Transcripts → 2020


ABC TV - News Breakfast

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia


Date: Friday, 13 March 2020

Coronavirus, economy, fiscal stimulus package

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Let's bring in now the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who’s got up very early for us to speak to us from Perth. Minister, good morning to you.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: I want to speak about the markets free-fall and the stimulus measures in just a moment, but have you heard anything as a senior federal minister about the Grand Prix this weekend? Is it going ahead or is it off?

MATHIAS CORMANN: It is in the first instance a matter for the organisers at the moment. The Government certainly hasn't made any determination to prevent the event from happening. We act on medical advice, and we don't have any medical advice in front of us that this should be cancelled. We are obviously in a rapidly evolving situation. If that advice were to change, our approach to it would change accordingly. But right now as I speak to you here this morning, from the Government's point of view, we have not seen anything that would require this event to be cancelled at this point in time.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We have a very senior medical voices including the head of the WA Australian Medical Association, the Victorian branch president, Bill Bowtell, one of the country's leading infection control experts, telling RN just a short time ago, in his view it is simply unacceptable to have any mass gathering at the moment, given this pandemic is growing. Would you, for instance, go to a mass gathering this weekend?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have been going to events as normal. At this point, in time that is what I continue to do. If I was in Melbourne, I probably would go to the Grand Prix, truth be told…interrupted

MICHAEL ROWLAND: So you have no concern about the infection spreading with such a large group of people?

MATHIAS CORMANN: In Australia at present, the number of infections is very, very low and it's comparatively widely spread geographically. We have the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer who chairs a regular meeting of chief medical officers from around Australia in state and territory governments and we base our decisions in relation to these matters on their advice. At this point in time, there is no advice in front of us from that group that this event should be cancelled.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Is the Federal Government considering following the US lead and putting a travel ban on Europe?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, all of these decisions are made based on medical advice from the chief medical officers from around Australia. We have put border measures in place very early, earlier than most in relation to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. But at this stage, the committee of chief medical officers has considered the situation in relation to Europe and their assessment is that at this point, that is not required.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. More carnage on Wall Street. The Dow closing down 10 per cent just moments ago. Obviously another share market bloodbath for Australian investors today. What do you make of all this, Minister?

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a significant level of uncertainty around the time and the intensity of the coronavirus pandemic over the weeks and months ahead and the level of economic impact. The markets are finding it very difficult to cost the risk and that is consequently reflected in the volatility in markets all around the world that we have been observing, including here in Australia. We have to focus on providing the necessary support to help the economy, business, working Australians through the transition, but we also have to remind ourselves that on the other side, there will be a strong recovery. We are making the necessary decisions now to maximise the strength of the recovery here in Australia, and countries around the world will need to do the same.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer announced that more than $17 billion stimulus package yesterday. What measure of success do you place on that and how will you track whether the money is being spent properly to help stop the country from slipping into a recession?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Our objective is to keep business in business and keep Australians employed and to ensure that the Australian economy continues to grow. We will be monitoring the impact of the stimulus package announced yesterday in the days and weeks ahead and as we have made very clear, this is a scalable package. It is a significant package already, representing just under one per cent of GDP. We do believe that between now and the end of June, that it should do the job. However, we will continue to assess and monitor the situation as it evolves and if further decisions are required, we will be making those decisions.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Earlier in the week, the Government announced as part of its health response this $30 million advertising campaign or information campaign to dispel anxiety, dispel the fears that you talk about. When are we going to see that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: That work is underway swiftly. We announced that a few days ago. All of the relevant officials are working hard to get this out and about as quickly as possible. It has to be appropriately targeted, it has got to be developed in the appropriate fashion and that work is underway as we speak.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, but the Government moved very quickly to get that bushfire relief advertisement with all the swirling music out pretty quickly. What is the delay?

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no delay. The decision was made a few days ago. It was announced a few days ago and it will come out very, very quickly.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, we look forward to it when it does. Mathias Cormann in Perth, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast this morning.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.