Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten is not proposing to fix GST sharing arrangements for WA. In fact he has now officially ruled out fixing GST sharing arrangements for WA.
What he is trying to do is, he is playing catch up. He is trying to copy the Turnbull Government’s approach when it comes to the GST.
We have been making Federal top up payments to Western Australia for the past three years to the tune of more than $1.2 billion. This is real money that is being invested in real infrastructure right now.
Whereas Bill Shorten is making a promise on the never, never that is not funded.
We have seen this before. We have seen Kevin Rudd who came to WA in 2007 promising a WA infrastructure fund with $100 million a year. Never happened. WA never saw a cent. He never delivered. Wayne Swan came here in 2010, promised a $2 billion WA infrastructure fund, to be funded from the mining tax supposedly. Never happened. WA never saw a cent.
It is now Bill Shorten’s turn to fly in, make a promise years down the track, which he is not able to explain how he would pay for.
He says it is going to be paid for out of his $150 billion in higher taxes. He has already spent that money and more. He can’t spend money several times over. Something that he clearly does not understand.
When Bill Shorten was last in government, as part of the Rudd and Gillard Governments, Labor allowed WA’s share of the GST to fall by more than half and did nothing.
The Turnbull Government took action. We have stopped the drop in the GST. We made regular top up payments, Federal top up payments to Western Australia. We are making record investments in WA infrastructure. We have delivered earlier this year a $2.3 billion infrastructure package for Western Australia, including an additional $1.2 billion of Federal infrastructure funding, which had been allocated to the Perth Freight Link project. We are committed to do more. We are committed to help fund MetroNet through our national rail program. We are looking at other opportunities to invest in productivity enhancing infrastructure here in Western Australia.
But the announcement today by Bill Shorten was very disappointing. He clearly is not committed to fixing GST sharing arrangements for WA.
Only the Coalition is committed to a pathway where not only we continue to provide top up payments as an interim solution, but we will also pursue a floor, a GST floor in the future in a way that is fair and that is durable and that enhances our national economy.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Is Bill Shorten’s announcement today a vote buying exercise?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a typical Labor promise with money that they have not got. It is playing catch up. It is trying to copy what the Turnbull Government has already been doing. The most significant thing out of Bill Shorten’s announcement today is that he has now officially confirmed that the Labor party will do nothing to fix the GST sharing arrangements. He has now officially confirmed that under a Shorten Labor government, there will be absolutely no attempt to set a future floor below which WA’s share of the GST cannot fall. He is just copying, or trying to copy our interim solution, making it permanent, without actually telling anyone where the money would be coming from.
We have seen this from Labor leaders before. We have had Labor leaders fly into WA from over East over many years. And every time they have promised us more money for infrastructure it didn’t happen.
But what we did get was the anti-WA mining tax and the carbon tax and all things that were making it harder for Western Australia to be successful.
Right now, Bill Shorten wants to tax the life out of the West Australian economy again. He wants to increase taxes on business. He wants to increase taxes on trusts. He wants to increase taxes on the homeowners of Western Australia. He wants to increase taxes on the savers of Western Australia. Bill Shorten is pursuing a socialist agenda, which would be damaging to our economy and which would leave every Australian, including every West Australian worse off.
QUESTION: This is a top up beyond what your Government has promised though, will you commit to matching that seventy cents in the dollar?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor, as they have done before is making an unfunded empty promise, which West Australians know they cannot trust.
We have had Wayne Swan here in 2010 promising Western Australia a $2 billion WA infrastructure fund. We never saw a cent. It never happened. We had Kevin Rudd here in the lead up to the 2007 election promising us a WA infrastructure fund with $100 million a year. We never saw a cent. It never happened.
Now we have Bill Shorten promising less than what Wayne Swan promised in 2010.
People in Western Australia have no reason to believe that it would ever happen, because Bill Shorten has not got the money to pay for it. The money that he points to, the $150 billion in higher taxes that he has already announced, he has already spent. He cannot spend the same money several times over. That is something that Labor struggles to understand. But it is a reality that he will have to confront if he ever were to become the Prime Minister.
QUESTION: Bill Shorten’s challenged the Prime Minister to come over and match this pledge if he can. Can the Government match the pledge?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We challenge Bill Shorten to join the Coalition in pursuing genuine and durable reform to GST sharing arrangements, which is in the national interest. We are grateful that he now supports our long standing approach of GST top up payments, federal top up payments for Western Australia. We have done that now for three years. We appreciate the fact that he has tried to copy what we have been done Ng for three years. But we also call on him to join our efforts to establish a future floor below which the GST cannot fall. To do it in a way that is fair and that is durable and that is good for our national economy.
QUESTION: Are you going to step up your efforts as a representative of WA ahead of the next election in order to get more out of the PM?
MATHIAS CORMANN: All of us who represent the great State of Western Australia on behalf of the Liberal party in the Federal Parliament, we work very hard every single day to get the best possible deal for Western Australia. We have been able to get more than $1.2 billion in Federal top up payments in recognition of the low share of the GST that WA has been getting. We have been getting record funding for WA infrastructure. We will continue to fight very hard to get the best possible deal for WA. But we are not going to give any credit to an empty, unfunded promise which is in a long line of unfunded, empty promises which were never delivered by Labor leaders from Canberra over many years. Bill Shorten is the third Labor leader now in ten years who is making a promise that every West Australian should know he cannot deliver and he would not deliver if he got into government.
QUESTION: Just on the history of High Court citizenship decision, will contentious or contested legislation be put before the Lower House before it makes those decisions?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Every Member of Parliament is validly elected and is validly a Member of Parliament unless or until the High Court decides otherwise. That has always been the arrangement. That continues to be the arrangement.
QUESTION: But do you think that your Government’s legislative agenda is put at risk by this process?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No.
QUESTION: Bill Shorten is looking to capitalise on that uncertainty surrounding the dual citizenship. Is that cutting through with both [inaudible]?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten has only one focus and that is his own political self-interest. Bill Shorten is getting increasingly cocky. Bill Shorten believes that he has already won the next election so he is desperate to have the next election as soon as possible. So he is doing what he is doing because he is focused on his own self-interest. The Government is just getting on with the job of governing, of implementing the plan for the economy and jobs that we took to the last election. In the lead up to the next election, we will be presenting to the Australian people our track record, our plan for the future and also our assessment on why it is not in Australia’s interest to pursue the socialist agenda being promoted by Bill Shorten, which would damage our economy and which would leave every Australian worker worse off.
QUESTION: Is Bill Shorten looking more like the PM than the PM at the moment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten is looking like somebody who is desperate to get into The Lodge in order to implement a socialist agenda, which would damage our economy, which would hurt every Australian, which would leave every Australian worse off. People across Australia should very carefully consider what the implications and the consequences of the higher tax agenda of Bill Shorten would be on our economy and on their opportunity to get ahead.
QUESTION: There were three statues defaced in Sydney overnight with anti-Australia Day graffiti on them. What are your thoughts on changing Australia Day?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am against it. It is outrageous what happened there in Sydney overnight. Nobody should think it is a good idea to edit our history. Our history is our history. Australia Day is a great day of celebration that brings all Australians together. We should maintain it as a day of celebration of everything that is great about Australia and everything that we have achieved together as a nation.
QUESTION: Do you think these sort of vandalism might become more common and progress to something else regarding the sentiment against Australia Day that we are seeing in recent times?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I hope not, but it is sadly part of a left wing agenda that is taking hold. This is not the future that mainstream Australians want for Australia. It is not the future that the silent majority across Australia wants. We stand with the silent majority. We stand with the many good Australians who want to continue to celebrate everything that is great about Australia.
QUESTION: The issue of the NDIS, the Commonwealth Ombudsman has figures that show there was a disproportionately high increase in complaints over the last 12 months. How concerned are you about [inaudible]?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I would encourage you to have a conversation to Christian Porter the relevant Minister in relation to this. He will be making some comments tomorrow morning I believe. So you will have the opportunity to have a conversation with him then.
QUESTION: One more question on GST Minister, a recent poll by CCI looked at 800 West Australians, 12 per cent of which said they would change their vote to the Labor party if it announces a GST policy which delivers a greater share to WA. Are Federal Liberal politicians being thrown under the bus because of the PM’s lack of movement on the GST sharing arrangements?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let’s be very clear, Bill Shorten today said he would do nothing about GST sharing arrangements for Western Australia. He has made officially, very clear, very explicit, that if Labor were to win the next election, there will be no floor, there will be no change to the GST sharing arrangements. What he has sought to do, is to play catch up with the Turnbull Government. What he has sought to do is to try and copy what we have been doing for the last 3 years, which is to provide top up payments to Western Australia in recognition of the unacceptably low share of the GST here. Except that we have said it should be an interim solution, where he is saying that that is the only thing he is prepared to do. We believe that into the future we need to pursue a floor. We need to ensure that the GST sharing arrangements are reformed in a way that is fair to everyone, that is durable and that is good for our national economy.