The most disciplined minister in the Turnbull Government can’t even bring himself to back the Treasurer.
On 18 February, in an interview with Channel 7’s Sunrise, the Treasurer confirmed his concerns with negative gearing:
KOCHIE: Does it go too far?
MORRISON: There are excesses.
KOCHIE: Does it need to be reformed?
MORRISON: There are excesses.
Today on Sky News with David Speers, the Finance Minister refused to back the Treasurer eight times:
SPEERS (1): Do you believe there are excesses in negative gearing right now?
CORMANN: I’m not going to provide a running commentary on the ins and outs of our tax system…
SPEERS (2): It’s something that the Treasurer has said, is he right or wrong?
CORMANN: The Government is currently working through a process, we’re currently reviewing options to improve the tax system…
SPEERS (3): I know that but I’m just asking whether there are excesses?
CORMANN: The Treasurer can talk for himself, I am the Finance Minister, I look after the expenditure side of the Budget.
SPEERS (4): Sure, you would say whether you agree with him?
CORMANN: Well I’m not going to give a running commentary on the options that are being considered by the Government. When there’s an announcement to be made that will be made.
SPEERS (5): But it’s not about the options you are considering, it’s about whether there’s a problem at the moment?
CORMANN: Well, right now the Government is working very carefully on how the tax system can be improved. That is a process that I am a part of and when we’re in a position to…
SPEERS (6): What are you trying to tackle here? Is there a problem with negative gearing?
CORMANN: Well what we are trying to tackle is to make sure our tax system is as growth friendly as possible. That is why we have been working right across the board. That is a process that started with Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and it is a process that has continued with Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. What we’re looking at right across the board for opportunities…
SPEERS (7): We know that and we know that growth is what you want to do. But I’m just asking whether there’s a problem at all with negative gearing right now? Now what you might do just whether there’s a problem?
CORMANN: You can ask me that question whatever way you like…
SPEERS (8): So you’re not willing to say what the Treasurer has said?
CORMANN: The Treasurer speaks for himself. The Treasurer is responsible for the tax system. The Treasurer is also responsible for this process. I’m not going to give a running commentary on somebody else’s portfolio.
SPEERS: Well with respect you sit on the ERC, you are the Finance Minister, this kind of is your portfolio.
CORMANN: Well it is not my portfolio. Tax is actually the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer. My focus is on the expenditure side of the Budget. But you’re right, I’m part of the Government and I am part of the process that is currently looking for opportunities…
SPEERS: Negative gearing is a tax expenditure isn’t it?
CORMANN: It’s actually not a tax expenditure. Negative gearing doesn’t exist in the tax laws. As a concept it is a colloquial concept. What is described is the fact that you can deduct from your gross income relevant costs incurred in generating that income.
SPEERS: So not in your portfolio?
CORMANN: It’s not my portfolio.