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Transcript of interview with Lyndal Curtis: ABC News 24- Capital Hill, [Canberra]: 29 August 2013: Costings



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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

ABC News 24 - Capital Hill Broadcast at 5:45pm

Presenter: Lyndal Curtis with Mathias Cormann

Topic: Costings

E&OE……………………………………………………………………….

LYNDAL CURTIS

Welcome back to Parliament House. The Coalition disputes the government’s estimates of its costings, although it’s still not releasing the figures from the Parliamentary Budget Office that it used for its own costings. I spoke a little earlier to the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Mathias Cormann.

Mathias Cormann, welcome to Capital Hill. Have got a $10 billion hole in your savings?

MATHIAS CORMANN

No we don’t. These are just more Labor lies. We’ve got a Prime Minister who is getting increasingly desperate. He’s been telling the Australian people a lie a day. Today he was out there talking about how important it was for leaders to be truthful and then immediately he proceeded to tell more lies.

LYNDAL CURTIS

Okay so why has Labor got the figures wrong?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well a whole range of reasons. They’ve obviously made a series of claims which are wrong. Our costings have all gone through a rigorous and robust process through the Parliamentary Budget Office. They have all been signed off by our expert committee of eminent Australians, people like Peter Shergold and Geoff Carmody and Len Scanlan, eminent Australians with significant experience in public sector finance. If I just go through some of the claims that Labor made today. Our costing for the 12,000 reduction in the head count for the public service was costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $5.2 billion…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

Through natural attrition only, no voluntary redundancies?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Through natural attrition. No voluntary and forced redundancies. Now the Labor Party released two documents today in order to try and substantiate their dishonest assertions. One document was out of date by May 2013. It says so explicitly in the document. The document attributed to Finance actually specifically says in the document that the costing was prepared using a rule-of-thumb methodology. That is bureaucratise for on the back of the envelope.

LYNDAL CURTIS

Could you not end this battle by simply releasing the Parliamentary Budget Office costings that have been done to show us the figures you’re using and the assumptions on which those costings have been done?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well we are going through a rigorous and robust process, the most rigorous and the most robust process any Opposition…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

Is it the most open and transparent?

MATHIAS CORMANN

…and this was my second point. My second point is that we have released more information at this point of the electoral cycle, at this point in the election campaign of any Opposition ever in the history of the Commonwealth. The Labor Party never released this much information at this point of the cycle.

LYNDAL CURTIS

But the Labor Party has costings up on the website, The Greens have released Parliamentary Budget Office costings; you haven’t put any out? Would you not be able to end this argument by releasing those figures?

MATHIAS CORMANN

And next week, once we’ve released all of our policies we will be releasing a full list of all of our policies and their cost. A full list of our savings…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

And the Parliamentary Budget Office costings?

MATHIAS CORMANN

…If you look at the Economic Statement that the government released, they didn’t release all of the Treasury and Finance working documents that went with it. They just released the Economic Statement. We will be releasing all of the appropriate information, people should not measure us with a different yard stick, with a different benchmark then they are measuring the government. The government released…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

The government has put out some…there are some costings up on the websites from the government. The Greens are releasing the Parliamentary Budget Office costings. What is the problem with the Coalition releasing costings so we can find out what you are saying is right, that your assumptions, that the methodology used, your figures are right.

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well what we are saying is right. We are going through a rigorous and robust process through the Parliamentary Budget Office, which was set up by the Labor Party. We have a committee of eminent Australians, who are experts in public finance who are putting their reputation on the line, signing off on the integrity of our process and the integrity of our numbers. When the government releases their Budgets, year in year out, which they always get wrong, when the government released their Economic Statement, they didn’t release all of their working documents along with it. We will be releasing more detail and more information than any Opposition has ever released about their costings and about the value of their savings measures. People can trust our capacity to get our numbers right. What people know from the Labor Party, over the last six years, they haven’t been able to get their own numbers right. Why would anyone trust them with our numbers? They’re just playing politics and they are being dishonest.

LYNDAL CURTIS

Would it not be more open and transparent to release the costings that you’ve said you’ve had done by the Parliamentary Budget Office that you say backs up your case that your figures are right.

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well I’ve just told you. We will be releasing more detail than any Opposition has ever released. We will be releasing a full list and a detailed list, making it very clear over the forward estimates, in accrual terms and where required in cash terms, what the full cost of our policies is and what the full value of our savings is and of course people will see that under the Coalition, the Budget position will be better off…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

But the PBO cost won’t see the light of day?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well the Labor Party does not release their Treasury or Finance working documents…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

You don’t want to be a little better than them?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Hang on, so you are expecting the Opposition to take it up another couple of levels compared to the government, with all of the resources of government? I mean the government today, for political reasons, in a desperate attempt to mislead people, has selectively released some documents from Finance and from Treasury. That is not what they do as a matter of course. There were all sorts of qualifications in the briefing notes that were released. The government blackened out some key qualifications to the costings that they released. The Finance Department themselves says that it was a ‘back of the envelope’ type calculation using the rule of thumb methodology. The Labor Party has just completely lost the plot. No wonder that we have got Budget blow-out after Budget blow-out under Penny Wong as Finance Minister, if that is the way she seeks advice from her Department.

LYNDAL CURTIS

If I could just ask one final question on this matter, so you will not be releasing your Parliamentary Budget Office costings?

MATHIAS CORMANN

We will be releasing more detail than any Opposition has ever released in relation to our costings and in relation to our savings. And there will be independent verification both on the integrity of the process that we have followed and the numbers that we are putting out there from highly reputable experts in public finance. People across Australia can have every confidence that, unlike the Labor Party, we have got our numbers right.

LYNDAL CURTIS

Now the government says you’ve got a $2 billion hole in your costings on the Low Income Super Contribution, the costings done on the basis that contribution stops from 2015-16 and the Treasurer says if you did it beforehand it would it be retrospective.

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well the Labor Party is getting desperate. This is completely false and the Romans would say look what Labor has done in tempore non suspecto. In April this year, we had David Bradbury out there attacking the Coalition about this particular savings measure when we announced it, saying that this was a $4 billion hit on low-income earners supposedly. So it was $4 billion then and all of a sudden it’s $1.7 billion now? Well our costing again, went through the Parliamentary Budget Office. It is a conservative costing. It is a costing of $3.7 billion over the forward estimates. Don’t believe what Labor is saying now when they are trying to run a dishonest political attack. Look at what Labor said in April.

LYNDAL CURTIS

Finally, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said last night at the People’s Forum that he would put a priority on delivering promises even if that meant delaying a return to surplus. Does that push your potential surplus timetable which is, at this stage, unknown out even further?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well a couple of points. Firstly, we’ll deliver a Budget surplus as soon as possible and quicker than Labor…interrupted

LYNDAL CURTIS

So before 2015/16?

MATHIAS CORMANN

Well you’re making the mistake of trusting Labor’s numbers. Who knows what the numbers will be. You’ve got to remember that in the 11 weeks between May and August, between the Budget and the Economic Statement, the Budget position deteriorated by $3 billion a week. Now, PEFO came out two weeks ago. We’ve got another 9 days to go until the election. Who knows by how much more the Budget position will deteriorate in the meantime. So all we can do, is we tell you what the full cost of our policies will be, tell you what the full value of our savings will be, tell you what the net positive impact on the Budget bottom line will be, but obviously if the starting position reflected in PEFO is the starting position that we inherit on September 8, then yes we will be able to deliver a surplus consistent with the timetable that is outlined in PEFO. But we are not making that assumption, because if you look at Labor’s past track record, it’s a heroic assumption.

LYNDAL CURTIS

So if the figures in PEFO are the ones you’re presented with after the election, you will deliver a Budget surplus on the same timeline that is outlined in PEFO?

MATHIAS CORMANN

If the starting position is right, then obviously we would be able to stick to the same timetable. As we’ve said, as a result of our policies and our savings measures, the Budget bottom line will be better off under the Coalition and next week, we will be explaining by how much and by when.

LYNDAL CURTIS

Mathias Cormann, thank you very much for your time.

MATHIAS CORMANN

Always good to be here.

ENDS.

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