Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Saturday, 25 May 2019
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have just had an election and the Australian people voted to support our plan to keep building a stronger economy, to deliver lower taxes and to boost funding for hospitals, schools and infrastructure on the back of a strengthening budget position.
The Australian people voted against Labor’s high taxing agenda, Labor’s class warfare agenda and Labor’s politics of envy. That’s because the Australian people understand that class warfare, higher taxes, politics of envy would weaken our economy and leave every Australian worse off.
That is why we call on Anthony Albanese and the Labor party to abandon their opposition to our income tax plan and to back in our entire income tax plan in full. We went to the election making it very clear, that if re-elected we would legislate income tax relief for all working families, prioritising low and middle income earners in the first instance, but also addressing bracket creep, simplifying our tax system and providing tax relief for all working Australians. That is what we believe is necessary to keep our economy strong, to make it stronger, to ensure families around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead.
The Government will not be splitting our income tax plan. It is a holistic plan. It is a plan that will be put to the Parliament in full as soon as all of the votes have been counted and the writs have been returned.
We call on Anthony Albanese to move on from Labor’s failed approach over the last six years and to back in our plan for a stronger economy, for lower taxes and to boost funding for hospitals, schools and infrastructure.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Will you be keeping the Finance portfolio then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is considering these matters. I am very happy to serve in whatever capacity the Prime Minister sees fit.
QUESTION: Will an energised frontbench be announced tomorrow?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, the Prime Minister is considering all of these matters. We are energised by the trust and confidence that the Australian people have placed in us. We went into the election on our track record and on our plan for the future. Setting out our plans to keep building a stronger economy, to deliver lower taxes, to boost funding for hospitals, for schools and for infrastructure, to deliver the NDIS, you name it. We are energised to deliver on all of the commitments that we have made and to ensure that families around Australia, that every single Australian, has the best possible opportunity to get ahead.
QUESTION: Would you like to see Melissa Price stay as Environment Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are entirely matters for the Prime Minister to consider. The Prime Minister is giving very careful consideration to the best line up for the next three years. We are very mindful of the responsibility that is now in front of us to deliver on all of the commitments that we have made in the lead up to the election.
QUESTION: Prior to the election the Government promised these tax cuts would be supplied to Australians within weeks. But obviously now that does not seem to be the case unless you get Labor’s support. Was that promise a lie?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I disagree with you entirely. There are still votes being counted. The writs are yet to be returned. As soon as that has happened, we will bring back the Parliament. We will be delivering on our plan for income tax relief. What we are saying to Anthony Albanese, this is an opportunity for him to show that he has learnt from the lessons from Labor’s failure at this election. The Australian people are watching Anthony Albanese very carefully. They have seen for six years Bill Shorten prosecute a left wing, socialist, high taxing, class warfare, politics of envy agenda, which people across Australia who are fundamentally aspirational, who want the best opportunity to get ahead today and into the future, they understood that the agenda that Bill Shorten prosecuted over the last five and a half years would have made the economy weaker, would have cost jobs and would have left families around Australia worse off. What we are saying to Anthony Albanese, this is an opportunity to show that you are different. This is an opportunity for you to show that you truly embrace the Hawke Keating legacy, that you truly support aspiration and that you truly support families around Australia having the best possible opportunity to get ahead.
QUESTION: The Treasurer said that he will commission a review of retirement incomes. Can you rule out taxes on superannuation or retirees losing out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes we can, because we have made very clear in the lead up to the election that we would not be making any adverse changes to superannuation over this next term. But there are some opportunities to improve the policy framework, in particular to improve arrangements in relation to governance in relation to superannuation. These are matters to be considered carefully. We will go into it with an open mind.
QUESTION: Putting Labor to one side if they don’t agree to your tax cuts that you have promised, do you then go to the Senate crossbench and then try and negotiate with them?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We delivered a comprehensive, seven year plan to provide income tax relief in 2018. A lot of journalists, like you, suggested that we could not get it done. That we should split the bill. We refused to do so, because it would have been the wrong thing to do. The entire plan for income tax relief was passed through the Parliament in 2018. That was our $144 billion plan to provide income tax relief to hard working families. This time around, we have a further $158 billion worth of income tax relief that we would like to legislate. As we have done on the previous occasion, we will be putting it to the Parliament. We will be putting it to the Parliament with a view to pass it.
QUESTION: The Treasurer promised earlier this month that taxpayers would get tax cuts of up to just over $1,000 within in eight weeks, but you are now not in a position where you can guarantee that promise, so it was never really a promise after all.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I completely disagree with you. You are entitled to your views. We are absolutely delivering on our promise. The Australian people can expect to receive the income tax relief in the timetable that was outlined.
QUESTION: Can you confirm there will be no changes to GST under this Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are a Government that is focused on lower taxes. We are absolutely focused on delivering lower taxes to continue to build a stronger economy. We absolutely have no plans at all to broaden the base of the GST as was flagged in some articles today. If we had had such a plan we would have taken it to the Australian people before an election. I can absolutely rule out that particular proposition that was floated in some media outlets today.
QUESTION: Do you think it is important we see more women in the Ministry?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister is very carefully considering his line up for the Cabinet and the full Ministry. That is one of the considerations that I am sure will be very much up in his mind. If you look at Scott Morrison’s track record as Prime Minister, he has had a record number of outstanding women as part of his team. I am sure that will continue to be the case into the future.
QUESTION: Do you think you are on track to achieve a surplus, a Budget surplus next financial year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are absolutely committed to deliver the surplus that was outlined in our Budget delivered only a month and half ago. I have released our monthly financial statements for the month of April just the other day. What it shows is we continue to make progress in getting the Budget back to surplus. If you look at our performance against Budget over the last two financial years it has been materially better in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 compared to Budget. We are on track to deliver a better outcome than what was anticipated at Budget time for the 2018-19 financial year as well. We are on track to deliver a surplus in 2019-20, absolutely.
QUESTION: Josh Frydenberg has flagged a possible inquiry into retirement incomes. Do you have any thoughts on what that might look into?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I just answered a question in relation to that. The Treasurer’s statements stand by themselves. There is a Productivity Commission review recommendation to that effect. We will look at that carefully. There are some areas in relation to superannuation governance and the like that still warrant some careful consideration. In the end we want to ensure that the retirement savings of Australians deliver the best possible net returns for Australians saving for their retirement, that the industry that looks after those savings is as open, as transparent, as competitive and as well governed as possible, that people’s retirement savings are safe and the returns are maximised. There is always scope to consider whether the policy arrangements in place can be further improved. But I hasten to add again there is absolutely no circumstance in which we would pursue any of the agenda that was prosecuted by Labor. We stand for lower taxes. We are not proposing or considering any proposals to increase taxes.
QUESTION: What impact do you think the election win will have on the property market?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We went to the election with a plan to build a stronger economy, to continue to build a stronger economy, to ensure that more jobs would be created, to ensure that families around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. A stronger economy is good to ensure that we have an appropriately strong property market.
QUESTION: Any advice to first home buyers?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have an election commitment which we will get cracking on delivering, which is our first home loan deposit scheme. Eligible first home buyers will soon be able to take advantage of that particular opportunity.
QUESTION: The Coalition performed quite well in the election in WA and also quite well in Queensland. Would you expect that some of the focus that has been on WA in terms of projects and infrastructure investment might now be moved to Queensland and we may miss out in the future?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The people of Western Australia and the people of Queensland in particular understand that a strong economy is central to everything. That is why people in Western Australia and in Queensland so strongly turned against Labor’s high taxing, politics of envy agenda because they understand that it would have made our economy weaker. A weaker economy means fewer jobs, higher unemployment and higher unemployment would have meant lower wages over time. People in Western Australia and Queensland clearly understand that better than most. That is why they voted accordingly.
QUESTION: Should Queensland LNP be rewarded with more Cabinet positions?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are all matters that the Prime Minister is currently carefully considering. There are a lot of talented colleagues who are very enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to serve and to make a contribution to help build a stronger Australia. No doubt it will not take much longer before the Prime Minister will make that announcement.
QUESTION: Donald Trump has called for Australia’s role in sparking the Mueller probe to be investigated by the US Attorney-General. Does the Australian Government have anything to say on that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of the detail in relation to that. I do not make comments on things I am not aware of.
Alright, thank you very much.