Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Company tax cuts next fortnight, if the Senate moves to vote against the proposals by the end of next week, is it done and dusted?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are focused on securing the passage of what is very important reform for working families around Australia. The truth is that if we continue to put businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world, we are putting workers here in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world. If we put bigger businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with bigger businesses in other parts of the world we make it harder for bigger businesses here to procure goods and services from small and medium sized businesses here. We are helping big businesses in other parts of the world to buy products and services from small and medium sized businesses in other parts of the world. It is very important for our economy, it is very important for jobs, it is very important for the future prosperity of Australian families that this reform passes the Senate this fortnight.
QUESTION: The half a billion dollar Great Barrier Reef fund initiative that the Government spoke at length about earlier this year, how many times has a government given such a vast sum of money to a single private enterprise in a single day.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a very important grant as an investment into the future health of the Great Barrier Reef, which was passed through the Parliament with bipartisan support. The Labor party voted in favour of it. The only Member of Parliament, as far as I am aware, that raised any questions in relation to it was Senator David Leyonhjelm. The Labor party did not. The Labor party supported it. This is a very credible organisation, which will fulfil a very important role in ensuring the future health of a national asset.
QUESTION: Can you recall an amount this large being given to an enterprise like that in a single day?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will have to take that on notice.
QUESTION: Senator, if you don’t pass your company tax cuts for big business this week or the next, will you take it to the next election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, we are very committed to this reform. This is an incredibly important reform for the future prosperity of working families around Australia. We are totally focused on passing this, this fortnight. We believe that we have a responsibility to working families around Australia to secure the passage of this reform.
QUESTION: Do you think you can pass it this fortnight?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is certainly what we are working on.
QUESTION: Do you agree that the super Saturday by-elections were a vote on the company tax cuts?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not something that I have ever suggested. The super Saturday by elections were by-elections in Labor held seats and one independent held seat. None of these seats were our seats. In about one hundred years of by-elections no government has ever won a seat from an opposition at a by-election. Invariably there are strong swings against the government of the day at a by-election, which is not necessarily replicated at a subsequent general election. In fact, if you look at what has been happening in the great state of Western Australia, we had a by-election in the great state of Western Australia on the 23rd of June and the swing against the government there, which had only been in government for fifteen months, was 9.4 per cent. The swing that Bill Shorten was able to secure in Longman and Braddon was very small compared to the historical average or compared to what was achieved by the Liberal party in Western Australia.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate the same problems with the crossbench as there was before?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We engage with the Senate crossbench courteously and with respect. We seek to find areas of common ground to ensure that we can continue to pass important economic reform for our future economic prosperity and success.
QUESTION: And if you don’t Senator?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are focused on securing the passage of very important economic reform.
QUESTION: Will you bring forward tax cuts for smaller businesses if you can’t pass these tax cuts in the next fortnight?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have a proposal in front of the Parliament which in our judgement is necessary to protect our economic security moving forward. It is necessary to protect jobs, to protect future wage increases here in Australia. If we continue to put bigger businesses here in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with bigger businesses in other parts of the world, if we continue to insist on higher taxes here, such that bigger businesses here will be weaker compared to bigger businesses in other parts of the world where they pay less tax, that is bad for their employees, but it is also bad for the many small and medium sized businesses who provide goods and services to them. Weaker bigger businesses means a weaker economy, means less opportunity for small and medium sized businesses here, means better opportunity for small and medium sized businesses in other parts of the world, means better opportunity for workers in other parts of the world. We are very focussed on passing what is very important economic reform through the Senate this fortnight.
QUESTION: Backbenchers with the NEG want, some Coalition backbenchers want a plan B. Is there a plan B that the Government is willing to consider as part of lowering prices for the NEG to get it through the party room?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The National Energy Guarantee is all about lowering electricity prices and improving reliability. The Government has also commissioned the review by the ACCC which made a whole series of recommendations. The Government is accelerating our consideration of some key recommendations, including and in particular, the Treasurer and the Environment Minister have written to the Prime Minister with a proposal to develop options to underwrite certain power generation moving forward, in an effort to further assist in lowering electricity prices. That is something that will be considered in the next little while.
QUESTION: The latest Newspoll shows that the Prime Minister’s popularity is dropping. Does he still have the support of the party room?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Of course he does. What the Newspoll shows is again the Prime Minister is far more popular than the alternative. Far more popular than Mr Shorten.