Transcripts → 2020


2GB – Ben Fordham Live

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


Date: Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Retirement from Parliament in six months, JobKeeper, JobSeeker

BEN FORDHAM: Well, Australian politics is about to lose a good one. Senator Mathias Cormann is pulling the pin at the end of the year. His final hurdle will be helping the Treasurer put together the Budget and to lay the foundation for our economic recovery. It is a hell of a story, at the age of 25 Mathias Cormann moved to Australia from Belgium, he had limited English skills and in the early days he worked as a gardener because his law degree was not recognised. He now leaves our Parliament as Australia’s longest serving Finance Minister, all before his fiftieth birthday. It is a great Australian success story and Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister joins me from Parliament House. 

Minister, good morning to you.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Ben. Good morning to your listeners.

BEN FORDHAM: Why are you leaving us?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have done this job for a very long time, as you have just said, longer than anybody else. My view was that half way through this term is an appropriate time to manage an orderly transition, a succession in this sort of job. If I went past the end of the this year, my view would be that I needed to go to the next election and serve for a reasonable period beyond that and I am just not prepared to go to the next election having done this job for a very long time, out of Western Australia at that.

BEN FORDHAM: We want to say thank you for your time and your service and what is interesting is when a politician calls it a day, sometimes you hear people from all sides of politics give them a wrap and that is what happened with you. Labor’s Penny Wong said he is a formidable opponent and a trusted counterpart, so you have obviously connected with people on all sides even though you are only on one side and always sending that message to Australia.

MATHIAS CORMANN: In the Senate, where nobody has a majority in their own right, it is always important to work with all other parties and to try and find a consensus on policies to take the country forward. All of us in Parliament are motivated by the same thing, we all want the best possible future for our country. We do have disagreements on the way to get there, but it is very important to try and find ways forward that can be based on a consensus as much as possible.

BEN FORDHAM: We are getting some news today about JobKeeper 2.0, the payments will go ahead as normal and they will continue after September 27, when they were supposed to come to an end. Both JobKeeper and JobSeeker will continue for another six months, but at a lower rate. I am guessing if they are extending for another six months there is a chance they could go beyond that.

MATHIAS CORMANN: At this stage, the decision that we will be announcing today is an extension by six months, but as you say at a lower rate to start weaning businesses off that temporary level of transitional support. There will also be a reassessment of eligibility to make sure that the support goes to those businesses that genuinely still need it. So there will be a reapplication of the turnover test at the beginning of October and also at the beginning of January, 

BEN FORDHAM: We have heard from a lot of bosses, particularly in hospitality and also in the building game who say JobSeeker has been way too high, it is hard to get people to come back to work. Can we now acknowledge that it is too high, JobSeeker?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We always knew that the decisions we were making to provide significant and historically unprecedented fiscal support into the economy was going to create some distortions, but in all of the circumstances we needed to do what we did in order to put a proper safety net under the economy and supporting Australians who would lose their job through this period through no fault of their own and that is what we did. But yes, across both payments, JobKeeper and JobSeeker, we knew that there would be some distortions, that those distortions would get worse the longer the payment was in place and that is why across both payments, we will be starting the transition out of these highly elevated levels of support.

BEN FORDHAM: Now your next job, what is it going to be?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have six more months or so to go, I am 100 per cent focused on releasing the economic statement with Josh Frydenberg later this week, the Budget in early October and the half yearly Budget update before Christmas. So I will turn my mind to my next job at the appropriate time.

BEN FORDHAM: Now you mention Budgets, I can remember you putting the finish touches to a Budget once upon a time with Joe Hockey and you were both filmed by Channel Nine enjoying a cigar somewhere just outside of Treasury. Now I tried at the time to convince Joe Hockey to give up the cigars, I was unsuccessful, are you still on the cigars?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Every so often, but very much in private.

BEN FORDHAM: That is the best way to do it. Mathias, it has been a pleasure talking to you and I hope we have the chance to talk many times between now and before you say goodbye.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you Ben that would be great.

BEN FORDHAM: Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister joining us from Parliament House, Canberra.