Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
DAVID SPEERS: Labor won’t be budging. We know that for sure when it comes to company tax cut. The question is will One Nation. Can the Government woo her back? Certainly a hint there from Pauline Hanson this morning that she is still in play. With me now is the Finance Minister and the Government’s Senate Leader, Mathias Cormann. Thanks for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
DAVID SPEERS: Pauline Hanson wants people to call her office, let her know what to do in regards to company tax cuts. Have you set up a phone bank of people to speed dial?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. I call Pauline Hanson’s mobile phone. So I will not have to compete with others that might be ringing her electorate office.
DAVID SPEERS: When was the last time you spoke to her about this issue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We had a meeting last week. I think that is a matter of public record actually.
DAVID SPEERS: Right, that was after she said she was not going to support them under any circumstances.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was after that front page in The Australian, yes.
DAVID SPEERS: Right, and how did that conversation go?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to talk about private conversations. I never talk about private conversations publicly. Our focus is on securing the passage of what is very important economic reform for working families around Australia. We cannot ... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: But do you regard One Nation as still in play?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I continue to talk to all crossbench Senators. The Government continues to work with all crossbench Senators in order to secure the passage of very important economic reform. Let us just make the point again. It is a very important point. Families around Australia need the Senate to pass these reforms, because if we do not, businesses in Australia will continue to be put at a deliberate, ongoing competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world. That puts the nine out of ten Australians working for a private sector business at an ongoing, competitive disadvantage. Bill Shorten by voting against a globally more competitive business tax rate is voting against jobs and against wage increases.
DAVID SPEERS: But its Pauline Hanson you need to win right now, is it frustrating dealing with someone who is clearly changing their mind a lot on this issue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I respect the right of every individual Senator to form their own judgements in their own time. From the Government’s point of view, we have got a very important reform, which we believe will strengthen our economy, create more jobs and lead to higher wages. From our point of view, we are keen to convince Pauline Hanson, her team and at least nine out of eleven, well eight out of ten ... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: Eight out of ten.
MATHIAS CORMANN: At least eight out of ten crossbench Senators ... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: I want to get to...
MATHIAS CORMANN: ... to support that reform.
DAVID SPEERS: I want to come to those numbers changing today, but Pauline Hanson wants a few things. She wants a cut in immigration. She wants a new coal-fired power station. Are you going to give her any of those?
MATHIAS CORMANN: None of these things have been on the table. None of these things have been part of the discussion. It is a matter of public record. That was a very late addition after the agreement had been reached. Our position in relation to immigration, our position in relation to coal-fired power stations is a matter of public record.
DAVID SPEERS: So they were never part of a deal with Pauline Hanson. What about the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to go into every part of the conversation. Except to say that these matters were never part of the conversation. But we will continue ... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: But the PRRT was.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to work with Pauline Hanson and other crossbench Senators in relation to a whole range of matters. It is a matter of public record and I have said this last week too, this is not new, it is a matter of public record that the Government initiated a review into the PRRT arrangements. These are matter that have been raised... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: And you are yet to respond to that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is right. We are yet to respond. These are matters and this is also a matter of public record a number of crossbench Senators have raised the issue of PRRT publicly ... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: But that wasn’t part of a deal with Pauline Hanson?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Clearly there is no deal because Pauline Hanson has come out publicly, at least so far, as saying there is no deal. If there should be a consensus, then the Government will explain the basis for any consensus. That would be done at the right time.
DAVID SPEERS: Now, you indicated today that, you confirmed that you would put these tax cuts, company tax cuts to the Senate next month, when it sits.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is also not news. I actually had indicated that in March.
DAVID SPEERS: That’s alright. Then you also indicated today, that regardless of the outcome you would take them to the by-election at the end of July.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have said that we would take them to the next election.
DAVID SPEERS: Right.
MATHIAS CORMANN: So self-evidently that includes the period of the next by-election.
DAVID SPEERS: So it will remain Government policy.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is right.
DAVID SPEERS: Regardless of the Senate vote.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is right.
DAVID SPEERS: Even though some of your colleagues privately want at least a discussion about that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: All I can say to you is that the Government’s position is that business tax cuts, a globally more competitive business tax rate, is even more important and more urgent today than what it was when we went to the last election. I do not know what people say to you privately. All I can say to you is that the Government’s position is very clear. Since we went to the last election, the US has lowered their business tax rate to 21 per cent. Since we went to the last election, France decided to lower their business tax rate from 33 to 25 per cent. If we continue to impose on Australian businesses, on businesses in Australia one of the highest business tax rates in the world we are putting the employees that work for those businesses at an ongoing and deliberate competitive disadvantage.
DAVID SPEERS: And here’s the thing, even if you lost in the Senate next month, it would be pretty embarrassing to drop the whole thing and change your argument. Wouldn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Australian people are backing us. The Australian people overwhelmingly are coming on board with the proposition that we need to ensure that Australians today and in the future have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. Australians clearly understand that we cannot continue to put businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage without putting them at a disadvantage. People ... interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: Is this a matter of conviction?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is absolutely a matter of conviction. We want to ensure that families around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. In order to achieve that we need to ensure that the businesses who employ nine out of ten working Australians have the best possible opportunity to be successful and more profitable into the future. If we put more lead into their saddlebag than what is in the saddlebag of businesses in other parts of the world, we will make businesses in Australia less successful, which would lead to less investment, lower growth, fewer jobs and over time, lower wages. Bill Shorten’s agenda of higher taxes will lead to that. Lower investment, lower growth, fewer jobs, higher unemployment and lower wages.
DAVID SPEERS: And you are willing to stake your position on sticking with this policy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely.
DAVID SPEERS: Now today the Senate crossbench numbers have changed. The Independent Senator Steve Martin has joined up with the Nationals. The Nationals have never had a representative in Tasmania. The Country Party did about 90 years ago. Why do you think Steve Martin has done this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We very warmly welcome Steve Martin to the Coalition Senate team. I have had quite a bit to do with him in recent months. He has had a very strong start as a Senator for Tasmania. He has been engaged in positive discussions with Government from the word go, working to deliver outcomes for Tasmania. He joins a very strong Liberal Tasmanian Senate team … interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: Why isn’t he joining the Liberals?
MATHIAS CORMANN: He has decided to join the Nats. That is a matter for him. We are very pleased to see him join the Coalition … interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: Is it, am I being cynical in saying the Liberal Senate ticket was full, he would not get re-elected on his own, this is perhaps his only chance, he has been around in local and Federal politics for a while and suddenly realised the Nats are the party to be with?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are the commentator. I will leave the commentary to you. What I would say is that we are very pleased to have him on board. It does now mean that we have a team of 31. In order to get legislation through that is opposed by Labor and the Greens we need to secure eight instead of nine out of …interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: So this makes your life a little easier?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In relation to company tax cuts, Steve Martin had already long come on board as supporting this as a very important economic reform for families in Tasmania, as it is an important economic reform for families around Australia. It is always good to see that your team is growing. We are now bigger than what we were after the last election.
DAVID SPEERS: Should the Liberals and the Nationals run a joint ticket in Tasmania?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to give advice to local party organisations.
DAVID SPEERS: A question on your portfolio as Special Minister of State, what are the rules for Members of Parliament being paid money for interviews?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is actually not a matter for the Special Minister of State. It is a good try David … interrupted
DAVID SPEERS: Is that because there are no rules?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Parliamentary registry of interests are actually a matter for the Parliament not for the Executive Government. So the Register of Senator’s Interest and the equivalent Register in the House of Representatives are actually matters for the Parliament. I am sure that Barnaby will make the appropriate declarations in the appropriate way.
DAVID SPEERS: Do you have any issue with serving politicians taking money for interviews?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator as I have indicated to you before. It is a matter for him. It is a matter for him to explain what he did and why. I will focus on my job, which is to try and work to help create the strongest possible economy and economic and fiscal foundation and trajectory for the future.
DAVID SPEERS: Surely any observer would agree it is not okay for politicians to be taking money to do what we are doing right now.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are entitled to provide commentary. I am sure Barnaby will explain himself when he is asked these questions.
DAVID SPEERS: Right, Finance Minister and Government Senate Leader Mathias Cormann thanks for joining us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.