Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Monday, 24 August 2020
QUESTION: Minister, does the Prime Minister have questions to answer over the Victorian Liberals branch stacking allegations? Given there are Federal MPs there.
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are matters that have arisen in Victoria and are matters for the Victorian Liberal party organisation. I am sure that the Liberal party organisation in Victoria will deal with it. To the extent that there are allegations, which I understand both the Federal Members involved have denied, but to the extent that there are allegations of misuse of taxpayer funded resources, these are matters that are appropriately investigated at arms length from the Government by the Department of Finance.
QUESTION: But when the shoe was on the other foot and Victorian Labor was facing similar allegations the Prime Minister suggested Mr Albanese had questions to answer.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I disagree with your characterisation of similar allegations. I am not going to get distracted by this now. These are certainly not matters for me. I am sure that the Victorian Liberal party will deal with those matters as appropriate.
QUESTION: On the issue of State borders, it does seem like we go through this ebbing and flowing of when State border closures are appropriate and when the Government is asking for States to yield. What pressure can you put on States that do still have their borders closed to try and get them to open?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not a matter of ebbing and flowing at all. It is a matter of common sense and practical approaches to some real issues in particular faced by Australians in State border communities, communities close to respective State borders. But there are other issues as well. It is a matter of making sure that we take a practical and common sense approach to deal with some real issues faced by some real Australians. We all want to protect people’s health. We all want to minimise the risk of further outbreaks or an increase in infection rates again. Of course we do. But given that this virus is going to be with us for some time, we are going to have to find ways to manage things in the economy, to manage things in workplaces around Australia in a way that minimises, absolutely minimises the risk of new infections, but still allows economic activity to recover and be restored.
QUESTION: Is the Government opened to dumping the plans or legislated superannuation increase if the economy doesn’t recover from COVID-19 as quickly as projected?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There has been no change to Government policy. There is no plan to change what is the current legislated timetable to increase the rate of compulsory superannuation contributions.
QUESTION: So you are not open at all to any changes to that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no plan to make changes. Current policy is clear. The legislation is very clear.
QUESTION: How do you think the public would react if there were changes to that levy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to start commentating on hypotheticals. That sounds very much like a hypothetical to me.
QUESTION: How can the public have confidence in Richard Colbeck as the aged care Minister when he can’t even recall how many elderly Australians have died in aged care facilities as a result of coronavirus.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am sure that he regrets not having had that number at his fingertips. I am sure he does. But I do not think that you can judge his performance as a Minister based on that single fact.
QUESTION: When will the Government introduce the JobKeeper legislation? Will it be this week or next week? And how important is that to get it through?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our intention is to introduce the legislation to extend JobKeeper and the enhanced JobSeeker arrangements this week and for it to be passed this fortnight. It is very important to provide certainty to businesses and employees and those Australians who sadly have lost their jobs that these arrangements are going to continue and on what terms. That is what we will be setting out to do this week and this fortnight.
QUESTION: On the Treasury figures out today we are heading for an effective unemployment rate of 13 per cent in the September quarter. Given that is the case how can you start rolling back JobKeeper and JobSeeker in September?
MATHIAS CORMANN: A lot of businesses have recovered. What you would have seen is that since the peak of the effective unemployment rate at 14. 9 per cent in April, about 689,000 jobs were restored in the economy. Businesses are recovering. It is absolutely appropriate that after six months of absolutely unprecedented, historically unprecedented crisis level fiscal support that over the subsequent six months period, that we carefully and responsibly phase out that support in order to get ourselves back into the new normal position as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Just one more on the Victorian situation that I brought up earlier. Do you still have confidence in Michael Sukkar as a Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely. There are some matters that no doubt will be explored and reviewed through the Victorian Liberal party organisation. To the extent that there are allegations of improper use of taxpayer funded resources, then those allegations will be appropriately investigated. That is the way these things should happen.
QUESTION: Do you think that he has questions to answer?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is entirely up to him to explain himself. I have seen that he has issued a statement. That statement is pretty emphatic.
QUESTION: The investigation aside though, you would have seen the report. Did you think it was a good look for the Liberal party?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to provide commentary. These are matters in Victoria. I have enough on my plate without getting myself involved in organisational matters in Victoria.