Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
JOURNALIST: When will the party room vote on Tony Abbott’s leadership?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister has the unanimous support of the Cabinet. He has, I believe, the overwhelming support of the party room. There is no alternative candidate for the leadership. Tony Abbott is a strong and effective Prime Minister. We have a job to do and that is to implement our plan for a stronger economy, more jobs, to help families and to maintain our national security.
JOURNALIST: So you’ll ignore the concerns from your backbench then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, that is not what I said. Any issues of concern are always appropriately raised in the party room and I am sure that individual Members of Parliament who do have certain concerns will bring up those concerns in the party room, which is the appropriate forum to do so.
JOURNALIST: Senator Cormann, all of the complaints in 2009 against the former leader Malcolm Turnbull, that he didn’t listen to the backbench, that he was facing electoral wipe out are the same. Why should it be any different for Tony Abbott given you were instrumental in toppling Malcolm Turnbull back then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, Tony Abbott has the unanimous support of his Cabinet. He has the overwhelming support of the party room. We took a strong agenda to the last election, an agenda to build a stronger, more prosperous economy and to ensure that Australia is a safe and secure. In 2014, we made significant progress. The economy in 2014 grew more strongly than the year before, at 2.7 per cent. 600 new jobs were created in Australia a day last year, more than three times as many as the year before. We are heading in the right direction. We are making progress. It is incumbent on us in 2015 to build on the progress we made last year, having scrapped the carbon tax, having scrapped the mining tax, having reduced red tape costs for businesses by more than $2 billion a year, having signed three significant new Free Trade Agreements with Japan, China and South Korea, having started to roll out our unprecedented infrastructure investment program. There is a job to be done. We were elected in 2013 under Tony Abbott’s leadership to help put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. That is what I am focused on, that is what my Cabinet colleagues are focused on.
JOURNALIST: Senator Cormann, it is just that your backbenchers are saying Liberal branch members and voters and even donors are telling them that they want the Prime Minister gone. So it the Cabinet out of touch if it is unanimous behind the Prime Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: A number of my very valued colleagues have come out and expressed some views. On this occasion I disagree with their views. I don’t believe those views represent the majority view across the party room, but there will be a ... interrupted
JOURNALIST: Why do you think they’re saying that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You’d have to ask them that. I’m not going to speculate and I’m not a commentator on comments by my colleagues.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton suggested that there was some backbenchers who wanted to be frontbenchers, do you think that’s the case?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, you’re asking me to be a commentator on the motivations of my colleagues. I’m very confident that all of my colleagues have the best intentions for our party and for our country. The point I would make is that in 2013, less than a year and half ago, we were elected to do a job, to build a stronger, more prosperous economy, to clean up the mess that Labor left behind, to ensure that Australia is safe and secure. It is incumbent on us to do that job to the best of our ability and not to make the mistakes of the previous Labor government. The previous Labor government descended into chaos and dysfunction. It is our job to continue to work as a stable and good Government, to implement the agenda we took to the last election. That is what I am very much focussed on together with all of my colleagues.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says he wants to get on with the job, how do you do that when colleagues are publicly coming out and saying they want him to go.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Obviously, I would prefer if colleagues didn’t do that. We live in a free world though and everyone is entitled to do what they choose to do. Next week there will be a party room meeting. Next week there will be a discussion no doubt and from there on in I would expect that we get back to being the strong and united force we have been so far.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect there to be a ballot?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister enjoys the unanimous support of the Cabinet. I believe he enjoys the overwhelming support of the party room. There is no alternative candidate.
JOURNALIST: But if someone else called a ballot... interrupted
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no alternative candidate.
JOURNALIST: Sure, but under the Liberal party rules, what is the process if somebody wants a ballot?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Latika, you are getting way ahead of yourself. That is not the position we are in. Our job is to work for the Australian people. Our job is to deliver on the commitments that we made in the lead up to the last election. That is to build a stronger, more prosperous economy, create more jobs and to ensure that Australia is safe and secure. Thank you very much.