Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister you are looking very well rested for someone who has been talking to a lot of crossbench Senators. How are you feeling this morning now that the income tax reforms have passed the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yesterday was a great day for working families around Australia. The Senate and indeed the Parliament as a whole voted to support income tax relief for all hard working Australians, prioritising low and middle-income earners in the first instance, but also making sure that we address bracket creep, so that Australians do not go backwards as a result of inflation or additional work effort.
QUESTION: How hard were these negations? Pauline Hanson rather curiously said that she gave nothing away in return for her vote. We saw you on the phone up in the back of the Chamber talking to the crossbenchers, as though it might come down to the last moment in the chamber. How hard was it to get their support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are very grateful and families around Australia today are very grateful to those crossbenchers who decided to support income tax relief for all hardworking families. When legislation goes through the Senate at various times, there are procedural issues to be dealt with and there is a lot of communication on the floor of the Chamber, in particular when you have the Labor Party and the Greens, who were desperate to stop families from getting income tax relief yesterday. There was a lot of work to be done to ensure that Labor and the Greens were not successful in resisting the views of a majority of people in the Senate.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister also seems very grateful for your work. He has described you this morning as a pillar of the Government and one of the most intelligent people you will ever meet.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well that is very generous of the Prime Minister. That is very nice.
QUESTION: Is he expecting miracles from you in terms of the company tax cuts? Pauline Hanson did not seem very keen yesterday. How confident are you that you will be able to deliver those reforms for the Prime Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is about delivering reforms for working families around Australian. Nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. Their future job security, their future career prospects, their future wage increases, indeed the opportunity for young Australians to get jobs into the future depend on the future success and profitability of the businesses that employ them and pay their wages. If we continue to put businesses in Australia at a significant competitive disadvantage to businesses in other parts of the world, who pay less tax, then we are putting workers here in Australia at a competitive disadvantage. Keeping taxes in Australia high, when taxes on business in other parts of the world are significantly lower, puts business in Australia at a competitive disadvantage, it puts the people that work for them at a competitive disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world. That is something that we need to fix.
QUESTION: The PM says this will go to a vote next week. Is that the plan?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is indeed the plan.
QUESTION: And what happens if it fails?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working to succeed because working families around Australia need their Senate to support a lower tax rate for all businesses here in Australia. If we keep the tax rate for businesses here in Australia high, when countries around the world have substantially lowered business tax rates for their businesses, what we are doing is we are helping business in other parts of the world take investment and jobs away from Australia. Anyone who wants to protect jobs, who wants to protect wage increases for Australian workers will vote in favour of a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate.
QUESTION: What kind of incentive are you willing to give to the crossbench? How much are you willing to pay to get these reforms through?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to work with the crossbench to persuade them of the merit of our arguments and of the strong imperative for working families around Australia that we have a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate here in Australia. Higher taxes on business in Australia mean higher taxes on jobs in Australia than in other parts of the world. If we keep taxes on business in Australia high, we will be sending investment and jobs overseas. Bill Shorten, in standing in the way of a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate here in Australia is helping businesses overseas, including big business overseas take investment and jobs away from Australia and he should stand condemned for that. We will continue to make that argument. We will continue to engage with the crossbench, trying to find a consensus to advance the public interest. That is what we always do and that is what we will do on this occasion.
QUESTION: How many more votes do you need?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, it is a matter of public record that the Government has 31 Liberal National Party Senators in the Senate. We need 39 to pass legislation. We need to persuade eight non-Government Senators to support that very important reform, given Labor and the Greens have decided to oppose it.
QUESTION: So you have not got any of those crossbenchers to have formally given you their support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to publicly speak on behalf of others. I can only publicly speak on behalf of the team in the Senate that I lead. I will let others speak for themselves.
QUESTION: If you cannot get enough support, can you guarantee that you will take those company tax cuts to the next election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have been absolutely unequivocal about this. This is incredibly important economic reform for working families around Australia. Yes, we would be taking these business tax cuts to the next election. It is actually critically important that we legislate them now to give certainty to business around Australia looking to invest, about what the tax policy settings are going to be in the future. We need to give them certainty now so that we can boost investment now, so that we can create more jobs now, which would drive wages higher. That is what we need to do. Let me just make this point, a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate here in Australia is even more important now than when we took it to the last election in 2016. Since we took those business tax cuts to the last election, the United States has moved to lower their business tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent. Even France has legislated to reduce their business tax rate from 33 per cent to 25 per cent. Countries around the world have lowered their business tax rate to protect businesses and jobs in their countries. The only person that does not seem to understand that you need a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate to protect jobs and to help drive stronger wages growth seems to be Bill Shorten. The President of France is hardly a right wing ideologue. He was the Minister for the Economy and Industry in the socialist administration of President François Hollande before being elected as President himself. He is a centre left leader of France and he understands that in order to protect businesses and jobs in France, that he needs to ensure that the business tax rate in France is globally competitive. Bill Shorten knows that a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate for Australia is in our national interest, is in the interest of working families around Australia. He has not made a decision to oppose it because he thinks it is the wrong thing to do. He has made a decision to oppose it because he thinks the politics will work for him. He has decided to run on a politics of envy, anti-business, anti-opportunity, anti-aspiration agenda. If he was successful in having that implemented through the Parliament, all Australians would be worse off as a result.