Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Special Minister of State
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister, where are you at with discussions about the income tax cuts package and can you get it passed in the first week of Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will be introducing it in the first week of Parliament. We will be seeking to secure passage in the first week of Parliament. Anthony Albanese is on the record as saying that it can be passed within an hour through the House of Representatives. We agree. As long as the Labor party does not stand in the way of more money into workers pockets it can pass very easily that first week.
QUESTION: Are you confident it can pass? And if it doesn’t will you bring it back?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are absolutely committed to provide income tax relief to all working Australians as we promised at the last election. This is in our national interest. Our income tax relief package prioritises low and middle income earners, but it does address bracket creep which is a drag on the economy. It provides income tax relief to all working Australians over time. It is phased in over time to make it affordable within the Budget. It is what the Australian people voted for. More money into workers pockets and efforts to get more people into work because this package will stimulate the economy.
QUESTION: Why won’t you release the costings for how much the tax cuts will cost for people on more than $180,000?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Because it is not relevant. It is just the Labor party, or some people in the Labor party, persisting with a losing pre-election argument based on the politics of envy. I cannot understand why Anthony Albanese would want to be tied down to a losing pre-election argument based on the politics of envy. The Australian people have spoken. The Labor party went very hard in the election campaign pursuing precisely the argument that you just raised. The truth is that all of the relevant information on this package is in the Budget. We have broken down the three stages and the fiscal impact of the three stages. The third stage, which Labor seems to be focused on costs $95 billion over the medium term. It is very clear. The Labor party has got to decide whether they want to stick to the pre-election politics of envy, which the Australian people rejected. Or whether they want to come on board with policies supporting opportunity and aspiration and our efforts to build a stronger economy.
QUESTION: The RBA will most likely cut interest rates again and GDP growth is at its slowest in ten years, wages are stagnant, house prices are plummeting, confidence is lacking. How can you still say that the economy is strong under a Coalition government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we have said is that we are building a stronger economy. We are. We went to the election with an agenda to build a stronger economy based on lower taxes, more investment in infrastructure and our ambitious free trade agenda. We absolutely stand by our proposition that our agenda of lower taxes is better for the economy than the high taxing, anti-business class warfare agenda that the Labor party took to the last election. Because Labor’s pre-election agenda would have weakened an economy which is facing some downside risks. We were very candid in the election campaign. We are facing some global economic headwinds and we are facing some downside risks in the economy, which is why it is so important that the Parliament passes our plan for income tax relief for all working Australians as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Can Australia afford stage three though factors that you just mentioned?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have released the Budget on 2 April. What that shows is that after we have accounted for increased funding for hospitals, schools and infrastructure and other essential services; after we have accommodated the cost of income tax relief over the medium term, our Budget is forecast and projected to be in surplus all the way over the medium term. Clearly we have put forward a plan that is economically necessary and fiscally responsible. That is what we are asking the Labor party to now back in. Labor needs to respect the will of the Australian people.
QUESTION: How are discussions going with the crossbenchers? And are you willing to give them anything to secure their support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I never provide a running commentary on conversations I have with other Senators. As we have always said, our door is always open to talk to any non-Government Senator about the issue of concern to them. But we will not be doing any special deals or horse trading. Our plan for lower taxes, our plan for lower income taxes for all working Australians, was endorsed by the Australian people. It is the right thing to do by the country. It is the right thing to do by the economy. We call on all Senators to support it when it comes to a vote in the Senate. We are always prepared to engage in good faith with all non-Government Senators who want to in relation to issues of concern to them. These issues have to be dealt with separately.
QUESTION: Can you see a position where GDP growth will increase in the coming months?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working to build a stronger economy. Our agenda to provide income tax relief to all working Australians is a central part of that plan. It is a central part of the plan that we took to the last election. We provide regular updates on our economic and fiscal performance. The next formal update in terms of the Budget will be the half-yearly budget update in December this year. In between that period there will be national accounts data releases. There will be all sorts of economic data releases in the usual course of events.
QUESTION: Are you still on track to get to surplus? And what is more important to you, reaching surplus or stimulating the economy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are doing it all at the same time. Our Budget is a pro-growth Budget, which is back in the black. From 2019-20 onwards, we are forecast and projected to be and remain in surplus all the way through the medium term. That is after we boosted funding for schools, for hospitals, for infrastructure and all of the other essential services Australians rely on and after we have accommodated the cost of income tax relief for all working Australians. It is a responsible plan. It is a comprehensive plan. It is a plan that is designed to ensure that Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead.