Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Scott Morrison said he wasn’t going to be Santa Claus in the Budget, yet we are seeing an announcement that beer is going to be cheaper. What is behind that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is about putting craft beer and the beer provided by the larger brewers on a level playing field. Scott Morrison will have some more to say about that later today.
QUESTION: In terms of aged care, what is the Government going to do to make sure that people can stay in their homes longer?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Budget will be delivered on Tuesday at 7:30pm.
QUESTION: Minister, your WA colleague Linda Reynolds says the only way to solve Section 44 of the Constitution is to have a referendum, is to put it to a vote and overturn it. Do you agree with that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is the conclusion of the committee that inquired into it. I note that that is their conclusion.
QUESTION: Do you think it has gotten to the stage where it got so messy that we do need to go as far as a referendum in your personal opinion?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have not made a decision to have a referendum. I note that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has formed a view that there is no other way to resolve it, should we want to resolve it. I am personally not persuaded that the Australian people disagree with the proposition that a member of the Federal Parliament should be an Australian citizen only.
QUESTION: There is a meeting today between the Education Minister and his counterparts in the States and Territories. Do you think they are going to pick up the Gonski plan?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is certainly what we hope. We have provided substantial additional funding to the Gonski model of needs based schools funding, which was legislated through the Parliament towards the middle of last year. We hope that the States will embrace our very important proposed way forward.
QUESTION: You have proposed that the NDIS will be funded. The Budget is looking healthy and strong now, but what happens when the coffers go down? What then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, the Budget will be delivered on Tuesday at 7:30pm. What you will see is the expected trajectory both over the four years in terms of the forward estimates both the forecast and the projection years and over the medium term to 2028-29. We will be able to have that conversation at that point. What I would say to you is that having reviewed all the information, having reviewed all of the data, having reviewed the beneficial impact of our decisions so far to reduce expenditure growth and to put the economy on a stronger foundation and trajectory for the future on the back of stronger revenue and lower expenditure in other areas, we have come to the view that we are able to fully fund the NDIS without an increase in the Medicare levy. The final point I would make, all of you who are now arguing that perhaps we should have kept the increase in the Medicare levy in place, well what use is an increase in the Medicare levy that cannot get through the Senate where we are not able to collect the money at any point in time anyway.
QUESTION: You are going to be one of the key people within Malcolm Turnbull’s team organising the next election. There are reports out of Victoria about factional in-fighting there affecting pre-selections. How damaging is it that that sort of stuff is a) happening and b) leaking out to the media?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is your commentary. As far as I am concerned in the lead up to any election, all of us, who want to put our hand up to represent our communities, we have got to go through a two stage process. We have to win the confidence of our relevant party organisations. We have to win the confidence of the Australian people. That is the same this time. From time to time there are contests. Those contests I am very confident will work themselves out.
QUESTION: Just one more question on the beer tax. Labor, Anthony Albanese is taking credit for this one. Saying it is good that the Coalition has paid attention to his demands in the industry. Is this another Labor policy that the Coalition has picked up on?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor party used to have a policy to reduce business tax rates to twenty-five per cent. Bill Shorten was one of the most succinct, most eloquent, crispest advocates of the need to reduce business tax rates, not just for small business but for all businesses, including big business, to twenty-five per cent. Bill Shorten is the guy that kept telling us that a lower business tax rate will help attract more investment, create more jobs and deliver higher wages. But Bill Shorten is the wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble jelly on a plate of Australian politics. He is incredibly fickle. He is not able to keep to a policy position that he knows to be right. The Coalition needs to continue to stand up for what is right when it comes to tax policy.
QUESTION: You’ve picked up on the company tax there. But my question was explicitly about the excise issue that you have now decided to adopt.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Coalition makes judgements always across all public policy areas based on what we believe to be right, based on what we believe to be in the public interest. We do not focus on the politics. We let Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten and all of these other people focus on the politics. We make decisions based on what we believe is right. I would just again remind you that Bill Shorten advocated strongly for the need of a lower business tax rate, down to twenty-five per cent for all businesses, because he said it would lead to more investment, more jobs and higher wages over time. Instead of being the wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble jelly on a plate Bill Shorten should start to think about what is in the national interest.