Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our Government’s economic agenda is to deliver stronger growth and more jobs, so that families around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead.
Over the next fortnight, the Senate will have the opportunity to vote in support of the next instalment of our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and better opportunities for Australian families to get ahead.
The Senate will have the opportunity to vote for income tax relief for hard working Australians.
The Senate will also have the opportunity to vote to protect investment and jobs here in Australia. To protect investment and jobs in Australia, we need to ensure that our business tax rate is globally competitive, because to keep our business taxes in Australia high, when countries around the world are lowering theirs, helps business overseas take jobs and investment away from Australia. That is clearly not the right way forward.
Our commitment is to continue to deliver on our plan, which will deliver stronger growth and more jobs for families around Australia.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Senator, what are your thoughts on Brian Burston leaving One Nation and when did you hear about it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has done a lot of good work with Senator Hanson and her team to find what we felt was a very good way forward, to ensure that businesses around Australia were not disadvantaged compared to businesses in other parts of the world, to ensure that workers in Australia were not disadvantaged with workers in other parts of the world. We had done a lot of work, with Senator Hanson personally who had invested a lot of effort into the policy work required to ensure we could find a compromise. Our preference as a Government always was that all three One Nation Senators would continue to support what we believe was a good consensus, a good basis and a good way forward. In the end, the internal matters of other parties are a matter for them. It has been very public. We appreciate the fact that Senator Burston has decided and has publicly announced that he will continue to support the Government’s plan to ensure that Australian businesses have a globally more competitive business tax rate. But our preference very much would be for all One Nation Senators to continue to stick to the agreement that we reached on the way forward.
QUESTION: Has there been any discussion about him joining the Liberal party?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not that I am aware.
QUESTION: And with this news, does it make your job as chief negotiator easier or harder?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The situation is as it was. The Government has thirty-one Senators and we need thirty-nine in order to pass legislation through the Senate. That means that given Labor and the Greens are opposed to business tax cuts, given that Labor and the Greens have decided to help businesses in other parts of the world take investment and jobs away from Australia, we need to engage with the Senate crossbench. We need to be able to persuade eight out of ten Senate crossbenchers to support our economic agenda. Our very basic proposition is that anyone who cares about the opportunity for Australian families to get ahead has to vote in support of our business tax cuts for all businesses in Australia in full. If we keep business taxes high in Australia, what we are doing is we are helping businesses around the world to take investment and jobs away from Australia. Putting businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world, putting businesses in Australia deliberately at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world puts workers in Australia at a competitive disadvantage. That is why we are so committed to get this legislation passed. That is why we are so committed to ensure that the businesses around Australia who employ nine out of ten working Australians have the best possible opportunity to continue to compete successfully into the future.
QUESTION: Now that One Nation only has two Senators left, does this reduce its significance and its importance in Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator. There are ten Senate crossbenchers. We will continue to engage with all of those ten non-Government crossbench Senators with courtesy and respect. The Government went to the last election with an agenda for jobs and growth. Our economic agenda is focused on delivering stronger growth and more jobs. It is clear that our agenda has been successful so far, but there is much more work to be done. The next instalment of our plan for a stronger economy and more jobs is coming before the Senate over the next sitting fortnight. All Senators will have the opportunity to vote in favour of income tax relief for hardworking Australian families. But they also will have the opportunity to protect investment and jobs here in Australia by voting in favour of a globally more competitive business tax rate here in Australia. We call on all Senators who are currently undecided or who have decided to vote against our plan for a lower business tax rate to very seriously consider our national interest. Australia is an open trading economy. We compete for capital investment, we compete in markets around the world, with businesses from other parts of the world. If we put our businesses here in Australia deliberately at an ongoing competitive disadvantage by imposing higher taxes here than are faced by their competitors in other parts of the world, we are making it harder for business in Australia to be successful. Making it harder for business to be successful here in Australia means fewer jobs, which over time would mean lower wages.
QUESTION: And how do you think negotiations with Senator Burston now that he is an independent will go?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Senator Burston has publicly indicated that he will continue to support the company tax cuts in full as per the agreement reached with the One Nation party. From our point of view, we would like all One Nation Senators to do as Senator Burston has indicated he intends to do. We believe it is very much in our national interest. We believe it is very much in the interest of working families around Australia to ensure that the businesses that employ them, the businesses that create the jobs and that pay the wages of nine out of ten working Australians can be globally competitive. If we keep taxes on business in Australia high, we put workers in Australia at a disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world. That is why we are so committed to press ahead.
QUESTION: Onto another topic on English language tests. As a migrant yourself do you think that anyone seeking permanent residency should be required to sit this test?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Self-evidently it is very important for anyone who wants to make Australia their permanent home to have adequate English language skills. Australia is an English speaking country. We want all migrants who come to Australia and who decide to make Australia their permanent home to have the best possible opportunity to lead a successful life. A very important part of that is to ensure that you have adequate and appropriate English language skills. This is Minister Tudge’s area of responsibility. He is making some announcements in relation to some proposals he has. No doubt there will be a level of further consultation and policy work done before the final specific detail is finalised. But the basic proposition that anyone who wants to permanently settle in Australia should have adequate English language skills, I would have thought is common sense.
QUESTION: What does sitting an English language test actually achieve for migrants?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to steal Alan Tudge’s thunder. He is about to give a speech where he is going to go through all of these things in great detail. You have asked me a question as to what my thoughts are about the topic in general. I have answered that question. Australia is an English speaking country. We are a very successful multicultural society. We are a country where migrants from all corners of the world have come and have contributed to our success as a country. Moving forward it is important to ensure that migrants who are from non-English speaking backgrounds, who come to Australia, have the best possible opportunity to be successful in Australia. If you want to make Australia your permanent home, it should not surprise anyone that there would be an expectation that you will make an effort to have adequate English language skills.
QUESTION: Onto university funding, Edith Cowan University in your home State of WA is one of the hardest hit by these funding cuts with I think ten per cent less funding then business as usual. How does this profit students there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that that is some selective quoting of the stats. Funding for universities around Australia, including for Edith Cowan University has strongly increased in recent years on the back of strong increases in the student population. The revenue that has been generated by universities around Australia has increased much faster than the cost of providing their services. Across the board, across the economy, across the community we need to ensure that we can live within our means. There is not an unlimited pool of resources that we can draw on. So we have to ensure that money is spent wisely, as efficiently and as effectively as possible and every part of the Australian community has to make an effort as part of that process.
QUESTION: And how will these cuts affect not just students …interrupted
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not accept the premise of your question. Funding for universities is at record highs. Funding for universities has continued to increase. What we are making sure is that funding for universities is put on a sustainable and affordable trajectory for the future, which is our responsibility as a Government.