Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: We learned today that the majority of Labor’s Shadow Cabinet supports the Coalition’s efforts to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme by increasing the Medicare Levy by half a per cent. It is time that Bill Shorten stopped playing political games. It is time that Bill Shorten stopped being just a political opportunist and started to focus on Australia’s national interest. We call on Bill Shorten to heed the advice of the majority of his Shadow Cabinet. They have got it right. He has got it wrong. This is an opportunity for him to step back from playing political games and actually focus on doing the right thing by Australia.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Minister, can I ask you about the $14 billion in revenue, spending and savings measures that look to be in trouble in the Senate, what is your message to Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers to help pass some of these big ticket Budget items.
MATHIAS CORMANN: My message to you is that you are getting way ahead of yourself. We have not even introduced the first post-2017-18 Budget bills into the Senate yet. There is always a lot of noise. Let us just see how this plays out. In the end it is up to Bill Shorten and the Labor party to step up to their responsibilities, to step up to their responsibilities to Australia’s national interest instead of just focussing on playing political games. We now know that a majority of Labor’s Shadow Cabinet, we now know that a majority of Bill Shorten’s Shadow Cabinet support our efforts to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We now know that Bill Shorten has lost his policy authority in his Shadow Cabinet. He is the Jeremy Corbyn of the Australian Labor party, completely out of step and out of touch with the senior leaders in his own Shadow Cabinet. He should start reflecting on how weak his position actually is and how little credibility his position on the National Disability Insurance Scheme actually has and make decisions accordingly.
QUESTION: Sorry Minister, will the Government at all entertain extending the bank tax to the foreign banks?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has put forward a major bank levy. There is no foreign bank operating in Australia that is a major bank. All of the foreign banks operating in Australia are smaller banks. A feature of our major bank levy policy design is to level the playing field for smaller banks operating here in Australia, helping them compete with the major banks, helping to ensure that customers and businesses across Australia get the best possible service and the best possible prices from their banks.
QUESTION: So that is a no, even though Nick Xenophon says his vote is contingent on it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: If the Labor party stands by its word, if Bill Shorten does not go back to being a wibble wobble jelly on a plate, then Labor will support the bank levy that we have put forward. Labor announced on Budget night that Labor would support the major bank levy the way that we have put it forward, despite whatever reservations they might have had about the design, is the way the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen put it on the night. We expect that the Labor party will stand by the commitment that they made to the Australian people on Budget night and again in Bill Shorten’s Budget reply speech.
QUESTION: Is there any clarity as to whether the banks could claim the levy as a tax deduction. That seems to be a concern that One Nation has.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is complete clarity on this. If you look at the measure description in the Budget, it spells it out very clearly. Of course it is a tax deduction.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that James Ashby may have hatched a plan to profit from the Queensland State election? This recording that has emerged of him today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of the facts. I have seen reports, but I do not know what is what, what is accurate and what is not and what is speculation. These things I am sure will properly be explored in the Queensland context.
QUESTION: It does look like the Government has enough support even without Labor to legislate bank tax as it is. Would you legislate without bipartisan support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a complete hypothetical question. The Labor party, on Budget night, said they would support the major bank levy the way we have put it forward. Unless you are suggesting that Bill Shorten is going back on his word, that he is going weak at the knees, unless that is what you are suggesting then I am working on the basis that there is broad support through the Parliament, including through the Senate, for the Government’s major bank levy.