Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Wednesday, 18 March 2020
QUESTION: Minister, you can’t possibly put a floor under every business, under every financial and industrial sector in Australia. Can you give us an indication of how big of a scale this challenge that the Government is facing in this crisis.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We made that point very clearly yesterday. Some businesses will fail. Some Australians will lose their jobs. We will not be able to save every business. Our objective is to provide appropriate levels of support to help as many businesses as possible stay in business, as many Australians as possible keep their job, or at least remain connected to their current employer. For those Australians who sadly do lose their job during this temporary period that the economy is impacted by the coronavirus, we want to ensure that we provide appropriate levels of income support. We also want to make sure that those Australians have the best possible opportunity to be part of the bounce back, the recovery, on the other side of this period.
QUESTION: Which people will be targeted in this latest package?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will be providing support in particular to those Australians who are the most severely impacted by this economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.
QUESTION: You’ve been around this place a long time now. Have you ever seen anything of this magnitude, of this scale in your career, in your life time? How big a problem are we looking at?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is very, very significant. There is no question. I have never experienced anything like it. It is a very, very significant economic challenge, caused by a very significant public health challenge. It is something that we did not know about, about two months ago. Right now it is having a very significant impact on our economy, on jobs, on the livelihoods of Australians. So we are working flat out to do everything we can to protect people’s health, to protect people’s livelihoods, to put us in the best possible position for a strong recovery on the other side.
QUESTION: It is likely that this crisis could drag on for quite a long time. How much can the Government really do here? The GFC was a shorter crisis. Most crises were far shorter than this one will probably be.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is much more significant than the GFC. That is why the response is much more complex. We are working very hard to ensure we have the best possible supports in place. We have gone into this challenging period in a much stronger economic and fiscal position as a result of the reforms that we have pursued over the last six years, including to repair our Budget. If we had not repaired our Budget the way we have over the last six years we would be going into this period in a much weaker position, with much less opportunity to provide support to the economy, to business and to Australians in jobs.
QUESTION: That said, are we facing something similar to 1929? That was a global depression at that point.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not want to get ahead of ourselves here. We are very focused on providing all of the necessary support, the best possible support to the economy, to business, to Australians in jobs and Australians who need income support because they have lost their job. We want to ensure we have the strongest possible recovery on the other side.