUESTION: Minister, on live exports we will see the snap review from David Littleproud handed down fairly soon, but do you believe that the industry as essentially lost its social licence to continue to operate?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that the work that David Littleproud is doing is very important. He is working with the industry as appropriate to address the issues that have been identified.

QUESTION: Can I ask you very quickly about the resignation yesterday. You said some very nice words on Twitter, an opponent, but still some very heartfelt words. Can you tell us the reason why you made those comments?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I know Tim reasonably well. We spent a lot of time in this job on planes together and in airport lounges. I know his family. My wife knows Tim very well. I do feel for him. I thought, in all sincerity that he had a very bright future as a Federal politician out of Western Australia, which I thought was good for Western Australia. At some point in the future, hopefully not too soon, but at some point in the future I suspect that there will be a Federal Labor government. I thought that Tim Hammond would have made a fine contribution as a West Australian to such a government in the future. But that is not to be. I understand and respect why he has made the decision that he has made. There is no doubt that Federal politics out of Western Australia is tough on our families. There are other jobs where there are long periods away from your family. That is tough on those families too. Every family has to make their own decisions. He and his family have made theirs. I respect it. I was genuinely sad to see him go. 

QUESTION: Do you believe that there does need to be a renewed discussion about how we can somehow soften some of the impacts that Parliamentary life takes on family life and in particular for MPs like yourself from WA?

MATHIAS CORMANN: There are just some realities that are just the realities that we have to accept. You can argue that if only we did not have mountains in Switzerland, but you know what, we have mountains in Switzerland. Australia is a very large continent. Inevitably, in this great nation of ours, if you are involved in Federal politics, you will have to spend long periods away from home. There is not really any way around it. But in the end, none of us are compulsory conscripts. We are all volunteers. We all get to make decisions, if and for how long we want to commit ourselves to this type of public service. Tim Hammond and his family have made a decision for themselves, which works for them. I respect that and wish them all the very best. But all of us, in the end have to make judgements on what works for us and for how long we are prepared to do this.

QUESTION: Do you think that with what we saw with Barnaby Joyce, we are sowing a new focus on how we can try and protect the sanctity of families and look after them in very difficult times. Not to take it down a murky road, but do you think there is a new importance towards looking after that amongst MPs themselves.

MATHIAS CORMANN: In the end, we all have to take responsibility for our own choices and decisions. Tim and his family have done that. Every Federal Senator and Member and indeed anyone in every profession has to make judgements on what works for them and their family, combining career and family life. I do not think that there is anything particularly unique in the context of politics. It is just that the logistical demands are somewhat more acute than they are in many other professions.

Thank you.


Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth