Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Can you tell us about the two deals you’ve struck with the crossbench in order to get the support that you needed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Today is very good news for millions of working Australians who will get to keep more of their own money, because the Senate will vote in support of what was a core election commitment of the Government at the last election. That is to provide income tax relief to all working Australians, prioritising low and middle income earners, but also phasing in tax relief for all other working Australians, taking the bracket creep monkey off peoples’ back. Because if we do not do that, if do not address bracket creep, it will undermine aspiration, it will weaken the economy over time. We are very grateful to Senators Bernardi, Lambie, Patrick and Griff for having indicated to the Government and having indicated to the Australian people that they intend to support our plan for lower income taxes in full. That should mean that as of next week, Australians can start to receive up to $1080 in tax refunds into their bank account or in their letterbox.
QUESTION: How much did Jacquie Lambie’s vote cost the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have been able to persuade Senator Lambie and Senators Patrick, Griff and Bernardi of the merits of the plan that we took to the last election. As we have always said, consistently in recent weeks and as we have said over the last six years, we are always prepared to discuss with non-Government Senators policy issues of concern to them and their constituents. We are always able to consider issues they raise with us and make judgements as appropriate. But these judgements have to be made on their own merit. Today is about income tax relief for millions of working Australians. The issues that have been raised with us we will deal with in good time. What I can say to you today is that while the Labor party was engaged in political games and division, even in petty student political games like moving amendments to the title of the bill in the House of Representatives, what were they thinking. Here are millions of Australians waiting for income tax relief, waiting for more money in their pocket and the Labor party is playing games in the House of Representatives like moving amendments to the title of the bill. The message to the Labor Party today is that the Australian people will take a very dim view if they continue to play the same sort of tactical juvenile student political games in the Senate today that they have been playing so far in recent weeks. Clearly showing their disrespect of the verdict of the Australian people at the last election. Clearly showing that they continue to persist with their high taxing, politics of envy agenda from before the last election which the Australian people firmly rejected.
QUESTION: Does the CA deal include changes to the gas price mechanism? The security mechanism?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In relation to our discussions with Centre Alliance, it is well known, it is publicly well known, that the Government has a longstanding policy commitment to bring electricity prices down, including by boosting the supply of gas into the domestic market. We have a series of measures that we have previously announced. There is a series of measures that the Government has been working on. We have had a very constructive engagement with Centre Alliance over the last two or three weeks. That is also a matter of public record. Centre Alliance is confident that based on what they understand that we are considering and working on and what we are intending to bring forward in coming months, that we are on the right track in relation to these matters. We are very pleased that they support the Government’s agenda to bring electricity prices down further.
QUESTION: Minister, Labor are still saying that they might support the Rex Patrick motion on Christopher Pyne. Labor wants you to address the Senate on the Ministerial standards and whether they are being enforced. How awkward is this appointment for the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let us see what the Senate decides. We will deal with these matters as they come up.
QUESTION: Jacquie Lambie wants Tasmania’s public housing debt wiped. It sounds like there hasn’t been any guarantees made though. This is an act of good faith. How confident can she be that the Government will follow through on its side?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Senator Lambie has been a very, very strong advocate. As I say, while the Labor party were playing political games, not focusing on the public interest, Senator Lambie was advocating for Tasmania. She was advocating to the Government on issues that she feels passionately about. The Government sat down with Senator Lambie and listened. Senator Lambie can have every confidence that we will work with her in good faith as we said we would do in relation to those issues. But today is about income tax relief for millions of Australians. That is very important economic reform, which needs to be dealt with on its own merits. The issues that are raised with us by non-Government Senators, we will work through with them in good faith as we said we would.
QUESTION: Work through how? Work through to what end?
MATHIAS CORMANN: When we are in a position to make announcements on certain decisions, that is going to be a matter at that point in time. These sorts of judgements have to be made on their own merits at the right time.
QUESTION: Just to be very clear, what assurances, you have given a very good explainer of the context of the decision making process, but when you sat down with Senator Lambie what deals or agreements were made in return for her support on this legislation.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are very grateful for her support for income tax relief for millions of working Australians. We have indicated to Senator Lambie that we are prepared to work with her in good faith in relation to the issues that she has put to the Government, which she has advocated for to the Government, very passionately. But these issues have to be dealt with on their own merits. That will be done in due course.
QUESTION: What sort of timeframe are we talking here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will see. We will work through it in good faith as soon as possible. It will take as much time as necessary. It will be done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Did you agree to wipe out Tasmania’s social housing debt at a cost of $157 million?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we have agreed is to work with Senator Lambie in relation to policy issues that she has raised with us. While the Labor party was out there playing political games, tactical political games, juvenile political games, completely losing sight of the public interest, Senator Lambie, Senator Griff, Senator Patrick and Senator Bernardi were engaging with the Government in the public interest relation to a piece of substantial economic reform.