Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 13 March 2020
LAURA JAYES: Let’s go live now to the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, less than twenty-four hours after the Government announced a $17.6 billion stimulus package. Mathias Cormann that you for your time. It seems like this coronavirus situation gets markedly worse as the days wear on. Is the Government prepared to weather this? And for how long?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have gone into this challenging period in a strong position. We were ahead of the curve in terms of our measures taken at our borders. We have a world class health system, which we are currently boosting to ensure that we can deal with the increases in demand that we are expecting over the next few weeks and months. We have put out our $17.6 billion economic stimulus plan yesterday to support business to stay in business, support people to keep their jobs and to support the economy. We will continue to monitor how this situation evolves. We will continue to monitor the impact on our health system and on the economy. We will continue to make judgements as appropriate. But as a result of having done the hard yards over the last six years to repair the Budget, and put ourselves back in a stronger fiscal and economic position, we are in a good position to be able to deal with whatever comes our way.
LAURA JAYES: About $550 billion has been wiped off the ASX since the beginning of the week. It is expected to open down again today, in the order of eight or nine per cent. Are you worried at all that investors seem to look through this stimulus package and seemed like they weren’t reassured at all?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The stimulus package was not designed to deal with the market. There is a significant level of uncertainty around the time that this coronavirus will take to work its way through and the level of economic impact. The market is finding it very difficult to cost the risk. We are focused on the fundamentals in the economy, on the fundamentals in terms of supporting business, supporting jobs, supporting individual Australians who need particular support. In the end, we are very confident that on the other side of all of this there will be a recovery. There will be a strong recovery. We are working now to ensure that the recovery is the strongest it possibly can be, by providing incentives to business to invest now in their future success in particular in their success on the other side of this period. Yes, this is a very significant global public health shock, with material economic consequences. The markets are finding it very difficult to get a handle on where this is going and what the implications are going to be over time. Until such time as there is more certainty around costing that risk, I think we will see a level of continued volatility I am afraid.
LAURA JAYES: You announced a number of measures yesterday that are designed to get more money circulating in the economy as soon as possible. The $750 payment, also instant asset write off the list goes on. What are you doing to make sure that this stimulus stays in our economy as much as possible? Because there is going to be some leakage as people spend this money overseas.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Individuals are free to spend their own money the way they see fit. Having said that, this is a time when we all need to pull together and as the Prime Minister has encouraged people to do, to very much think about Team Australia and consider their patriotic duty to do the right thing to help the Australian economy to pull through. We are expecting and we do believe that overwhelmingly Australians will be taking advantage of these opportunities domestically here in Australia. That will be a good thing.
LAURA JAYES: You are walking a fine line at the moment. It’s health and the economy. We have seen other nations shut down mass gathering events. Australia hasn’t gone down that path yet. Is it the economic reasons that you have a closer ear to?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, not at all. We are totally reliant on the expert medical advice from our Chief Medical Office, Dr Brendan Murphy at a Commonwealth level, working together with chief medical officers from all around Australia. We have acted on their advice consistently. That is why we very early made the decision to take these measures at our borders in relation to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. We will not be making these decisions on any basis other than the expert medical advice from our chief medical officers.
LAURA JAYES: Just finally, Marise Payne is in the US at the moment. We saw Peter Dutton there last week. Are there any special provisions for Ministers like yourself, if you are traveling overseas, upon return are you being asked to self isolate, are you being asked to dial into meetings rather than attend them in person?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The same rules that apply to everybody else do apply to us. There are no specific measures in relation to the US. But if Ministers, the same as everybody else, were to have symptoms and submit themselves to a test that returns positive, the measures are precisely the same for us as for everybody else.
LAURA JAYES: Mathias Cormann, much appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.