Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Date: Wednesday, 4 February 2015
GARY ADSHEAD: The storm is directly over Canberra right now. So as you go about your daily lives, getting the kids to school, thinking about what’s for dinner or whether you should hold off paying the electricity bill until the next pay check goes in, as you ponder whether to reassess your mortgage repayments now that interest rates have dropped again. Or if you can now afford that kitchen renovation you’ve wanted for years. Whether the next doctor’s appointment will bring better news than the last one, whether that family feud that is tearing you apart will ever heal. As you go about your normal, everyday life, you can be certain of one thing, be it Labor or Liberal running the show, Federal politics are nothing more than a comical sideshow yet again. Those you put your faith in to steer the country are about to crash once more and take this country’s reputation with them. One senior Minister in this latest train wreck of a Government is Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and he joins me on the line now. Thanks for your time Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Gary and good morning to your listeners.
GARY ADSHEAD: Minister, is it any wonder the Australian public feels completely disengaged from their politicians when Prime Ministers can be tossed out like last year’s flat screen TV?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Prime Ministers shouldn’t be tossed out like last week’s flat screen TV. We were elected with an agenda to build a stronger, more prosperous economy, to create more jobs and to ensure Australia is safe and secure. Last year, we made significant progress in delivering on the commitments that we took to the last election and from where I sit, it is very important that we continue to build on the progress we made last year to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. Tony Abbott was the leader who successfully took us to the last election. He was elected as the Prime Minister at the last election. He continues to enjoy my strong and unequivocal support. He has the unanimous support of the Cabinet and I believe he has the overwhelming support of the party room despite some of the concerns that have been raised publicly in recent days by a number of my colleagues. That is not to say that there aren’t things that we need to address and need to deal with. Of course there are. That is what I think we ought to be doing through the proper fora of the party, in particular, through our party room.
GARY ADSHEAD: Are you sure he has the full support of Cabinet? There has just been some breaking news, a reporter is saying that two Liberal MPs have just confirmed that Malcolm Turnbull has called to ask if they will vote for him as leader.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am very confident that the Prime Minister has the unanimous support of the Cabinet. Malcolm obviously is an outstanding Minister in our Government and he has made a very strong contribution over the last year and a half. I am very confident that he will continue to make an outstanding contribution over the second half of this term of Government.
GARY ADSHEAD: You can’t be serious Minister. You have got to admit at least, I know that there is a lot of rhetoric around this, about we are all back to work and so on. But you are staring at a train wreck right now. Why won’t you just admit it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I totally reject that. That is just not true...interrupted
GARY ADSHEAD: Are you serious? You reject what? Which bit do you reject Minister? That there aren’t Liberal backbenchers making public statements that they no longer have support for your Prime Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Hang on, so you are now going to a different area. I have already said to you that clearly there are a number of backbench Members of Parliament that have expressed some concerns publicly. I believe that the appropriate forum to deal with any issues and to deal with any suggestions on how the Government can perform better is our party room. But what I have also said to you and what I took objection to in terms of the comments you made, the Prime Minister continues to enjoy the unanimous support of the Cabinet. I’ve just come out of the Cabinet. We had a long meeting yesterday, dealing with our priorities for 2015, to strengthen the economy, create more jobs, help families, to maintain our national security. We are having a Cabinet meeting this morning. I came out of the Cabinet meeting in order to have this conversation with you. All of us in the Cabinet, Malcolm Turnbull included, are totally focussed on doing everything we can to ensure the Abbott Government is successful for the Australian people.
GARY ADSHEAD: But how nervous are you that the trickle of the Liberal backbenchers could soon become a flood?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not nervous. I’m very confident about 2015. 2015 will be a good year for Australia and I believe it will be a good year for our Government. Our Government needs to be successful in order to put Australia on the strongest possible foundation for the future.
GARY ADSHEAD: I said like week that perhaps that the problem that your Government might have is that a lot of voters are in denial about the economy. A lot voters are just don’t want to accept that we may have to pull back, we may have to make these changes. Can I ask you whether you think anyone could sell that message to the public that’s in denial?
MATHIAS CORMANN: All of us have to continue to explain where we are at as a country. When we came into Government, we did inherit a very challenging situation. Partly that is because of what was done over the previous six years. Part of it is because of global economic circumstances and as a result of structural challenges that we’re facing as a nation irrespective of who is in Government. The truth is global economic headwinds have had an impact on our economic fortunes here in Australia. The truth is that the aging of the population does create some structural challenges in terms of our economic prosperity and in terms of Government expenditure moving forward. These are things that we have to deal with as a nation. Over the previous Labor government we were locked in to excessive expenditure, which is not affordable over the medium to long term and we do have to take some corrective action. Now last year we had to make some difficult, though we would say necessary decisions. We don’t do that out of fun. It is not always popular. We are conscious of that. But the reason we are doing it is in order to put Australia on the strongest possible foundation for the future to ensure that we are resilient in the face of global economic headwinds, to ensure that we are in the best possible position to take advantage of any opportunities that come our way once global economic growth starts to strengthen again.
GARY ADSHEAD: Can I ask you about a couple of mixed messages? Obviously Joe Hockey, the Treasurer said that the interest rate cut is good news for Australia and yet the pundits, the view of the experts is that the Reserve Bank has lost faith in the Australian economy and the interest rate cut shows the economy is travelling very badly.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is good news for families and for business and it is good news for the economy and for jobs. But clearly the context of the interest rate cut yesterday is a situation where we are dealing with significant global economic headwinds. The Reserve Bank yesterday could make that judgement given we have low inflation, partly because the carbon tax has resulted in sharp falls in electricity prices, partly because petrol prices internationally as a result of oil prices internationally are much lower than they were, but also because our effort to repair the Budget has given the Reserve Bank more room to move. Even at this low rate, the official cash rate in Australia is still higher than what it has been for many, many years in places like the United States and across Europe. Across Europe the Central Bank is now looking at quantitative easing, the same as has been the case in the United States for some time. We are dealing with serious global economic challenges and the Government is working to put Australia in the strongest possible position to deal with those as they come our way.
GARY ADSHEAD: If I can finish with the leadership, because whether the Government likes it or not, it is on top of the agenda, can I just ask whether you think the only way forward now is to have some kind of spill, is for a contender to emerge to clear the air?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t believe so. I do believe certainly that on Tuesday when the party room assembles for the first time in 2015, clearly some of the issues that have been aired publicly ought to be discussed and no doubt some decisions will be made about the best way forward. That is the usual process. There is nothing extraordinary about that. I would urge all of my colleagues to use that as the appropriate vehicle to make their suggestions on how the Government's performance can be improved into the future.
GARY ADSHEAD: Thanks for joining us again Minister, appreciate it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you Gary.