Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
TOM CONNELL: Well, more talk of citizenship and tests today, not more talk about the English language test, but an Australian values test that is being put forward by the Minister, Alan Tudge. He mentioned it overnight in a speech in London. Joining me now for reaction on that and a few other issues, Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister. Minister, thanks very much for your time today.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
TOM CONNELL: You of course came to the country in the mid 90’s from Belgium, would you have passed a values test back then or is this something you can more pick up after you come to Australia?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The fundamental point is that we want to continue to attract the right people to come to Australia. We want to attract the best and the brightest people with the skills where they can contribute to help make Australia an even greater place and of course we want people who come here with the right attitude and a commitment to shared values is an important part of that. We are an incredibly successful migrant nation. People from all corners of the world have come to Australia, have chosen to make Australia their home and have made a magnificent contribution over many, many years. We want that to continue into the future and we have to make sure that we keep thinking about how we can best structure our immigration program to ensure we attract the right people with the right skills, the right attitude and indeed a commitment to our shared values.
TOM CONNELL: Malcolm Turnbull often mentions we are the most successful multicultural nation in the world. I think we have all heard him say that. Alan Tudge seems to be saying we are heading in the wrong direction possibly though.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a matter of preserving what we have got. There is no doubt that we are one of, if not the most successful multicultural society in the world. We do have an incredibly diverse community, which lives harmoniously and with a common purpose here in the greatest country on earth. It is a matter of preserving what makes us strong, in the 21st century, making judgements on how we can continue to be an incredibly cohesive, multicultural country that is focused on being the best country we possibly can be.
TOM CONNELL: Let us get into your portfolio and the company tax cut. Reports this week that there was a possibility if you still get frustrated in the Senate, maybe you look at bringing forward the further reduction from 27.5 per cent down to 25 per cent for smaller businesses if you cannot get the big end of this cut. Is that on the table?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No that is not right. I saw that story. The Government is fully committed to the passage of our ten year plan to ensure a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate for all businesses across Australia. It is incredibly important for our future economic security, for our future economic prosperity, for the future opportunity for Australians to get ahead, that we are successful. Nine out of ten jobs are in a private sector business. The job security, job opportunities, career prospects and future wage increases of nine out of ten working Australians depend on the future viability, competitiveness and profitability of businesses right around Australia. Right now, by keeping taxes high here in Australia by international standards, we are helping businesses and workers in other parts of the world compete against us. That is just crazy. Anyone who cares about the future success and the future opportunity for families around Australia to get ahead will vote in favour of a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate here in Australia.
TOM CONNELL: So still sticking with the plan as is. On the negotiations, the understanding appears to be from a few reports that you have just about got Centre Alliance over the line and it is One Nation that is going to take the most work from here.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not provide a running commentary on where our discussions with crossbench Senators are at. The Government’s position is very clear, it is very, very important that we have a globally more competitive business tax rate, that we do not put workers in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world by forcing businesses here to pay significantly more tax than businesses in other parts of the world. I let others explain their position. The Government’s position is clear. Everybody knows that we need to secure the support of 39 out of the 76 Senators in order to secure the passage of this legislation.
TOM CONNELL: One of the big things they are talking about, both Centre Alliance and Pauline Hanon’s One Nation, is about this being affordable and the talk about that is, it would be more affordable if the PRRT was to raise more money, in particular from gas. Just on that, as a principle, is there any chance that changes to that could be retrospective?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are getting way ahead of yourself. Firstly, the ten year enterprise tax plan, our proposal to deliver a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate for all businesses in Australia is affordable. It is fully accounted for in our Budget bottom line and our Budget is projected to…interrupted
TOM CONNELL: I do understand that Minister, this is a push not coming from me so much, but it is what the crossbench is saying. So I am just asking, I understand what you are saying, it is in there, it is affordable, it is in the Budget, fine. Just on the PRRT, is there any chance changes made to that would be retrospective.
MATHIAS CORMANN: But hang on, your basic premise is false. The basic premise of your question was that there was somehow an issue of affordability in relation to our Budget…interrupted
TOM CONNELL: Okay, so let us make it a stand-alone on the PRRT then.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no proposal right now to make changes to the PRRT. So you are asking a hypothetical question in relation to something that is not on the table. I do not quite understand your question there.
TOM CONNELL: So we will not see changes to the PRRT at all then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no proposal that has been announced by the Government to make changes to the PRRT. You are asking a hypothetical question in relation to something that is not currently on the table.
TOM CONNELL: Well, I am asking about something that has been reported on a lot. It appears every chance that there will be changes to it and I am asking whether the principle of it being retrospective, if that is open? That would obviously raise a lot more money.
MATHIAS CORMANN: A good principle in tax policy is that tax policy change should not be retrospective. It is a matter of public record that the Government has conducted a review into the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax arrangements. That is something that has been in front of the Government. The Government is considering the best way forward and when we have made a decision in relation to these matters we will make the relevant announcements. But as a matter of policy principle, it is an important principle that tax policy changes should be prospective and not retrospective.
TOM CONNELL: Okay. Just finally, on this story today on the front page of the Daily Telegraph. There is going to be a union push to make Labor try to change its policy on boat turn backs. Now, we have seen this play out before. The union position is not really anything new and Bill Shorten won the day last time. Your Government often talks about sending a message to asylum seekers. Wouldn’t the best message to be sent be that this union push from Bill Shorten will likely be resisted again and it should be?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor Party is deeply divided when it comes to border protection. They made all of the promises in the world of being committed to strong border protection in the lead up to the 2007 election. But Labor, as soon as they were in Government, went weak at the knees, put the people smugglers back into business. That is what Bill Shorten would do if he was elected into Government. He would go weak at the knees, the same as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard went weak at the knees. Labor last in Government, created chaos at our borders. Thousands and thousands of illegal boat arrivals, people arriving here illegally by boat, more than a thousand people died at sea. We cannot afford to put our national security, our border security, back into the hands of the Labor Party, which remains deeply divided when it comes to border protection policies.
TOM CONNELL: Bill Shorten though, did carry the day last time at the National Conference. I am just curious because as a senior politician such as yourself, if you are over there as a people smuggler, you get a message that Mathias Cormann says “Bill Shorten will roll over on this”. Wouldn’t it be better to say “he better not roll over on it”, rather than give a message that, “yes, definitely start up the boats again if Labor get into power”?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is very important that we remain in Government to consolidate the strong border protection policies that we have put back into place in 2013. Bill Shorten, it is a matter of public record, presides over a deeply divided Party when it comes to border protection. It is not just the union movement, it is a whole long list of Labor Members and Senators who are on the public record, again and again, calling for weaker border protection measures, including Labor’s most recently elected Federal Member of Parliament in the seat of Batman. There is one Labor Member and Senator after the other that is backing this call by the unions for Labor in Government to go weak at the knees on border protection. What we say to the Australian people, “ if you, like us, care about strong border protection, if you do not want to see the people smugglers get back into business, continue to support your Liberal and National Party Members and Senators in your electorate”.
TOM CONNELL: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, thanks for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.