Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
GARY ADSHEAD: In Canberra, as they return to Canberra, following the Federal election there is a bunfight brewing, it is in relation to tax cuts. Of course you out there stand to benefit from these tax cuts but Labor is arguing that some of the tax cuts are irresponsible and are trying to block it, particularly in the Senate of course, where the crossbench support, Labor does have the potential to block this suite of tax cuts. The man whose job it is to negotiate it through the Senate and he plans to do it from about Thursday, he is probably working the phones already is the Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and he joins me now. Thanks for your time Mathias.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
GARY ADSHEAD: Just first off if you do not mind, I know that you were in Osaka and obviously there was some discussion around the missing Perth man Alek Sigley. Can you tell us anything that the Federal Government might know about this case in North Korea at this stage?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not have any fresh updates, except to say that we continue to work with an absolute focus on his safety. We are working through all and everyone to find a way to ensure that he can safely return to Australia.
GARY ADSHEAD: Have you got any inside information about whether this story because Donald Trump, very unexpectedly as it happened went to North Korea, that his sort of removal or disappearance has anything to do with that? Do you think it is true or that is just complete speculation?
MAHIAS CORMANN: As the Prime Minister indicated yesterday, we are focused on one thing and one thing only and that is to do everything we can to ensure that Alek is safe. His family is receiving consular assistance. There are some obvious complexities in relation to dealing with these sorts of matters in North Korea. So we are doing what we can, working with whomever we can to achieve that objective. Alek is not helped by us publicly providing a running commentary on these efforts.
GARY ADSHEAD: Can we just get into the tax cuts? Obviously a big week for you returning to Canberra and the big agenda that you have is these tax cuts that you promised during the election campaign. Are you any closer to getting the crossbench support that you need? Can you tell us whether you took Jacqui Lamble out for dinner for example last night?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is first and foremost a question for the Labor party. The last election was about two competing tax agendas. We took an agenda to the election of delivering lower income taxes to build a stronger economy. The Labor Party went to the election with a higher taxing, politics of envy agenda, which Australians understood would make our economy weaker. Australians voted in favour of tax relief for all working Australians and against the high taxing politics of envy put forward by the alternative. We are calling on Labor to accept, respect and act on the verdict of the Australian people by facilitating the efficient speedy passage of these tax cuts through the Parliament this week. Certainly we will do what we can to ensure that it is all dealt with by the end of this week so that people can start receiving their tax refunds in their bank accounts from the end of next week.
GARY ADSHEAD: Just take us through, the first tranche of tax cuts would bring about an automatic amount, is it a $1300 saving?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. So all up, the first tranche delivers income tax relief of up to $1080 per individual taxpayer and $2160 for dual income low and middle income earners with an income of up to $126,000. Then over a subsequent seven year period we are phasing in tax relief for all other working Australians including by reducing the income tax rate for people on incomes between $45,000 and $200,000 from 32.5 per cent to 30 per cent from 1 July 2024.
GARY ADSHEAD: Jacqui Lambie, have you had a conversation with her? Is she one of the crossbenchers you are hoping to win over in the next 24 hours or so?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have spoken to all those crossbenchers who are prepared and interested in exploring this plan with us. We want to secure majority support for our plan through the Senate. This is very easily dealt with by the Labor party accepting, respecting and acting on the verdict of the Australian people at the last election.
GARY ADSHEAD: And Anthony Albanese was on television this morning suggesting that you are arrogant for trying to get this through. What do you say to that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are delivering on our promise to the Australian people. He is asking us to break our promise to the Australian people. The Australian people had in front of them two competing tax agendas at the last election. There was our plan to provide income tax relief to all working Australians, phasing that in over a seven year period to ensure that it is fiscally responsible and affordable within the Budget, but part of our plan to build a stronger economy. Then there was their approach, which was to promote a high taxing agenda, the politics of envy, attacking our plan based on essentially turning Australian against Australian, which we argued would make the economy weaker. The Australian people voted for our plan. They voted against Labor’s approach. This is now the first opportunity to give effect to what the Australian people voted for.
GARY ADSHEAD: Just on it, it looks like Thursday is the key day, is that right Minister? Are you going to be pushing for the Senate to sit all night to get this through?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In terms of the way the week plays out, we are certainly intending to secure passage of our income tax cuts through the House of Representatives tomorrow night. Then on Wednesday we will be dealing with the condolence motion in relation to our distinguished former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Then on Thursday morning we will commence the debate on income tax cuts through the Senate. Our intention is for the Senate to sit until such time that this has been dealt with yes.
GARY ADSHEAD: And are you ruling out this notion that this level of tax cuts all in one hit could pose a risk to future Budgets?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is just wrong. What we have shown in our Budget delivered on 2 April is that after we have paid for record funding for hospitals and schools and infrastructure and all of the other essential services Australians rely on, after we have accommodated the cost of income tax relief over the next decade and beyond that our Budget is and remains in surplus all the way through. It is a responsible plan. It is one that is necessary to ensure that our economy remains strong and can continue to grow stronger into the future. It is what the Australian people voted for.
GARY ASHEAD: Just can I ask you while I have got you there, obviously Niki Savva’s book released today in relation to the whole sort of Turnbull leadership issue. It is suggested that you have lost some of your credibility and your ability to negotiate with crossbenchers because of a trust issue that you stood alongside Malcolm Turnbull and then you changed your mind. What do you say to that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was a difficult week. I made judgements at the time based on what I felt was right and necessary for the country, for the Government and for the Liberal party. I was open and transparent at the time about why I made those judgements. Everyone will have their own views, but I had a responsibility. I am not silly. I knew at the time that this would have an impact on my personal reputation. It would have been easier for me to do nothing and just let the bus drive over the cliff, but it would have been the wrong thing to do. In the end, everybody is entitled to their views, but I had a job. I had a responsibility. I did what I thought was necessary. That is really all there is to it.
GARY ADSHEAD: Was it one of the most uncomfortable times you had in politics?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was an awful week. It was a very, very difficult week. In the end, we had to make the necessary judgements to ensure that our Government was in the best possible position to be completive at the next election. That is what we did.
GARY ADSHEAD: Do you have a relationship with Malcolm Turnbull these days or has that soured and over?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That was a very difficult week for Malcolm. It was a very difficult week for me. It has been difficult between us ever since. That sadly is the reality.
GARY ADSHEAD: Just on another former colleague if you do not mind. Christopher Pyne, do you think he has gone too early into a job with EY as a defence consultant given he has not long been out of Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are some very clear requirement in the statement of Ministerial Standards. Christopher Pyne has issued a statement to explain in some detail how he is complying with the statement of Ministerial Standards. I am not aware of any tangible suggestion that he is in breach of the Ministerial Standards. We all know what is required. He is very firmly indicating he is acting in compliance.
GARY ADSHEAD: Appreciate your time, we will keep an eye on this week, it could be a big one, appreciate your time again.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.