Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 10 July 2020
PETER STEFANOVIC: Joining me now live from Perth is Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Minister good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be back.
PETER STEFANOVIC: First of all, I think I know what you are going to say here because you don’t want to pre-empt National Cabinet, but there is an argument about a cap on international arrivals at the moment. The West Australian Premier has argued for that as well. Do you think there should be a cap on international arrivals?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As you quite rightly point out National Cabinet will make relevant decisions today. There have been some decisions in relation to this already. Clearly there is a logistical challenge in the context of quarantine requirements in hotels and the like. There is a logistical challenge in terms of the inflow of passengers coming in from overseas. That does need to be sensibly managed given that we need to continue to manage the risk of potentially infected passengers coming in from overseas.
PETER STEFANOVIC: It does make sense though doesn’t it that travelers now, that they have had enough time to come home, that they should have to pay for their own quarantine in hotels.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely. It has been some time now. We have encouraged Australians to come back to Australia for some time. There was an extended period where the cost of coming back undertaking the necessary quarantine in a hotel was covered by the taxpayer. But you are right, moving forward I think that there is absolutely a strong argument that on an ongoing basis as we need to continue to manage the risk of people bringing in infections from overseas, that that is managed at people’s own expense.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, Josh Frydenberg said this week that he is looking at bringing forward tax cuts. Is that going to happen?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our instinct and our track record always is to look for opportunities to lower the tax burden on the economy in order to strengthen economic growth and employment growth moving forward. In the current context where we are looking for opportunities to maximise the strength of the economic recovery on the other side of this crisis, we will be looking for opportunities to provide appropriate incentives through the tax system. What specific form that will take, that will be a matter for the Budget and budget updates beyond that.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, so can you elaborate on that at all today? You know, is it just going to be one tranche? Or is it going to be the whole lot brought forward?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have just indicated to you, our instinct always is to keep taxes as low as possible. Any specific measures are going to be a matter for the Budget on 6 October and budget updates beyond that.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, well the ACTU says today that, a report in the paper says that it will oppose it, because the revenue hit could hinder vulnerable people. Has she got any point? I am talking about Sally McManus here.
MATHIAS CORMANN: No she does not. We want to continue to provide strong support through our welfare system to those Australians who need it. In order to be able to continue to afford that on a sustainable basis we need to ensure that we maximise the strength of our economic recovery, that we secure above trend growth moving forward so that the revenue flows to Government continue to increase. Not on the back of higher taxes, but on the back of stronger economic growth, on the back of more successful, more profitable businesses paying more in taxes, more people being employed and in jobs paying more in taxes, which then helps to fund sustainably the levels of support that we should continue to provide to those Australians in need.
PETER STEFANOVIC: What the union is calling for, and there is a few others are calling for this as well, is a six month extension to JobKeeper. Is that timeframe possible?
MATHIAS CORMANN: JobKeeper and the enhanced JobSeeker arrangements in their current form are coming to an end at the end of September. We are providing historically unprecedented, crisis level fiscal support into the economy, to business, to working families and to those Australians who lost their job. On the basis of assessed need, there will be continued support moving forward, but JobKeeper in its current form will come to an end at the end of September.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, so what does that mean? So no extension to JobKeeper, it will be labelled something else?
MATHIAS CORMANN: JobKeeper in its current form is a six-month program that was put in place in the context of the coronavirus crisis hitting us very hard earlier this year. Clearly the health context and the economic context, irrespective of what is happening in Victoria right now, is somewhat different now than what it was at the end of March. The level of support moving forward will take into account the changed environment and the changed requirements. Whatever support is provided beyond the end of September is going to be based on assessed need from the end of September onwards.
PETER STEFANOVIC: And that will apply to the aviation sector, surely?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is less than two weeks until the economic statement will be released on 23 July. We will be making relevant announcements in the context of that statement on the future arrangements for JobKeeper and the enhanced JobSeeker arrangements. That is something that we have previously made clear. So not much longer to go. But again, JobKeeper in its current form was always designed to be in place for a six-month period. That comes to an end at the end of September. It is an unbelievably generous program. The need for further support moving forward, we are conscious of the fact that there is a need, but whatever support is provided beyond the end of September will be based on need and not just a replication of what was there before.
PETER STEFANOVIC: How much of that economic statement was ripped up this week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not sure what you are talking about there …interrupted
PETER STEFANOVIC: Well, given what happened in Victoria. It must have changed your forecasts considerably, so how much did you have to go back and go well, that’s not going to work, clearly we’ve got to spend more money here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It does not work that way. The crisis level fiscal supports that we have put in place are able to be calibrated. They are demand-driven programs and they are able to be calibrated based on what is happening at any one point in time. We have always been conscious of the risk that there would be localised outbreaks, including larger localised outbreaks. We are always very conscious of the fact that we needed to give ourselves the capacity to respond swiftly and strongly and effectively to localised outbreaks. This COVID-19 pandemic and the virus will be with us for some time. We will have to continue to find ways to manage things in the economy with the coronavirus being with us in a way that is as COVID safe as possible.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just onto China and Hong Kong and the special visas, the safe haven visas that the Prime Minister referred to yesterday, Minister. China has since responded. It said it’s a breach of international laws. No one should interfere with China’s domestic affairs. There is something a bit ironic about that. But what is your reaction to those statements from China overnight?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are not interfering with anybody’s domestic affairs. We are making judgements in the context of our own sovereign domestic arrangements. We are concerned about what has been happening in Hong Kong. We are concerned about the implications of the national security law for the democratic framework that has applied in Hong Kong for a long time under the one country, two systems arrangement. We are making decisions in that context for what is appropriate in an Australia sovereign context. We think that is entirely appropriate.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Are you expecting a trade backlash?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to make judgements based on what we believe is right. What others want to decide is a matter for them. We can only control what we do. We will continue to do what we believe is the right thing to do in the circumstances.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Well, since you were last on here, Minister, you have since announced that you’re going to be quitting politics at the end of the year. What are you going to do?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have got six more months of 100 per cent commitment to this job. At the appropriate time, I will turn my mind to what is next.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Alright, well, since they left politics Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher Pyne, they’ve both written books and you have featured in both of those books. Would you write one with your own version of events?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I can give you an iron clad guarantee that I will never, ever write a political autobiography, ever.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Ha ok. Why not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Because I just have other things to do.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Right, okay. You’re not willing to say just what that is just yet. Alright.
MATHIAS CORMANN: For next six months, 100 per cent focused on this job.
PETER STEFANOVIC: You’ve got a bit to do. Alright, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, always appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.