Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Special Minister of State
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go live now to the Finance Minister, Leader of the Government in the Senate, Mathias Cormann. Thanks for your time. Is this all about trying to put the heat on Labor and Mr Albanese that you are saying that you are not going to do a deal with the crossbench now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is about securing income tax relief for all working Australians, which the Australian people voted for at an election only a few weeks ago. The Australian people voted in favour of income tax relief for all Australians. They voted in favour of policies supporting opportunity and aspiration. They voted against the politics of envy, which were prosecuted by the Labor Party in the lead up to the last election. Yes, we do put it to the Labor Party that it is incumbent on them to respect the mandate that we gained from the Australian people at this last election, in the same way as they were claiming in the lead up to the last election that they would have had a mandate for their high taxing agenda had they been successful.
LAURA JAYES: Senator you mastered the art of the deal during the last Parliament with the crossbench. What has changed this Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Nothing has changed. The mission is to secure the passage of legislation through the Parliament, including through the Senate. This is a very important reform. It is a reform which will put more money into workers pockets, which will help ensure that more Australians get a job because income tax relief puts more money into the economy and helps to boost economic growth, which is a necessary ingredient for more jobs and stronger wages growth. Income tax relief ensures that we can boost the take home pay of all working Australians. The Australian people rejected the politics of envy. They supported policies that support opportunity and aspiration. What we are saying to the Labor Party and to Mr Albanese in particular, this is your opportunity to demonstrate to the Australian people that you have listened to their verdict at this last election. That you have listened and that you have learned. That is why we are calling on him to support our tax package in full. Does Mr Albanese really want to stand in the way of income tax relief for low income Australians when the Parliament goes back in early July?
KIERAN GILBERT: And you know that there is a lot of politics being played here in this stance you are taking though isn’t there Mathias Cormann because obviously it is very hard for any political party to block tax cuts full stop?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We made a promise to the Australian people at the election. We promised them that if we were re-elected that we would legislate income tax relief for all working Australians. That we would prioritise low and middle income earners, but that we would continue to address bracket creep, simplify the tax system and ensure that all Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. It is our job now to implement and deliver on that agenda. That is what we are doing.
LAURA JAYES: Why is now the right time to be baking in all three tranches of this income tax plan, given the headwinds we have seen in the global economy and domestically too?
MATHIAS CORMANN:So why is now not the right time? This is an agenda that we took to the election. Are you suggesting that a few weeks after an election where we promised that we would provide income tax relief to all working Australians is the time for us to turn our back on the commitments that we have made. The truth is we are putting forward income tax relief for all working Australians in a way that is affordable within the Budget. The reason we are phasing it in, is because we have a whole series of objectives and commitments that we are pursuing. We want to ensure the Budget remains in surplus all the way over the medium term and beyond. We want to boost funding for hospitals, and schools and infrastructure and all of the other essential services Australians rely on. We want to prioritise low and middle income earners for income tax relief. But we also want to ensure that we do address bracket creep because if we do not it will actually weaken the economy. To the extent that we are facing global economic headwinds, weakening the economy domestically by taking more and more money out of people’s pockets because of wage inflation and inflation generally, that is not fair and it is bad for the economy. It is something that clearly needs to be addressed. It is something we promised we would address. It is something we are putting to the Parliament when the Parliament goes back in July. We are calling on the Labor Party to back it in …interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: It is a message to Labor as you have repeated this morning on a number of occasions, I understand that but is it also a message to the crossbench that you are not going to be pushed around basically by their demands?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to engage in good faith and constructively with all non-Government Senators. A range of issues have been raised ranging from a desire for lower energy prices, which we share and we are pursuing and various other issues. It is very important for your viewers to understand our Government is absolutely committed to lower energy prices. We have a very ambitious agenda already to bring down energy prices, including by boosting supply of gas into the domestic market. Of course we are prepared to engage with non-Government Senators in relation to these matters. In the end you have to make judgements on these matters on their own merit …interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: A lot of the crossbenchers are grandstanding aren’t they in terms on their demands? They do do that to try and get attention on themselves.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Individual Senators are absolutely entitled to raise issues that are important to them, to promote them and to advocate for them. We will continue to engage with them in good faith. As far as our plan for income tax relief for all working Australians is concerned, it is a plan we took to the election. If the Labor Party is not prepared to vote for a plan that prioritises low and middle income earners, which puts more money into workers pockets as part of an overall package that is good for the economy, a few weeks after the Australian people voted for it, when would they support such a package? This proposition that this should be dealt with later is just a delaying tactic because they are trying to play politics with what quite frankly is a very important and necessary economic reform. What we are saying is the verdict from the Australian people is in. It is now time to move on. It is time to get this done. The time is the first week of July.
LAURA JAYES: The verdict is in on Adani as well. The final environmental hurdles have been passed, construction will begin almost immediately. Is it clear you how many jobs this new mine will create?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a whole series of direct and indirect jobs that will be created. You cannot just look at Adani in isolation. You have actually got to look at the opportunity from opening up the Galilee Basin for increased coal production and coal exports into the future. This is a very significant and important decision, yes for Queensland, for Central and North Queensland but also for the country. The opportunity for us to further boost our export performance into the future is very exciting indeed.
KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s turn our attention to a few other matters now. Anthony Albanese has come out very strongly in repudiating the alleged comments of John Setka, the union leader. Should he get credit for the stance he has taken here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I was not at any of the Labor Party meetings or union meetings. I have a very longstanding practice of not commentating on the internal matters of other parties. I will leave it to the Labor Party and the union movement to work through their own internal affairs. I will continue to focus on my job, which right now is to secure passage of important income tax relief for hardworking Australians through the Parliament.
LAURA JAYES: Do you think John Setka as a public figure though gives the Labor Party a bad name?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I say, I am not a commentator. I am focused on my job, which is to deliver income tax relief for all hardworking Australians so they can have the best possible opportunity to get ahead.
KIERAN GILBERT: New South Wales is flagging another round of asset sales. Is this something you would encourage?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes of course. Asset recycling is always a very good idea. To release the capital that is tied up in existing assets, which will continue to be available to the community and to the economy and arguably be able to perform even better in private hands and reinvest that capital in new infrastructure is a very sensible approach. It is one that we have incentivised in the past. It is an important micro economic reform, which helps to take our country forward.
LAURA JAYES: Are asset sales always a very good idea? I remember the former Premier of New South Wales and recently Federal politicians saying perhaps privatising energy assets isn’t such a good idea, given where we are at now.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You have to make judgements on a case by case basis. I do not agree with your characterisation. In the end you have to make a judgement on whether an asset is appropriate for privatisation, whether the asset will perform better in private hands and whether you can deploy the capital that is currently tied up in an existing asset, which will continue to be available to the community and the economy into further productivity enhancing infrastructure.
KIERAN GILBERT: We await the G20 in the next couple of weeks. I know the Treasurer attended the Finance Ministers meeting with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary last week. Australia continues to make the argument for a trade deal between the US and China. Do you think there is still hope of that eventuating?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is what we all would like to see. We are an open trading economy. We want to see all of the major economies engaged in global trade participate in the trading system through our rules based system. To the extent that there are issues to be resolved, we would like them to be resolved through the rules based system so people all around the world can continue to experience increases in living standards on the back of increased trade and doing more business with each other.
LAURA JAYES: I see you are in Sydney today, which is good to see. I wonder if you might like to comment on some New South Wales politics. Jim Molan does want to get into the Senate but he ran a below the line mission at the last election. He was criticised by Trent Zimmerman. Trent Zimmerman has apologised today. Do you think Jim Molan should be parachuted back into the Senate, would he be an asset to your team?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am sure that I have been asked this question on Sky on a number of occasions now and my answer is always the same. Jim Molan is a great Senator. He has done a great job in the time that he has been in the Senate, but it is entirely a matter for the New South Wales Liberal Party to determine who they want to select to represent the Liberal Party and the state of New South Wales in the Australian Senate. The same as I would not expect any other state representatives to give advice to the West Australian Liberal Party about who the West Australian Liberal Party should be selecting, I will not be giving advice to my fellow Liberals in other parts of Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: Do you think it is good thought that Trent Zimmerman saw it as appropriate to apologise for remarks where he called Jim Molan dishonourable for running the below the line campaign?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Kieran, I am not a commentator. I think that all of these comments that have been made stand by themselves. I think that Trent Zimmerman is able to speak for himself and I just refer you to his comments.
LAURA JAYES: What about Mike Nahan, are you surprised that he stepped down?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was surprising, I think everyone was surprised. We are very excited about the new leadership team of Liza Harvey and Bill Marmion and it is onwards and upwards.
KIERAN GILBERT: You have shown that new leaders can work, can’t they. Thanks so much Mathias Cormann, we will see you next week.