Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Tuesday, 17 March 2020
LEON BYNER: But in the meantime, I want to talk to one of the most important politicians in Australia, because he is part of the inner leadership group of the Government. He is also the Minister for Finance. That’s Senator Mathias Cormann. Mathias thank you for joining us this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Leon. Good morning to your listeners.
LEON BYNER: Now, I understand that there is a second stimulus package on its way. When are you hoping to have out there and can you give us a broad brush approach as to what is going to be in it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The situation in terms of the economic impact of thr coronavirus has been rapidly evolving in Australia as it has around the world. In particular in the context of even more stringent measures at our borders and further decisions around the world that have a necessarily negative impact on the economy in some sectors. We are working to provide the appropriate level of support to those businesses and those workers most affected. It is important to note here that some sectors like the aviation industry and the tourism and hospitality sectors more generally, events and so on are particularly severely affected. Other sectors like shopping centres and health care services are experiencing a significant boost in demand. So it is not a uniform picture across the country. But we are very mindful, that as we are looking right now, many businesses closing and Australians in those most impacted businesses losing their jobs. So we are focusing on providing the appropriate levels of support through the transition to ensure that as many businesses and as many people are employed on the other side, so that we can maximise the strength of the recovery and the bounce back.
LEON BYNER: When is there going to be a formal announcement about the second phase of this? Because I know the airlines need assistance and we understand why. And you talked about tourism and other businesses as well. When are we likely to have some detail on this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are talking to the airlines, as we are talking to impacted sectors of the economy all around Australia. The Parliament is coming back early next week to legislate the stimulus package. Most if not all of what we are proposing to do will require legislation. The announcement will be some time between now and the Parliament coming back next week to legislate. We are working as fast as we can. But there are a whole range of things to very carefully consider, from directors duties in the context of businesses under pressure to the level of support that people who might find themselves temporarily out of work, and the capacity perhaps to try and shift workers from those sectors that are negatively impacted to those sectors that are experiencing boosts in demand. So there are a whole range of things that we are very carefully thinking about. Some time over the next few days, but certainly prior to the Parliament coming back next week we will be making all of these announcements.
LEON BYNER: Alright, so far we know that the package has already announced and the stimulus, the $750 and other payments, that’s worth nearly $18 billion all up. Are you able to put a figure on what the second rung of this stimulus will be?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, I am not going to speculate about the number. We are looking at, right now, what needs to be done. The good news is that as a result of the efforts over the last six years to repair the Budget and strengthen the economy, we have gone into this in a stronger position than we otherwise might have. We do have the capacity to throw everything at this. We will do what needs to be done in order to provide the appropriate levels of support through this transition. This is going to be a very difficult period. It is going to be a very difficult period in the public health sense, but also in the economic sense. We have to make sure that we are in the best possible position on the other side for the strongest possible recovery.
LEON BYNER: We have the WA Government, and we’ll be talking a little bit about that in a moment, but the WA Government have announced that they are going to freeze all their charges and costs for at least this part of the financial year until we start a new year, which will be in July. I guess you’d be pretty glad that the States are doing this. I know our State is putting up $350 million for projects brought forward, although we don’t have any specific, yes we are doing this and this is when it’ll start yet, but what would you be encouraging SA to do? Our government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are all in this together. This is a serious national challenge. The Federal Government is working closely with all of the state and territory governments including of course the Marshall government in South Australia. The Prime Minister has established the National Cabinet including all of the Premiers and Chief Ministers as the governance arrangement to lead the effort nationally. There is a significant role for the States, there is no question, providing direct support to households and business. But also probably a really important thing that State governments can do is to provide payroll tax relief. The challenge is to keep as many Australians as possible in work. Payroll tax at the best of times is a tax on employment. Right now, in terms of encouraging businesses to hold onto their workers through what is a difficult period for them, payroll tax relief is one of the top issues. The States are very much on the front line when it comes to the health service delivery. We are working together in relation to all of that. In terms of the public health side of it, our plan is really to slow down the spread of the virus to save lives. We are not going to be able to stop the virus from spreading, but we can slow it down and by slowing it down, we help to ensure there is a more constant flow of patients into the health system and that there is an appropriate capacity to prioritise those most vulnerable with the appropriate levels of health care support.
LEON BYNER: Mathias, I know Parliament is coming back shortly. Ae we going to have a reduced number for reasons we would all understand in that gatherings of large numbers of people for whatever purpose have been recommended, no that’s not a good thing for public health. Are we going to see a reduced Parliament number next week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister has been speaking with Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Opposition, in relation to arrangements in Parliament next week. The Presiding Officers have already made announcements in relation to public access to Parliament and the public galleries and the like. There will be further announcements. In the broad, without pre-empting specific announcements, in the broad yes there will be an attempt to ensure that we minimise the number of people in close spaces at any one point in time, including in the Parliamentary chambers. We will continue to engage with the Opposition to ensure that that is very much done on a consensus basis, preserving the unity of the Parliament.
LEON BYNER: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much for coming on today. That’s the Federal Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann on what we are likely to see happen in the next few days.