Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 24 May 2019
KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go live to Perth, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins us. Finance Minister thanks very much for your time. Let’s start with this comment by Anthony Albanese this morning. Are you encouraged by that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor should back our plan to provide income tax relief to all hardworking families around Australia. The Australian people endorsed that plan. Far be it from me to give advice to Anthony Albanese as leader of the Labor party, but Bill Shorten’s class warfare approach failed. It was rejected by the Australian people. He would do well to move on from it and to embrace a plan which will make our economy stronger, which would provide the right incentive for all Australians to get ahead and which maintains the progressivity of our tax system because the top twenty per cent of income earners across Australia will continue to pay sixty per cent of all income tax paid in Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: Would you consider splitting the bill to allow the package through the part that they support and then negotiate on the latter parts. I mean you have got three years. There is no great rush is there? They are willing to back the plan you’ve got for this particular term.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Kieran, this is like groundhog day. This is precisely the conversation we had in the lead up to passing our whole income tax relief plan in 2018, where people were running the same arguments that somehow we should split the bill. No, we will not split the bill. It is a holistic plan. It is a plan to provide income tax relief to all working Australians. It prioritises low and middle income earners in the first instance, but it also addresses bracket creep and it simplifies our tax system. It is a central part of our plan for a stronger economy, to ensure that families around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. It cannot be taken apart. It cannot be dealt with in bits and pieces. It will be put to the Parliament as a whole. We will resist splitting it. We will have a majority in the House of Representatives. The Government will not agree to split this long term plan for income tax relief. The Australian people voted on it. The Australian people rejected the class warfare approach that was prosecuted by Bill Shorten. Anthony Albanese and the Labor party should now support what was clearly endorsed by the Australian people.
KIERAN GILBERT: As you said it has been endorsed and there is a majority in the House of Reps. One week on are you, as you reflect on that, obviously many commentators, journalists, the polls, pundits, myself included thought Labor would win. You won a majority. Were you surprised and secondly, are you happy to stay on in Finance, because you are the only member of Cabinet that has been in the same position since the Coalition won in 2013. In fact you are the only member of the Expenditure Review Committee that has been there for that entire time as well. Do you want to continue to be the person that hasn’t moved. To stay where you are?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, it is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister to determine where he believes I can best contribute. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve as the Minister for Finance. I have given it my absolute best. If that is what the Prime Minister asks me to continue to do then I would be absolutely excited to keep doing it. But it is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister.
KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah and what about the nature of the win? Was that a bit of a surprise to you the fact that you have got a clear majority now and I don’t think very few people predicted that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We were always quietly confident that once the Australian people had to make a choice between two options as to who they would trust with running the economy, who they would trust with running the country, that they would favour the team and the plan promising stronger growth, more jobs and good budget management to ensure that all of the essential services that Australians rely on are sustainably funded for the long term. Compared to the alternative, the high taxing, class warfare agenda that would have made our economy weaker, would have made our country weaker and would have left Australians worse off. There was a stark choice in front of the Australian people. The Australian people voted for the team with a proven track record and the plan for the future to continue to make our economy stronger, to build a stronger economy and to secure our country’s future.
KIERAN GILBERT: We saw quite a rally on the market in the wake of the election. But still despite that I think reassurance across the banking sector, property and elsewhere there is an uncertainty isn’t there in terms of global environment, amid the ongoing and worsening trade war between Washington and Beijing.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are global economic headwinds. There are downside risks. The trade tensions between the US and China is a key downside risk faced by the global economy, with potential implications for the Australian economy, which is precisely why this would have been the worst possible time to pursue a high taxing agenda, which would have put us in a weaker, less competitive position internationally. No doubt that is one of the reasons why the Australian people decided to stick with the team and the plan that is focused on building a stronger economy.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Treasurer spoke to Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary of the United States and urged a fast resolution to the trade row. Is this something that you and the rest of the Government will be continuing to argue for in international forums like the G20, which is coming up next month in Japan?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to stand up for Australia’s national interest. China is our biggest trading partner. The US is a very important trading partner and our biggest foreign investor into Australia. These are very important relationships for us in terms of our economic future. We will continue to advocate proper resolution within the rules based framework that is available to countries around the world to resolve these sorts of issues. It is in our interest, it is in the world’s interest, stronger global growth is in Australia’s interest, so we will continue to play our part to advocate for an appropriate resolution of these sorts of issues.
KIERAN GILBERT: When you look at the JWS Research in the AFR today, upwards of 20 per cent said economic management was the key decision making issue for them. I think it was 23 per cent said tax, 11 per cent franking credits. There was also a quite a number of people that simply preferred Morrison over Shorten in terms of the leadership battle. What were the key reasons for the Coalition’s success at the weekend?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Clearly, the Australian people, a majority of Australians in a majority of seats decided that they trusted Scott Morrison and our plan to build a stronger economy into the future. They decided to favour our approach and our plan to the alternative. We believe that this will put Australia in a stronger, better position into the future.
KIERAN GILBERT: With the Adani mine, it looks like there is going to be another step forward in that process with Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing a timeline for approvals today. Do you welcome that and I guess for federal Labor it is all a bit too little, too late.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is long overdue. Let us see what happens. Certainly the rhetoric has started to move. Let us see whether actions follow those words, because it has been taking way too long. There has been way too much politics played about this very important project by the Labor party. Let us see what happens. This is a project which will help open the Galilee Basin in terms of coal production and exports. It will create many thousands of jobs. It’s a very important project for Queensland, a very important project for Australia. It is subject to the strictest environmental conditions at a federal and at a state level, but it is time to get on with it.
KIERAN GILBERT: And Anthony Albanese says he is going to begin a renewal within the Labor party. We began with his comments on tax but says they need to reembrace the Hawke tradition. What do you make of that, will he be a more potent Opposition Leader to try and deal with as a Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I would certainly welcome Anthony Albanese embracing the Hawke/Keating tradition in the Labor party. The first thing he should do is throw overboard the failed class warfare approach and the lurch to the socialist left under Bill Shorten. The way to demonstrate that he is moving away and embracing the aspirational approach pursued by Bob Hawk and Paul Keating is to fully endorse our whole plan for income tax relief for all hardworking Australians. Not to continue to turn Australian against Australian. Not to continue to suggest to one segment in our community that the only way they can be better off is if others are worse off. Any government in Australia that holds any Australian back from being the best they can be, holds all Australians back. The best way to ensure that all Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead is by encouraging and incentivising every single Australian to be the best they can be, to make the best contribution they can. If Anthony Albanese is fair dinkum and it is not just words, then he can demonstrate that shift by coming on board and supporting our plan, which was endorsed by the Australian people at the election.
KIERAN GILBERT: And last question, do you think that Labor underestimated the impact of the support for religious freedoms, the Prime Minister was emphatic on that at various times he was asked about it. Do you think that was a sleeper issue in many communities?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Under Bill Shorten, the Labor party lurched way too far to the left across a whole range of issues including these sorts of issues that you mentioned. That is a matter for the Labor party to assess for themselves and make judgements for themselves about. But we will just continue to govern from the sensible centre. We will continue to govern for all Australians absolutely doing the best we can every single day to put Australia on the strongest possible foundation and trajectory for the future.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister. I look forward to our chats over the next term of Government every Friday. Thanks so much as always, appreciate it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to you.