Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
TOM CONNELL: Joining me now is the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Minister thanks for your time this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
TOM CONNELL: Do we need these laws in place by the by-elections or not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Certainly our objective is to get these laws passed with bipartisan support as soon as possible. ASIO advice is that there is an unprecedented level of foreign intelligence activity directed against Australia. So these laws are necessary. They are important. We do want to pass them as soon as possible with bipartisan support.
TOM CONNELL: Is the by-election a factor in that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to see them pass as soon as possible with bipartisan support. There is an increasing level of foreign intelligence activity targeted at Australia, so we should pass them as soon as possible.
TOM CONNELL: Just to ask again though, because you have got the Attorney General saying this is a real risk, we need them passed. It is not as soon as possible. He says get them done before the by-elections. Is that your feeling as well?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that the Attorney General is precisely saying that we should pass these as soon as possible. That is what I am saying. That is what the Government is saying. There was a process that had to be gone through to ensure that they can appropriately pass with strong bipartisan support. With legislation of this nature it is always very important for there to be a broad consensus across the Parliament. We are now in a position where that appears to be in place. So yes, we should get this dealt with as soon as possible.
TOM CONNELL: And Christopher Pyne saying no link, that there is no rush?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to get into the commentary between colleagues here. Christian as the Attorney General has got lead responsibility here. It is a very important piece of legislation to protect our sovereignty and to protect the integrity of our democratic system. So from that point of view, I think the comments are self explanatory. We are committed to getting these laws passed as soon as possible with bipartisan support.
TOM CONNELL: Okay, let’s move into your area. The income tax cuts, we had Rex Patrick on yesterday afternoon on Sky News saying if push came to shove, the Centre Alliance would likely support the full phase, all three phases of the income tax cut. Do you count him in the ticks column now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not ever take anything for granted. Everybody knows the numbers. We have 31 Coalition Senators in the Senate. We need 39 to pass legislation which Labor and the Greens oppose. There are ten crossbench Senators so we need to persuade eight out of the ten to support the Government’s agenda. We believe it is very important for us to provide income tax relief as part of a long term plan, to working Australians, to provide the appropriate encouragement, incentive and reward for effort. We have a plan which prioritises low and middle income earners in the first instance, providing relief with cost of living pressures, but then also seeks to address bracket creep and simplify the tax system. Our objective and our effort is directed at persuading the necessary 39 Senators in the Senate, when we start with 31. That is what we are focused on.
TOM CONNELL: Brian Burston does seem more of a hard yes. I am just interested do you know treat him as an independent Senator. Do you deal with negotiations with him individually rather than via Pauline Hanson?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I never take anyone’s support on the crossbench for granted. I always engage with all of my Senate colleagues on the crossbench individually. That is not a new development. I have always had engagement with individual Senate colleagues … interrupted
TOM CONNELL: Right, so even now you would talk to Pauline Hanson and Peter Georgiou for example, you wouldn’t just call Senator Hanson.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I talk to everyone on the crossbench who is prepared to talk to me. Of course. That is my job.
TOM CONNELL: Okay but just to clarify, it is all just on an individual basis each, there is no such thing as taking a party leader in that regard?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Of course party leaders have a special level of engagement, but that does not stop you talking with Senate colleagues on the crossbench individually. Of course not.
TOM CONNELL: The Australian Taxpayers Alliance is out there today in an article in The Australian saying they think that Treasury has over costed the cost of this tax cut. It could be more like $78 billion versus $144 billion because of changed behaviour. What did you make of that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We rely on the expert advice out of Treasury. They cost these sorts of measures using the appropriate methodology, the appropriate assumptions, consistent with the requirements in the Charter of Budget Honesty. We have openly and transparently released the information that was in front of us from Treasury. This is all part of the public debate and the public conversation. Fundamentally, we believe that this income tax relief is necessary. Firstly, to help low and middle income earners deal with cost of living pressures. Secondly, to ensure that all working Australians receive the appropriate incentive, reward and encouragement for effort and to make sure that people do not go backwards as a result of bracket creep. Bracket creep not only is a drag on economic growth, it also means that if it is left unaddressed that individual Australians go backwards in terms of the value of their income.
TOM CONNELL: I want to go through Labor’s latest argument on this Mathias Cormann because they are talking about a gender issue now, that too much of phase three goes towards women. Now Tanya Plibersek also mentioned the tampon tax, the fact that there is GST on tampons. Have you looked into adopting Labor’s plan to remove that? They said they would place the GST instead on natural therapies to pay for it. Is that something you are canvassing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In relation to the GST, that is a matter that was raised with the States. The States did not agree with it. The GST is a tax that 100 per cent goes to the States. The gender argument that Labor is trying to run in relation to our income tax relief package is just ridiculous. It is twisted logic. The logical conclusion of Labor’s twisted logic is that somehow our income tax system today discriminates against men because men pay more tax than women. That is wrong as well. Our tax system is gender neutral. It treats everyone, men or women, precisely the same based on the income they earn and their overall circumstances. For Labor to try and make this somehow a gender issue is just ridiculous.
TOM CONNELL: But just on that part of it, in terms of tampons and the GST. The States obviously rejected it because it is about money, it raises $30 million a year. Labor’s alternative was to put it on natural therapies. Is that something you have looked into? You can go to the States and make this same or a similar proposal.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor is proposing to increase the tax burden in the economy by $300 billion, which would hurt the economy, hurt families and cost jobs. We are not proposing to adopt Labor’s higher taxing agenda. In relation to …interrupted
TOM CONNELL: I am not saying the whole thing, but on the tampon tax specifically because this was something raised in April.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I know that you want to slice it up. I have answered the question. We have put that proposition to the States. The States rejected it. If the States want to revisit that issue that is going to be a matter for them.
TOM CONNELL: But you put it to them without an alternative means of raising the funds, Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor has a plan to increase the tax burden on the economy by $300 billion and more, which would lead to less investment, lower growth, fewer jobs and lower wages. Our plan is there for all to see. We want to provide income tax relief to hard working Australians. We want to ensure that businesses in Australia are not disadvantaged with businesses in other parts of the world because we understand that if we have a higher tax burden on businesses in Australia than in other parts of the world, then we are putting workers in Australia at a disadvantage. In relation to the GST, the arrangements are as they are. We are not proposing any change.
TOM CONNELL: You are not proposing one? So you are not looking into for example whether it would be more fair to place the GST on natural therapies rather than tampons?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You can promote Labor’s policy if you like. We are not adopting Labor’s policy…interrupted
TOM CONNELL: No, I was just asking the question, Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have answered the question. You can go around and around in circles. I have answered the question.
TOM CONNELL: Okay we will take that as a no. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann always good to have your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.