Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Mathias Cormann is the Finance Minister. Welcome back to RN Drive.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be back.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: LNP MP Luke Howarth says the result in Longman is evidence of the lack of support for the Government’s company tax cuts. Do you accept that this policy is not resonating with many voters?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well it is a very important policy for the future…interrupted
PATRICIA KAVELAS: That was not the question. Do you accept that it is not resonating?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is very important for the future opportunity and prosperity for families right around Australia. If we want to ensure that families around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead, then we need to ensure that the businesses that employ nine out of ten working Australians have the best possible opportunity to be viable, to be competitive, to be profitable into the future.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Luke Howarth says you should try and get the tax cuts through the Senate one more time and if they do not pass, you should abandon the policy because of the response from the public. Will you consider that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Luke Howarth is an outstanding local Member of Parliament. I have a very high regard for Luke Howarth and we will be putting our business tax cuts to the Senate when the Senate returns in August…interrupted
PATRICIA KAVELAS: You will guarantee that you will put it to a vote, Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will be putting the business tax cuts to a vote when we get back to Parliament in August…interrupted
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Even if you cannot secure the numbers, you will let the Senate vote on it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working on securing the numbers, we are working to secure the necessary support. But yes, look we have worked on this for some time. It is as I have said earlier today now time for the Senate to pass final judgement in relation to this reform. Let me just say, working families right around Australia need their Senate to support a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate and that is because nine out of ten working Australians depend on the future viability, the future competitiveness and the future profitability of businesses around Australia. Their job security, their job opportunities, their career prospects, their wage increases depend on…interrupted
PATRICIA KAVELAS: But voters are not buying that argument. Mathias Cormann, you have been making it for so long, yet voters just are not buying it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The thing is, I do not think that we can pass judgements based on by-elections in Opposition-held seats, which had a comparatively small swing against the Government, when that is entirely in line with what happened in the last 100 years. Clearly voters were not asked to pass judgement on who they want to look after the economy, who they want to run the Government or run the economy, they made judgements in relation to local issues in local electorates without there being any consequence on who the Government would be or what economic policy would be pursued moving forward.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Are you prepared to consider changes to the policy, because I have been tweeting with Derryn Hinch very publicly today and he says it is time for the Government to reconsider his proposal for a $500 million cap on the business tax cut for turnover. Are you prepared to look at his proposal now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I talk to all Senators on the crossbench. As I have explained publicly and privately very clearly, it would be bad for the economy if we put an artificial cap on business growth, if we provided an incentive for businesses to stay smaller. That is actually what Bill Shorten used to say as the Assistant Treasurer, that it was bad policy to put a cap on the turnover at which the business tax rate would go higher. In fact Bill Shorten warned that putting in place such a cap would in the worst case scenario encourage businesses to lay off workers, which would be very bad, which is a real risk with such a policy. In any event, in the end, we need to find a consensus way forward that secures the support of 39 Senators, not just one additional Senator. That does not get us to a majority in the Senate and that is also something that is always very important to keep in mind.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: If you look at the drop in support for the Coalition alongside the One Nation result, it looks like they took votes off you. Does the Government need to start taking One Nation on more directly?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are competitors, we compete with all other parties. We have just had an election on the weekend and the appropriate processes now will assess how we have performed and how we can improve our performance into the future. That is going to be part of the assessment that will be happening over the next few days and weeks.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Winning marginal seats in Queensland is a crucial part of winning a Federal Election, of course. I mean, it is certainly the State to look at, at every Federal Election. Labor clearly had a very effective ground operation. Does the LNP have a problem on the ground?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to reflect on organisational matters in Queensland. I am not really qualified to make those assessments. What I would say, again, these are the sorts of things that I would expect to be reviewed and assessed as we consider our performance this past weekend. Let me just say again, the outcome this past weekend was always the most likely outcome when you look at those by-elections in a historical context. In 1920 when a Government did win a seat from an Opposition, it was in circumstances where the Parliament had expelled the sitting MP for treason and that MP decided to recontest the seat. So these were very extreme circumstances. The usual experience, in between elections at by-elections is that there is a swing against the Government of the day. That swing on average is larger than what was the case either in Braddon or Longman. In fact in Braddon there is hardly any swing against the Government at all.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: If you are just tuning into RN Drive, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is my guest. The AFP are understood to be referring an investigation into raids on the Australian Workers Union offices last October to the Commonwealth prosecutors. These were raids the media was tipped off about by the office of then Industrial Relations Minister, Michaelia Cash. What do you make of this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are entirely matters for the AFP. The AFP is an independent law enforcement organisation. As I understand it there is no suggestion of any referral in relation to Senator Cash because she was not involved in this in anyway. These are matters for the AFP to deal with…interrupted
PATRICIA KAVELAS: But it is, it is her office. Surely, you consider this a serious issue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a matter of public record that there have been issues in the public domain for some time in relation to this. It is entirely a matter for the AFP to comment on as they see fit. They are independent and that is appropriate.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Just a final question. Tony Abbott has spoken today about his views on how to win voters. He has said that there is no votes in the business tax cuts and you need to cut immigration and also back away from Paris if you want to win votes. Are you prepared to embrace his policy approach?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our economic mission is to deliver stronger growth and more jobs to help ensure that families around Australia have the best possibly opportunity to get ahead. Making sure that our businesses here in Australia are not put at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world is a very important part of this. This used to be a bi-partisan consensus…interrupted
PATRICIA KAVELAS: I asked you a question about cutting immigration, that is one of the policy solutions offered by the previous Prime Minister. Is it worth pursuing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are not proposing to cut immigration, Our policy on immigration is there for all to see. We are enforcing the integrity of our borders strongly. We have a very strong border protection framework, we have a very strong framework when it comes to ensuring that we attract the right people to Australia, with the right skills and the right capacity to contribute to our future success. But beyond that, these are matters really best addressed to Minister Dutton.
PATRICIA KAVELAS: Mathias Cormann, thank you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.