Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
DAVID SPEERS: I want to bring in now the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. He of course is from Western Australia where this motion has emerged from. Two backbench colleagues declaring they will move and second this. Mathias Cormann, where do you stand on this motion?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will support stability. I will support the team. The team that took us to the last election. I support Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister and Julie Bishop as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal party. So I will vote to defeat the motion, as I would urge all of my colleagues to defeat the motion that has been initiated today.
DAVID SPEERS: Were you aware of this motion being talked about prior to the publication of it this afternoon?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No I wasn’t. I have been aware of a level of discussion and noise in recent days, but I was not aware of the motion being moved. Let me just say, the situation really hasn’t changed. Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop enjoy the unanimous support of the Cabinet. I believe they enjoy the overwhelming support of the party room. It is important to know that there is not actually any alternative candidate. I would like to see the motion defeated on Tuesday and for all of us to focus on the task at hand, on the job that we were elected to do and that is to build a stronger, more prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia.
DAVID LIPSON: Have you spoken to your Western Australian colleague Julie Bishop on what she intends to do?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I haven’t spoken to Julie Bishop today. The Prime Minister has spoken to her today. Julie has made it very clear. Julie has been a strong and effective Deputy Leader of the Liberal party for more than seven years now. She has been a strong and loyal supporter to Tony Abbott and she has again made that very clear this week. From where I stand, I would urge all of my colleagues to support stability, to support the team that took us to the last election as the team that should take us to the next election. There are issues to be sorted out, of course. That ought to happen in the party room on Tuesday after the spill motion has been defeated.
DAVID SPEERS: Have you spoken to your Western Australian colleagues Luke Simpkins and Don Randall since they made public this motion? What’s the conversation like amongst West Australian Liberals?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have spoken to a lot of my colleagues in recent days and weeks as you would expect. I haven’t spoken to either Luke or Don today. But the overwhelming feedback that I have been getting from colleagues and from members of the community is that they want the Government to get on with it. They don’t want us to go down the same path as the Labor party. They want stability. They want a Government which focuses on the important job of strengthening the economy, creating more jobs, helping families and maintaining our national security. That is what we are committed to doing and that is what we will get back to doing as a party after this spill motion has been defeated.
DAVID SPEERS: Do you think it would be helpful for both Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull at this point, this afternoon, before tonight to make it clear that they – or exactly where they stand?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to give advice to my colleagues through the media. Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are two outstanding Ministers in the Abbott Government. They have made a tremendous contribution over the last 17 months or so. They are all supporting Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. The Cabinet is unanimous in its support of Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister and I believe the party room is overwhelmingly supportive of both Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop. That is why I believe the spill motion will be defeated on Tuesday.
DAVID SPEERS: The Government has made a lot of about Labor’s dysfunction and chaos. Now while we’re a long way from that seeing two sitting Prime Ministers replaced in two terms of government, does what’s happened today and what’s happened over the last week undermine your argument about stability, maturity and being an adult Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The last week hasn’t been a good week. There is no way that we can kid ourselves about that. It has most definitely not been a good week and indeed we haven’t had a very good few weeks. It’s very important that we focus on the important task at hand and that is to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. That we recommit ourselves to the unity of purpose and to the strong team effort that has made us so successful in Opposition and for most of the period that we’ve been in Government. Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop are a strong leadership team, they’ve led a strong team into the last election, they’ve led a strong team for the last 17 months or so. It is very important that we sort out any issues that are on the minds of colleagues and that we all pull together doing the job that we were elected to do.
DAVID LIPSON: Is there any hope that can happen regardless of the outcome on Tuesday? Because clearly there is a substantial part of the party, we don’t know how big it is at the moment, there is a section of the party not happy with the performance of Tony Abbott, that want to see a change in leader.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m very confident that will happen. On Tuesday, there will be a vote which will clear the air. Those of us who want stability, those of us who don’t want to go down the path the Labor party went down in Government, those of us who support Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop will vote against the spill motion, will vote to defeat the spill motion. That is what I will do and that is what I’m urging all of my colleagues in the Liberal party to do.
DAVID SPEERS: But will it really clear the air if the motion itself is defeated and the actual leadership itself doesn’t go to a vote? Shouldn’t Tony Abbott be endorsed in an actual vote for the leadership rather than a vote for a vote, if you know what I mean?
MATHIAS CORMANN: A vote to defeat the spill motion, a vote against the spill motion, is a vote of confidence in Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop. The reason this has been initiated by my colleagues, I assume, is to clear the air, to bring this to a head. My view very strongly is that I will support stability, I will support the team that took us to the last election in Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop. I support that we continue to provide good and stable government and that we don’t go down the path of the Labor party went down. I would suggest that every single one of my colleagues who shares that view will also vote against the spill motion.
DAVID SPEERS: Final question Minister. We heard the PM give a lengthy speech at the National Press Club on Monday, where he tried to tackle where the Government has gone wrong and how they’ll fix it. Clearly that hasn’t satisfied at least some of your colleagues. What more do you think needs to change to win over your own colleagues on this and convince them that Tony Abbott’s the right man to turn things around?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I absolutely believe that Tony Abbott is the right man to turn things around. Tony Abbott on Monday gave a very good speech. It appears that he hasn’t convinced 100 per cent of our colleagues yet. There is an opportunity on Tuesday for the party to pass judgement. My judgement is that Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop are the right team to lead the party moving forward. They are the right team to help deliver stronger economic growth, to help deliver more jobs, to help deliver a safe and secure Australia and they are the team that I believe should take us to the next election and I am very confident that the overwhelming majority of the party room agrees with that position.
DAVID SPEERS: Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, thank you for joining us this afternoon.