Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Special Minister of State
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Monday, 17 June 2019
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is great to be here with my friend and colleague the relatively newly elected Federal Member for Stirling Vince Connelly, who was successful at the recent election to gain the trust and confidence of a majority of voters in the seat of Stirling.
The people of Western Australia have spoken. They want income tax cuts for all working Australians. The people of Western Australia very strongly voted against Labor’s pre-election politics of envy. It is time for Labor to let go of their pre-election class warfare. It is time for Labor to join our efforts to deliver more money into workers pockets here in WA and all around Australia and to get more people into jobs here in WA and around the country on the back of important stimulus to the economy, which will be delivered through lower income taxes.
I have read some comments in the media today where Federal Labor Members are questioning our mandate to deliver income tax relief. What I would point out to WA Labor is that the Liberal Party here in Western Australia holds 69 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives. It is incumbent on WA Labor to stand up for our state, to stand up for the people in our state of Western Australia and to join our efforts to deliver income tax relief for all working Australians and to help put more money into workers pockets, to help get more people into jobs on the back of stimulating the economy through lower taxes.
I will ask Vince to say a few words and then happy to take some questions.
VINCE CONNELLY: Thanks Senator, I would just make the point that during the election campaign, young hard working families in Stirling consistently made the point to me that they think it is fair that they should keep more of what they earn. There as a very clear choice between high taxing Labor and the Coalition who are seeking to reduce taxes. The choice remains clear and Labor needs to get on board.
QUESTION: The Australia Institute says that this package will benefit men [inaudible] what do you put that down to?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is just the latest attempt at a distraction. That left wing think tank has opposed our plan for lower taxes all the way through. This is an argument that was prosecuted in the lead up to the election. The verdict of the Australian people is in. The Australian people support lower income taxes for all working Australians. Just to talk about the specifics of the proposition that was put, our tax system is gender neutral. It treats men and women precisely the same. The only relevant consideration in terms of how much tax you pay is what your taxable income is in any one financial year. By that same flawed logic, essentially, if the Australia Institute was consistent, they would argue, wrongly, but they would argue nevertheless, that our income tax system overall favours women ahead of men because historically, looking at the data, overall women across Australia have paid less income tax than men. What I would say on the back of our plan for a stronger economy, on the back of our very strong effort through for example our economic statement for women, women’s full time employment, women’s workforce participation is at record highs. As a result of our economic plan, the gender pay gap is at its lowest on record. What our income tax cuts will do is they will continue to deliver better opportunity for all Australians to get ahead. They will provide the right incentive and reward for effort for all Australians, all working Australians, men and women. We will continue to work to bring that gender pay gap down through the strategies that we have already deployed. What we would say, this is just the latest in a long line of excuses to try and derail the verdict of the Australian people. This is a matter now for the Parliament to act on the will of the people. The Australian people have spoken. The West Australian people have spoken particularly loudly in favour of income tax cuts for all working Australians.
QUESTION: Why haven’t you asked Pauline Hanson to change her mind on your tax cut plan?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a question for Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party. We went to the last election with two competing tax agendas. The Labor Party went to the election with an agenda for higher taxes, an agenda of class warfare and politics of envy and the Australian people rejected that agenda. We went to the election with a clear plan to provide income tax relief to all working Australians, prioritising low and middle income earners in the first instance, but of course, then addressing bracket creep, which is a drag on the economy, simplifying our tax system and delivering income tax relief to all other working Australians. We are phasing it in over a seven-year period because that is the responsible thing to do to make sure it is affordable within in our Budget. All of these arguments were clearly fleshed out in the course of the election campaign and the Australian people decided to back in our plan for lower taxes. This is an opportunity now for Anthony Albanese, who is on a listening tour around Australia, to listen and to learn and to accept and respect the verdict of the Australian people and to act on it by voting in favour of our income tax plan in full. If Labor down the track wants to revisit the third stage of our income tax plan and wants to go to the next election arguing that it should be rolled back, that is a matter for them. They can do that. But right now we are the elected Government of Australia who was elected on a mandate to deliver income tax relief for all working Australians. Indeed the Australian people absolutely rejected Labor's class warfare and politics of envy at the last election. The best thing that Labor can do, in particular here in Western Australia, is to let go of that class warfare, to let go of that pre-election politics of envy and to back in working people right around Australia by helping to deliver more money into their pockets.
QUESTION: Senator, by focusing on Labor, as you are, do we take from that that your negotiations with crossbenchers are failing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am focused on delivering on our promise at the last election to deliver income tax relief to all working Australians. We want to see all non-Government Senators, all of them, come behind the plan that was endorsed by the Australian people at the last election. But in the end, this is a matter, squarely, for the Labor Party. This is a matter squarely for Anthony Albanese, Jim Chalmers and the Labor team to decide whether they want to persist with the pre-election politics of envy that the Australian people rejected, or whether they accept the result, respect the result, act on the result at the last election and vote in favour of the income tax relief that the Australian people have voted for.
QUESTION: Will you be providing them with full costings of the plan or more details?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well that is just more politicking and distractions from the Labor Party. The Labor Party know that all of the relevant information is published in the Budget Papers. The Budget Papers very clearly set out the fiscal impact, the impact on the revenue and the impact on the Budget bottom line of all three stages. It is very clearly spelled out that the third stage of our income tax plan, which is to reduce the tax rate for people earning between $45,000 and $200,000 a year, from 2024-25, from 32.5 per cent down to 30 per cent. The cost of that aspect of our plan, that third tranche of our plan, is $95 billion over the medium term to 2029-30. That has long been on the public record. Our Budget Papers also show that at the end of our plan being fully implemented, Australia's highest income earners continue to pay the same proportion of income tax. The top one per cent of income earners will pay slightly more once our plan is fully implemented. The top five per cent will continue to pay a third of all income tax generated in Australia. The top 20 per cent will continue to pay about 60 per cent of income tax generated in Australia at that time. So the progressivity of our income tax system is maintained and all of that information has previously been provided. This is just the Labor Party still playing the same games that they were playing in the lead-up to the last election. Our message to the Labor Party is there is a time to campaign and then there is a time to accept the result, to respect the will of the Australian people, to act on the will of the Australian people by voting in support of the income tax relief that we put to the Australian people and that the Australian people voted for.
QUESTION: Senator, what about the Centre Alliance? Apparently, there are reports that Rex Patrick has flown into Perth for discussions with you, can you confirm that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I always engage with non-Government Senators that want to talk to us about policy issues that they are concerned about. That is nothing remarkable or new. We have a constant engagement in the last Parliament and in this Parliament with non-Government Senators in relation to policy issues. But in relation to personal income tax cuts, while we want to persuade everyone to back the plan in the Parliament that the Australian people voted for, we will not be doing any special deals. We will not be doing any special deals. We are always prepared to engage with all non-Government Senators to talk through issues that are important to them, issues that they are advocating that they think need to be considered by the Government. That is something that we do as a matter of course and we will continue to do that constructively and in good faith. But we will not be doing any special deals to give effect to the will of the Australian people, to deliver lower income taxes for all working Australians in a way that is responsible and affordable within the Budget.
QUESTION: How have the discussions with Mr Patrick gone?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I never provide any running commentary on any discussions with Government or non-Government Senate colleagues, or other colleagues, for that matter.
QUESTION: Senator, can I ask you something about PNG and Paladin?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Sure.
QUESTION: Will Paladin’s contract be extended against the wishes of the PNG Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not a matter for me. That is a matter that is handled by the Department of Home Affairs, and I would refer you to them.
QUESTION: Just back on the income tax, is it right that Pauline Hanson says you have not made any attempt to contact her?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, this is a matter for the Labor Party. This income tax plan is a matter for the Labor Party and whether they will walk away from their failed pre-election politics of envy agenda and whether they will accept and respect the will of the Australian people as expressed at this election. All non-Government Senators who have asked us for briefings on our legislation have been provided with the opportunity to receive those briefings. There has been engagement with all non-Government Senators to provide them with whatever they have asked us for. But we will not be doing any special deals. We will be dealing with all policy issues that are raised with us on their own merits. But we are not going to be distracted here. The Australian people voted in favour of our plan for lower income taxes for all working Australians and there is nowhere here for the Labor Party to hide. The Labor Party has got to make a decision that they will accept the result at the election, that they will respect the will of the Australian people, that they will act on the will of the Australian people by voting in favour of our income tax plan in full.
QUESTION: Can I ask another question about Paladin?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It will be the same response, but you can ask.
QUESTION: I was just going to ask you if you are concerned if the Manus issues are affecting Australia’s relationship with PNG?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, again, that is a contract that is being handled appropriately at arm's length from the Government by the Department of Home Affairs. These sorts of procurements appropriately are dealt with by relevant departments and I would really refer that question to them.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask a question about the meth problem. So a new report has revealed Australia has the second-worst meth problem in the world, Perth one of the worst in Australia. Has this been brought up with you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes. We have commissioned some further studies to identify the level of illicit drug use. I think you are referring to the analysis of waste water. It is a concerning problem. We are deeply concerned about the level of illicit drug use and we are very committed to do everything we can to help drive the level of illicit drug use down. The only way we can achieve this is by working with all other levels of government, non-government organisations and the community at large. This is just another piece of information that is now in the public domain that demonstrates what we already knew and that is that the level of illicit drug use in Australia is unacceptably high and that is a great concern.