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Transcript of interview with Tim Lester: Fairfax Online, Breaking Politics: 29 August 2013: 2013 election



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Transcript

Senator Mathias Cormann Shadow Assistant Treasurer Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation Coalition Campaign Spokesman

Thursday 29 August 2013

Fairfax Online, Breaking Politics

Subjects: 2013 election

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

TIM LESTER:

Mathias Cormann, welcome back to the program.

MATHIAS CORMANN:

Good to be back.

LESTER:

If Australians elect an Abbott Government, when will we be back in surplus?

CORMANN:

As soon as possible, and sooner than under the Labor Party.

LESTER:

So no date for a return to surplus?

CORMANN:

Well as we’ve discussed before, in order for us to put a date on that we need to know what the starting position is. The one thing that the Labor Party has proven again and again over the last six years is that their numbers are always wrong. The Budget position has been deteriorating consistently under Labor from one Budget to the Budget Update to the next Budget. Even in the 11 weeks from the Budget in May to the Economic Statement in August, the Budget position deteriorated by $33 billion. Now that was two weeks ago, we’ve got another week and a bit to go until the election, who knows what we will find if we get into government. So what we can promise is that under the Coalition the Budget bottom line will be better off than under Labor because our savings will be more than the cost of our policies.

LESTER:

You’ve been deeply critical though of Labor for not meeting its timetable for returning to surplus, so your solution is not to have a timetable. It seems like a cop-out?

CORMANN:

No, it is conservative and a cautious approach to financial management. The Labor Party keeps promising surpluses before the election and keeps delivering deficits after the election, the Labor Party has put $250 billion worth of accumulated deficits on the table since they got elected in 2007. Ten out of the last 11 Coalition Budgets were surplus Budgets. Now, the last six Labor Budgets were deficit Budgets, in fact the last Labor Budget that was a surplus was in 1989.

LESTER:

If the Coalition really are the masters of surplus Budgets though, and you accept the figures released in the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, if you accept those numbers, surely you can tell us about how long it will take even if it will take a long time?

CORMANN:

If the numbers in the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook proved to be right then…

LESTER: You doubt that? You still doubt the PEFO numbers?

CORMANN:

No, the point that I’ve made before and that I’ll make again is that in the 11 weeks from the May Budget to the Economic Statement in early August, the Budget position deteriorated by $3 billion a week…

LESTER:

Volatility.

CORMANN:

So who knows what the Budget position is going to be on September 8, should we be successful, so we won’t lock ourselves in to promises that we can’t keep…

LESTER:

And you won’t post-election? So once you’ve had this ‘sighting of the books’, you won’t be able to then?

CORMANN:

Obviously post-election, at some point in time, when the Coalition will be providing its first Budget Update, there will be an indication of what we plan to achieve over the forward estimates. But let me just say again, in the last election Labor promised a return to surplus by 2012-13, we ended up with a $19.4 billion deficit. They promised a surplus of $4.8 billion this financial year, we are now on track for a $30.1 billion deficit. Penny Wong, the Minister for Budget Blow-Outs, the Minister for Debt and Deficit, has got her numbers wrong by more than $107 billion just in the two years since the May 11 Budget. So, all we’re doing is saying very clearly, under the Coalition, the Budget bottom line will be better off. We will bring the Budget back into surplus sooner than Labor, but we can only vouch for our numbers, we can only vouch for the numbers in relation to our costings and our savings, we cannot vouch for Labor’s numbers.

LESTER:

Do we need to tighten restrictions on foreign investment in Australian land?

CORMANN:

Foreign investment is very important for Australia. Our economic development is obviously linked to foreign investment. Foreign investment is important for us to reach our full potential as a nation. Now obviously, foreign investment that is contrary to the national interest should not happen. That is why we’ve got an established process through the Foreign Investment Review Board where there are proper processes to assess national interest considerations. Now, what we’ve said in the past is that there are some opportunities to make that process more transparent, so that people can have confidence that foreign investment that is contrary to the national interest does not proceed. Kevin Rudd last night took all of that a couple of steps further, with some more policy on the run I would suggest.

LESTER:

His suggestion of a tendency towards joint ventures, was that your concern about it in a policy sense?

CORMANN:

Well to be frank he was talking a lot about instincts and feelings and anxieties and I think the only anxiety that Kevin Rudd has got right now is an anxiety about September 7. I thought the Prime Minister was being quite reckless and irresponsible. When a Prime Minister talks about these sorts of issues, it has got reverberations all around the world. There are implications of Prime Ministerial statements on these sorts of matters in terms of overseas

perceptions of the investment climate in Australia and I thought he was being rather irresponsible.

LESTER:

Talking about making up policy as you go, what about Tony Abbott last night when he promised no closures of Medicare locals? That looked like it was a make-it-up-on-the-go policy, particularly seeing as he’d said pretty much exactly the opposite a week before.

CORMANN:

Well that is just not right, he didn’t say the opposite the week before, I mean just because…

LESTER:

Well I could quote you words?

CORMANN:

Just because the Labor Party verbals Tony Abbott...

LESTER:

“Please can I say that absolutely no Medicare local will close, no I’m not going to say that” Mr Abbott said when launching the Coalition’s Health policy on August 22nd. Suddenly he was willing to say it?

CORMANN:

Well we’ve said for some time that there will be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to defence, no cuts to pensions, no increase in the GST. The Labor Party has been running a dishonest scare campaign for all of this election period. They have got no record to defend, they have got no plans for the future of Australia, so all they are doing is running dishonest scares targeting Tony Abbott and the Coalition. So, we’re not going to allow them to get away with that.

LESTER:

On your policy costings released yesterday, you’ve had I think more than 200 policies go through the Parliamentary Budget Office, why not release the costings that they’ve done and the analysis that they’ve done so we can see it?

CORMANN:

Well what we did yesterday was the most comprehensive release of savings measures proposed by an Opposition ever at this stage of the electoral cycle. We have gone through the most rigorous process in terms of costing our policies and in terms of costing the value of our savings measures ever by an Opposition. And of course we have released more information than any Opposition has ever released at this stage of the cycle. Right now we are clearly still day-in day-out releasing policy. Unlike the Labor Party we are releasing policy with costings

information in the policy document. Once we have completed all of that work, once we have released all of our policies, what we will do is we will present a full list of all of our policies and their costs and a full list of all of our savings and their value and what people will be able to see is that the Budget bottom line will be better off under the Coalition. In the meantime we have released the bulk of all of the savings that we will be proposing in this election, $31.6 billion worth of savings. The Labor party has never ever done anything like it and certainly not even in this election.

LESTER:

You have released a list of items and numbers against the, you know for example you will save $100 million on administrative costs by closing down the mining tax. $100 million made up of what. It is to economists, I think with respect Senator, a façade.

CORMANN:

Well not at all…

LESTER:

They get a number but they get nothing to tell them what the number was made from.

CORMANN:

Firstly that particular savings measure is costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office which has identified the saving we could achieve…

LESTER:

Yes but we can’t see their assumptions?

CORMANN:

Well the government doesn’t release Treasury working documents. Have you seen the government release Treasury working documents in relation to their costings? No they don’t. Essentially people here are trying to measure the Opposition by quite a different yardstick to the government. Now the point I make in relation to the administrative costs in relation to the mining tax - I asked a hell of a lot of questions of Treasury and Tax Office officials in Senate Estimates. Tax Office officials told me that so far, they have spent, and this is on the record in Hansard, they had spent $53 million in administering the mining tax. A tax which, at the stage, has raised about $200 million. It is a complex , costly to administer, costly to comply with tax, which hasn’t raised any meaningful revenue when the government has already spent all of the revenue they thought it would raise and more. It is tying up an important industry for Australia in massive red tape, holding us back in terms of our capacity to grow our economy more strongly. It is a ridiculous tax, of course we would scrap. Once we scrap it, we will save money in the Tax Office in relation to the administration of what is a very complex tax.

LESTER:

How worried are you by the fact that many smaller parties, right of centre parties, are directing their preferences in the Senate to Pauline Hanson which might just be enough according to Fairfax Media analysis to mean that she finishes up beating potential Finance Minister Arthur Sinodinos for a spot on the Senate. Sinodinos would be a colleague of yours.

CORMANN:

Well I’m very confident that Arthur Sinodinos will get re-elected into the Senate. He’s made a fine contribution as a Senator for New South Wales in his time in the Senate so far. Obviously, we are always disappointed when Parties which should know better, direct their preferences against the Liberal Party. Bob Katter in Queensland is directing preferences towards the Labor Party. I mean, how ridiculous is that? The Labor Party, which has delivered six years of chaos and dysfunction, which has got a terrible track record for regional Australia and Bob Katter is directing preferences to the Labor Party ahead of the Coalition. But at the end of the day, we are fighting to win as many primary votes as possible for the Coalition and I’m very confident that Arthur Sinodinos will get re-elected to represent the great State of New South Wales in the Senate for the Liberal Party.

LESTER:

And be a Finance Minister alongside you working on economic business.

CORMANN:

These sorts of decisions are not for now and they are not for me. Right now, we are fighting to convince as many people as possible that we have got the plans for a stronger, more prosperous economy and to help them with their cost of living pressures. What happens after the election will take care of itself and these sorts of judgements are well above my pay grade.

LESTER:

Mathias Cormann, as always delighted to have you in the studio.

CORMANN:

Always good to be here.

ENDS

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