Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
LEIGH SALES: With me now live from Perth is one of Tony Abbott’s key backers, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Senator, have you been doing the numbers on a spill motion and do you believe it will succeed or not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m very confident that on Tuesday the party room will support the leadership team that took us successfully to the last election. I will be supporting Tony Abbott and I will be supporting Julie Bishop. I would urge all of my colleagues to do the same and I'm very confident that…interrupted
LEIGH SALES: Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I was going to ask, is the source of that confidence because you've actually done the homework to check the numbers or is that your gut feeling?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have been speaking to a lot of my colleagues over the past week as you would have expected me to do and the overwhelming feedback I've been getting from my colleagues is that they want the Government to get on with it. They want stability. They want to see the team which was successfully elected at the last election to continue in the job and they want us to get back to the task at hand, which is to strengthen the economy, to create more jobs, to help families and to maintain our national security.
LEIGH SALES: Your Cabinet colleague Christopher Pyne said this morning that the numbers are an inexact science and he didn't seem quite so confident.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader have the unanimous support of the Cabinet. I believe they have the overwhelming support of the party room. It is important to note again that there is actually no alternative candidate. What I would say is we need to support the team that took us successfully from Opposition into Government. That was the team that the Australian people voted for, that is the team that should be taking us to the next election.
LEIGH SALES: There is a ReachTel Channel Seven poll that's come out tonight showing an immediate switch from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull would move the Coalition from electoral annihilation to a commanding victory if an election were called immediately. That has to be concentrating your colleagues' minds.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I believe the best team to take us to the next election is Tony Abbott as Prime Minister and Julie Bishop as our Deputy Leader and I’m very confident…interrupted
LEIGH SALES: That doesn't give you pause for thought, poll numbers like that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm focused on the job we need to do, which is to implement our agenda for a stronger, more prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia. I believe that Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop are the best team to take us to the next election, to be accountable for our performance in this term of Government and to take forward our second term agenda.
LEIGH SALES: Senator Cormann, could you please explain for our voters, how a vote, sorry for our viewers, who are also voters, how a vote on a spill motion actually works? Is it a show of hands?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The precedent is that it is a secret ballot and I would expect it will be a secret ballot on this occasion.
LEIGH SALES: So do you vote simply for whether or not you want a spill motion to, whether you want the leadership positions to be spilled?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It will be a vote of either yes or no. I will be voting no against the spill and those of my colleagues who support stability, who support the current leadership team of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop, who don't want us to go down the path of the Labor party, will vote against this spill motion, will vote no on their ballot paper.
LEIGH SALES: Okay, so if it’s a no, it's just business as usual. If it's a yes, then what happens immediately after that? Does the party room then call for candidates and then is there an immediate vote? Or what happens?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a hypothetical question. I believe that the no vote will prevail, I believe that the vote…interrupted
LEIGH SALES: I would really like you to explain to viewers how it actually works because I'm sure many of them aren't familiar with what the processes are.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The way it will work is on Tuesday the party room will have in front of it a motion to spill the leadership positions. Those ... interrupted
LEIGH SALES: Yes, that's right. We've gone through that. If it's a yes, then what happens?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a hypothetical question. I don't believe that will happen and I don’t believe we will have to cross that bridge.
LEIGH SALES: Could you please explain for us what actually happens if there is a yes? Is there a known procedure?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is pretty straight forward. There will be a vote to spill the positions. I believe that vote will be unsuccessful, I believe it should be unsuccessful.
LEIGH SALES: I know. We've established that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: If it is successful, there will be another vote.
LEIGH SALES: You won't even explain for me the process. Does it go to another vote immediately or is it on another day or what actually happens?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That will be a matter for the party room to determine at that point in time. I would not want to pre-empt a circumstance that I don't believe will happen.
LEIGH SALES: Does the Prime Minister chair that meeting or is it chaired by a Whip or what happens?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is up to the party room to determine what happens after a spill vote but, as I say to you, I'm very confident that the spill motion will be defeated, that the current leadership team of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop will be supported by the party room.
LEIGH SALES: Okay, given your very strong stance in support of Tony Abbott, if the Prime Minister…interrupted
MATHIAS CORMANN: And Julie Bishop.
LEIGH SALES: And Julie Bishop. If the Prime Minister is toppled next week, will you go to the backbench?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don't believe that that is a circumstance that will eventuate.
LEIGH SALES: But if it does, will you go to the backbench?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is a hypothetical question and I'm not going to go down this path and entertain hypothetical questions.
LEIGH SALES: Your Western Australian colleague Dennis Jensen was on the program earlier this week and says he's been inundated with messages from voters saying "We don't like Tony Abbott, get rid of him". Your constituents are part of the same geographic territory as his. Surely you must be getting that same feedback?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have been inundated by emails and phone calls from constituents and I’ve also spoken, as I have mentioned to you, to a lot of my colleagues over the past week and the overwhelming message I've received is that people want us to get on with the job we were elected to do, to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. That they want us to unite and to be the united and disciplined force that we were in the lead to the last election and for most of our period in Government so far. That they want the current leadership team of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop to continue.
LEIGH SALES: So that means that everyone you speak to is at odds with everyone who's polled by Newspoll, by Ipsos, by the Fairfax polls. It's at odds with what we're hearing everywhere else?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I disagree with that assertion. From where I sit, clearly over the past year we've had to make some difficult but we would say necessary decisions for the future of the country. That is not always popular and that has been reflected in the polls. But the people in the party room that I've spoken to over the past week or so, the people in the Liberal party here in Western Australia and nationally that I've spoken to over the past week or so, overwhelmingly have said to me that they want stability, that they want the Government to get on with the job that we were elected to do. They want to see Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop to lead us successfully into the next election.
LEIGH SALES: But can the Prime Minister really ever recover from this given that senior members of his own team have said his continuing grip on the job depends on whether or not he improves his performance?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I'm very confident that the Prime Minister can turn the situation around. Clearly we’ve had a difficult couple of weeks. On Monday at the Press Club, the Prime Minister gave a very good speech outlining his priorities for 2015, building on some of the achievements in 2014 to strengthen the economy, create more jobs, help families and maintain our national security. I believe that the Prime Minister deserves the opportunity, given the hard yards he did in Opposition, given the hard yards that he and Julie Bishop did to take us successfully to the last election and get us into Government, I believe he deserves a fair go in turning the situation around that we find ourselves in.
LEIGH SALES: Senator Cormann, many thanks for joining us this evening.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.