Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: One Nation has withdrawn support for the company tax cut plan? Is the plan dead?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am very disappointed with this latest development. But self-evidently I hope that this is not the last word. Working families across Australia need their Senate to pass our plan for a globally more competitive business tax rate in full. That is because a higher tax on business in Australia is a higher tax on workers in Australia. If we continue to put Australian business at a disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world, by forcing them to pay higher tax, we put workers in Australia employed by those businesses at a competitive disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world. That is not a position that anyone in Australia should be prepared to tolerate. The Government will persist with our plan, which is central to our plan for a stronger economy and more jobs. We went through a very thorough, a very constructive process with Pauline Hanson and her team earlier in the year. Pauline Hanson and her team gave us very firm private and public commitments of support for this very important economic reform. I hope that this is not the last word spoken on this. That we will be able to persuade Pauline Hanson and her team to go back to the position that they adopted earlier this year.
QUESTION: But you are facing an uphill battle because the Centre Alliance Senators they are not interested in supporting it either. Derryn Hinch said that he'll support it up to $500 million turnover. Could there be some compromise along the way here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is very important for working families around Australia wanting to get ahead, that their Australian Senate passes our plan for a globally more competitive business tax rate for all businesses in full. In many ways the largest businesses in Australia, businesses like Qantas, and others, are very much on the frontline of global competition. A business like Qantas, to take one example, is an Australian business success story, which operates in a fiercely competitive global environment. If we put businesses like Qantas at an ongoing competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world because we force them to pay higher taxes here in Australian than faced by their competitors in other parts of the world, not only are we putting the job security of their 30,000 employees at risk, but we actually also put the job security of all of those Australians working for the 3,000 small and medium sized businesses providing goods and services to them at risk. Larger businesses in Australia hire many Australians directly. Larger businesses in Australia buy goods and services from small and medium sized businesses who employ many more millions of Australians. If we continue to put Australian business at a disadvantage with business in other parts of the world they compete with, by forcing them to pay more tax than their competitors have to, we put Australian workers at a competitive disadvantage. Nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. Putting those businesses at a disadvantage is bad for jobs and bad for wages growth into the future. In contrast, if we help ensure that businesses in Australia have the best possible opportunity to succeed and be more successful into the future, they can hire more Australians and pay them better wages over the time.
QUESTION: Why do you think the One Nation team have suddenly changed their minds like this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You will have to ask Pauline Hanson and the One Nation team.
QUESTION: Pauline Hanson says that she negotiated a youth pilot apprenticeship program with the Government in the Budget but that there was no money. Why was there no money?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We reached an agreement with Pauline Hanson and One Nation earlier in the year in relation to a range of matters. It was always understood and accepted by Pauline Hanson and One Nation that the things we agreed were conditional on the successful passage of the legislation, in full, to reduce the business tax rate over time for all businesses down to 25 per cent. That remains the Government's position. The Government remains 100 per cent committed to all of the things that we reached agreement on with One Nation earlier this year.
QUESTION: She flagged that she may be reconsidering her new opposition in changes to the PRRT. Is that something that you will consider?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I am not going to start discussions with crossbench Senators through the media. I have never done that in the past. I am not going to start doing that now. What I can say to you is that One Nation earlier this year raised a whole series of issues with us. We worked with them, constructively, in good faith, through a very thorough process. We reached agreement on a whole series of things. One Nation gave us private and public, firm private and public commitments that they would support our legislation to provide for a globally more competitive business tax rate in full. Based on that agreement and subject to the passage of the necessary legislation, the Government remains committed to all of the things we agreed we would do.
QUESTION: Pauline Hanson said that one of reasons that she decided to withdraw her support, because she is saying that the Government is not selling the plan well and that you haven't brought people along with you, and she's arguing that on the ground, people don't support these tax cuts?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. Their future job security, their future job opportunities, their future career prospects, their future wage increases depend on the future success and profitability of the businesses that employ them and pay their wages. If we put those businesses at an ongoing competitive disadvantage, at a deliberate competitive disadvantage, by forcing them to pay higher taxes here in Australia, than are faced by their competitors in other parts of the word, we put all of those workers, we put those nine out of ten working Australians working for private sector at a serious competitive disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world.
QUESTION: But do you acknowledge it's a hard sell for the Government, when it comes to getting tax cuts to the banks as an example?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I know that this is not an easy political sell, but the Government knows that this is in our national interest, which is why it is worth fighting for, which is why we have engaged in this debate the way we have. We are working here, focused on the interests of working families wanting to get ahead. This is solely about making sure that Australians today and into the future have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. If we give up on this very important part of our plan for a stronger economy and more jobs, we would be giving up on the future opportunity of working Australians.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about income tax cuts, Labor said yesterday that it might be open to the second phase of the tax cuts relating to the thresholds going from $90,000 to $120,000. Given you kind of have support definitely for the first stage, maybe for the second stage is this more reason to split the bills and get what you can passed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our message to Bill Shorten is one more step to go. We have a seven year plan to provide income tax relief to working families, which prioritises low and middle income earners, by helping to provide relief from cost of living pressures. We also, as part of our plan have a plan to address bracket creep, which is a drag on economic growth. Our plan is about providing income tax relief, providing encouragement and reward to working Australians. We are committed to our plan in full. Bill Shorten will have to decide whether he wants to stand in the way of income tax relief for low and middle income earners.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about dual citizenship, apparently you are considering new regulations, which would force candidates to outline their family trees to ensure that they comply with the Parliamentary rules?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We announced that last week, literally on the day that the High Court made its decision in the Gallagher case. On the Thursday, the day after, I wrote to all of the party leaders in the Parliament and crossbench Members and Senators putting forward some draft regulations. We have reached agreement with the Opposition last night in relation to the wording of those regulations. We intend to implement them as swiftly as possible now.
QUESTION: Does that mean the by-elections can be held once the regulations got into Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The timing of the by-elections are not a matter for me. That is a matter for the Speaker. But as I have indicated, in my statement on behalf of the Government on Wednesday last week, it was our intention, it is our intention and we believe it is desirable for these regulations to be put in place so that the improved nomination arrangements recommended unanimously by the relevant Parliamentary committee can be put in place in time for those by-elections.