Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Ahead of Parliament resuming tomorrow, senior Liberal Minister Christopher Pyne has unloaded on the state of Australian politics and also declared his colleague, the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, is electorally unpopular outside of his home state of Queensland. Lots to talk about, let's go straight to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who joins us now from our Parliament House studio. Minister, good morning to you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: We will get to Christopher Pyne's comments in a moment, but is compromise in the air this morning on the medical evacuation of asylum seekers Bill?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus this week will continue to be on protecting Australia's borders as we have done for the last five and a half years. When we came into Government, we inherited a complete mess at our borders from the Labor Party. Bill Shorten is obviously intent on weakening our border protection framework again. Only now has he actually sought some security advice. He was prepared before Christmas to push this legislation through, which clearly would weaken our border protection policies, which would again put the people smugglers back into business. It is quite reckless and irresponsible for somebody who wants to be Prime Minister of Australia.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: How would a Bill, we are talking about the potential compromise here , that gives doctors a say in deciding what asylum seekers come to Australia, but the Minister, the final say, the final right of veto. How will that affect Australia's border security policies?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is just not right. It will not give doctors ‘a’ say. The Bill that is before the Parliament will give doctors ‘the’ say and would only give the elected Government of the day power in limited circumstances to put in a veto, as you call it. The truth is, the elected Government of Australia, on behalf of the Australian people, should determine who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come as part of a commitment to protect the integrity of our borders. That is why we have successfully been able to stop the boats. That is why we have been able to successfully protect our borders. Bill Shorten wants to take us back to where we were. Any two doctors, Dr Bob Brown, former Greens Senator, Dr Richard Di Natale, currently the Greens leader, would be given the power under the Bill supported by Bill Shorten to determine who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come. That is not what the Australian people want. But that is what Bill Shorten is preparing to do as part of a political game that is putting our national security and our border security at risk.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Did the Liberal Party bow to irrational pressure from shouty commentators in disposing of Malcolm Turnbull in August last year, as Christopher Pyne declares this morning?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Look, everything that can possibly be said about the events of last year has been said…interrupted
MICHAEL ROWLAND: But apparently there is more to be said, care of Christopher Pyne. How helpful is that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the commentary on commentary to you. As far as I am concerned…interrupted
MICHAEL ROWLAND: It was Christopher Pyne's commentary Minister. Excuse the interruption, I am just quoting directly what he has told David Wroe and the Nine papers?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Sure and I am focused this week, as I am every week on doing my bit to help make Australia stronger, to make our economy stronger, to repair the Budget, to ensure we can sustainably fund all of the important Government services Australians rely on, so we can continue to list additional medicines, giving affordable access to high quality medicines to Australians, that we can continue to put additional investment into aged-care, that we can continue to invest in our national security. I will leave the commentary on commentary to you.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: But how helpful is it? One of your colleagues, the Leader of the House no less, buying in today on what happened back in August? People are still talking about it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Whatever way you ask me the same question over and over, I will leave the commentary to you and I will focus on my job, which is to do my bit to help make Australia stronger, to ensure that Australian families have the best possible opportunity to get ahead and that is what I am focusing on this week here in the Parliament, as I do every week.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Do you regret turning your back on Malcolm Turnbull?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have already indicated, these are events last year that I have extensively commented on last year. I am focused on my job.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Why won't the Government extend sitting days of Parliament to address the banking Royal Commission recommendations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is just another Labor stunt. The Labor Party has not even provided their formal response yet to the Royal Commission recommendations. We have. We are taking action on all 76 recommendations. We are even doing more than what was recommended in the Royal Commission recommendations. For example, we are providing immediate compensation payments to about 300 victims that had previous determinations made under the relevant financial ombudsman service and predecessor organisations to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. We are pursuing a whole series of reforms, but there is absolutely no sense in rushing legislation into Parliament that is not properly worked through, that has not gone through all of the proper processes. The Labor Party knows this. This is just another bit of political brinkmanship.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are you absolutely sure that you are reading the public mood on this, Mathias Cormann?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are taking action. This week, indeed, this fortnight in the Parliament, we have a whole series of Bills in the Parliament that are dealing directly with recommendations made by the Banking Royal Commission…interrupted
MICHAEL ROWLAND: OK, which one? Which recommendations will be legislated in the next fortnight?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am happy to send you a list of all of the Treasury Bills, including in the superannuation space that we are dealing with…interrupted
MICHAEL ROWLAND: No, I am asking about the Royal Commission. You obviously know, as part of the Government's leadership team, you just said. What recommendations will be legislated in the next fortnight?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, there are 76 recommendations, I am quite happy to provide you the list of all of the recommendations and the response that we have made to them and I am also happy to provide you with the list of the legislation we are putting through the Parliament this week, including the legislation to abolish exit fees on superannuation accounts and indeed to facilitate consolidation of superannuation accounts, so that Australians saving for their retirement get a better deal, including the information about the review that we have put in place in relation to the capability review, in relation to APRA and various other measures that are already underway. In any event, this breathless political rhetoric by Labor that somehow we should put more sitting weeks in place in order to deal with legislation that is yet to be prepared, just does not make sense. It is just part of a political game by the Labor Party.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: OK, and does it concern you that in today's Newspoll, which still has the Coalition well behind the Labor Party, asking a separate question of voters on Labor's negative gearing changes and a survey showing 51 per cent of people actually support, support what the Labor Party is planning to do in winding back negative gearing concessions?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, again, the election is a bit over three months away. There are a lot of conversations yet to be had with the Australian people. Higher Labor taxes will harm investment, will lower growth, will lead to fewer jobs, higher unemployment and lower wages. In terms of the housing tax, there is no question that Labor's housing tax will drive down the value of property at a time when the property market is already softening and will push up the cost of rents. Both of these things are not in the public interest. They are not in the interest of families around Australia and we will continue to make that case and I think you will find that more and more Australians understand what the negative implications are for them of Labor's higher taxes on housing.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: We will see what happens in the election whenever it is on. By the way, is the Government considering going into late May, the end of May for the election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, the specific date of the election has obviously not been set yet. That is a matter for the Prime Minister. But it has been a matter of record for some time that the election will be sometime in May and I will leave it to the Prime Minister to announce the specific date.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: So May 25 Is an option?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to speculate. It will be entirely a matter for the Prime Minister to announce that in due course.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mathias Cormann in Canberra, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.