Transcripts → 2013


Transcript of Interview - ABC News Radio with Marius Benson

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance


Date: Thursday, 19 September 2013

Public Service, Foreign Aid, Border Protection and Indonesia

MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann the Abbott Government yesterday hit the ground running, a day of action. 3 Public Service Heads rolled. Why?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Look there were some changes, but the changes haven’t been dramatic. Obviously we’re focused on delivering on the commitments that we made during the election campaign, we’re focused on our agenda for a stronger more prosperous economy and a safer and more secure Australia. So we believe that we have the right people in the right positions. Some people have departed, but obviously some people have been promoted and as you say, we are ready to hit the ground running.

MARIUS BENSON: But why were those three Public Service Heads that were rolled, why were they the wrong people for you?

MATHIAS CORMANN: When you’ve got a change of government, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right people in the right positions to deliver on your agenda. As I’ve said – interrupted

MARIUS BENSON: Well that’s a given, but why were they the wrong people?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to get into individual decisions here, but just to make the point again, obviously as you come in as a new government you make sure that you’ve got the best possible team in place to make sure that you can deliver on your agenda. That is what we are doing.

MARIUS BENSON: Ted Evans, the former Treasury Secretary and also Westpac Banking Corporate Chair is quoted in the Financial Review this morning saying it’s a waste of good people, particularly the pending departure of Martin Parkinson from Treasury and it politicises the bureaucracy. Have you politicised the public service?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. We respect the public service. We work closely with the public service obviously. We have a very high regard for Dr Parkinson. He advised the Treasurer that he intended to depart from his current position by the middle of next year. He’ll of course work with us on another Budget and the Prime Minister has made clear that we’ll have some further announcements to make early next year in relation to a further appointment for Dr Parkinson.

MARIUS BENSON: So is Dr Parkinson's decision to go as Treasury Head his own decision, or the government’s?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well he’s advised the Treasurer that he intended to depart by the middle of next year, but of course he will work with us to prepare another Budget.

MARIUS BENSON: When you look at the people that have gone, they are people that were critical of the turn back the boats policy, they were people that were developing the carbon policy, is the message to the public service, you’ve got to be online with our policies or you’re out?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We have obviously got a clear agenda which we took to the last election, which is focused on delivering a stronger more prosperous economy, creating more jobs and building a safer more secure Australia. So we’re putting the team in place that will help us deliver on our commitments to the Australian people. We believe that we have got the right people in the right positions. There were some changes, but those changes weren’t dramatic and of course we’re looking forward to getting stuck into things.

MARIUS BENSON: In merging the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with AusAid, is that simply an economy measure?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we think that it is important for our foreign aid objectives and our foreign affairs objectives to be more closely aligned, so of course that is a very sensible structural change in the machinery of government.

MARIUS BENSON: The criticism of some aid organisations is that is aid should be determined by need, not by foreign policy concerns.

MATHIAS CORMANN: We think that aid should be determined by Australia’s national interest as well as need. Of course Australia needs to take a very close look at how our aid spending fits in with our national interest and our foreign affairs objectives.

MARIUS BENSON: I’ll quickly ask you about a foreign issue which is in the news this morning and that is criticism from Indonesian MP Tantowi Yahya, a prominent member of the Indonesian Parliament. He says that the turn back the boat policy is offensive to Indonesia and illegal under international law.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we will not be negotiating with Indonesia through the media. Obviously we will have good conversations with Indonesia over the days and weeks and months ahead. We will be discussing and negotiating where appropriate all aspects of our policy with Indonesia, but of course we are not going to be conducting megaphone diplomacy. So I don’t propose to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Government through your program Marius.

MARIUS BENSON: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.