Sky News – Saturday Agenda

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance






Emissions reduction target, Zaky Mallah and SBS, Commissioner Heydon, marriage, women in Parliament

DAVID LIPSON: G’day. Great to have your company this morning, at the end of a very difficult week for the Government, an election of a new Speaker, an internal brawl over same sex marriage and revelations that the Prime Minister’s hand picked commissioner for the union’s royal commission accepted an invitation to attend a Liberal party fundraiser.  Joining me now to discuss all of this and more, the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann from Perth. Thanks for your time this morning. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be back.

DAVID LIPSON: There was a significant announcement from the Government that was somewhat buried and that’s on climate policy. The emissions reduction target of 26 to 28 per cent by 2030 was announced earlier in the week. Now though, the Climate Change Authority head Bernie Fraser said that that will leave Australia near or at the bottom of the pack when it comes to comparable nations. Do you agree with him?

MATHIAS CORMANN: No that’s wrong. If you look at the effort that Australia is making on a per capita basis, we are leading the world. We are projected to reduce emissions by half on a per capita basis to 2030 on the basis of ...interrupted 

DAVID LIPSON: But that’s only because we emit so much though. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: No. We are a large continent. We have a small population. We are a trading nation. We are an emissions intensive, trade exposed economy, that is true. But if you look at the ... interrupted

DAVID LIPSON: We are the biggest emitter on a per capita in the world.

MATHIAS CORMANN: On a per capita basis. We only emit about 1.4 per cent of global emissions. So for you to say we are the biggest emitter in the world is manifestly wrong. We’ve got to go back ...interrupted

DAVID LIPSON: No, no, no, I said the biggest emitter per capita in the world. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: And we are making the biggest effort in the world to reduce emissions on a per capita basis. That is the point that I am making. If you look at where we have come from, we are on track to meet and indeed to exceed the emissions reduction commitments that we made in the context of the Kyoto Agreement. We have made a credible and also a responsible commitment as part of the target setting for the Paris conference. We are about the middle of the pack, which is where we should be. 

DAVID LIPSON: How do you say that Bernie Fraser is wrong. I mean he’s the Government’s own adviser on climate change matters. If the Government doesn’t agree with him, why does the Government pay him?

MATHIAS CORMANN: He was appointed by the previous government to head an independent authority. So he is not if you like, a Government employee in the traditional sense. 

DAVID LIPSON: Yes, but he is saying that Australia will be near or at the bottom of the pack. And I suppose points to the comparison in particular to the United States ... 

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is what the Labor party would say too.

DAVID LIPSON: True, but that doesn’t mean that that’s wrong just because the Labor party says it. I mean, he’s pointing to, in particular, with the United States, which earlier this week the Prime Minister said you know, that Australia was pretty much the same as the United States. The United States achieve 26 to 28 per cent reductions five years earlier that Australia. By 2030, their reductions will be about 41 per cent, not 26 or 28.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Different countries in different parts of the world are using different bases from which to compare future effort. If you look at what Australia does and if you compare the effort from countries around the world, on an apples by apples comparison basis, what you will see is that the Australian effort is broadly middle of the road compared to similar jurisdictions around the world. Again, I say it again, we are on track to meet and to exceed all of the commitments we made at Kyoto. We are on track to meet those commitments without a job destroying carbon tax. Labor wants to hit Australia with a $200 plus a tonne carbon tax, which would take more than $600 billion out of economic growth to 2030, which would push up the cost of wholesale electricity prices by nearly 80 per cent. Our focus is on making a credible and responsible contribution to global emissions reduction efforts which is proportionate to our importance in the world, which also means we can achieve emissions reductions in a way that is economically responsible. 

DAVID LIPSON: Okay well moving on, news today that Zaky Mallah, who was at the centre of that storm, that fight between the Government and the ABC, over the Q&A program, he is now apparently perhaps going to have his own TV show on the SBS. What do you think of that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I saw that story in The Australian this morning. Let me just say right up front, the story is wrong. I spoke to the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull this morning. Malcolm Turnbull and I together, spoke to the Managing Director of SBS, Mike Ebeid.  Firstly, any suggestion that there was ever any proposal for this convicted criminal and terrorist sympathiser to have his own show is completely wrong. There was a proposal as I am advised, from a freelance journalist that had not gone through the proper editorial internal processes of SBS yet in any way shape or form. I am very confident based on the comments from SBS Managing Director Mike Ebeid that this will not go ahead in any way shape or form.   

DAVID LIPSON: And so he won’t appear or be paid to appear in any way on the SBS regardless of whether he has his own show or not? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is my expectation. 

DAVID LIPSON: Okay, well that is significant. I want to look at a few other issues this week. One being Dyson Heydon the commissioner of the royal commission into union corruption and the cloud according to Labor, over him now in light of these revelations. He was going to speak at this Liberal party fundraiser, he has pulled out now. The unions now it seems are considering a high court challenge. Do you concede that this error of judgement by the Liberal party organisers of this fundraiser and by Dyson Heydon in initially accepting that invitation, has damaged the credibility of this royal commission?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Liberal party should not have invited him, I certainly agree with that. As far as the commissioner is concerned he clearly was unaware that this was a Liberal party event. As soon as he did become aware he withdrew from the event. You’ve got to look at it from his point of view. He was invited to the Sir Garfield Barwick lecture. He was one of our most eminent Chief Justices' of the High Court. So it wouldn’t necessarily have been obvious from having been invited to the Sir Garfield Barwick lecture that this indeed was a Liberal party event.  

DAVID LIPSON: Mistake or not though has it damaged the credibility of the inquiry?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t believe so. Clearly, Bill Shorten, Labor, the union movement, are desperate to discredit the inquiry which has raised some very serious question marks about the integrity of Bill Shorten. Don’t look at what the Commission has said. Don’t look at what the Commissioner has said. Look at what Bill Shorten has said himself in his evidence at the Royal Commission to essentially assess whether or not you believe that there are some issues here in terms of Bill Shorten’s credibility. 

DAVID LIPSON: On same sex marriage, what do you think is the best way forward? A plebiscite or a referendum?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I support the position adopted by the Coalition, reaffirmed by the Coalition again Tuesday. That is, we support the current definition of marriage as it is enshrined in the Marriage Act as a union between a man and a woman. Having said that, because this issue keeps coming back to the Parliament and every time the Parliament reconfirms and reaffirms the long standing policy position in favour of the current definition of marriage, people are clearly not taking no for an answer. In the eight years that I have been in the Senate this has come up three or four times already, so I certainly support the view that perhaps in order to facilitate a more permanent resolution of this question, it might be appropriate, it might be better, to put this issue to the Australian people in one way or another in the next term of Parliament.

DAVID LIPSON: But you won’t say one way or another which form? Whether that’s a referendum or a plebiscite?

MATHIAS CORMANN: What we did on Tuesday was reaffirm our current policy position, which is to support the current definition of marriage. We also said that we have a disposition in the next term of Parliament to put this question to the Australian people in order to facilitate a more permanent resolution. What form that will take will be established through our usual internal processes. We haven’t reached a final conclusion in relation to that yet.

DAVID LIPSON: Just very briefly, I know the Prime Minister is going to speak a little later today, perhaps on this topic, that the Menzies Research Centre has suggested that the Liberal party consider targets to get more women into Parliament, non binding targets. What do you think of that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Menzies Research Centre has released a discussion paper. Yes the Prime Minister is attending a function I believe in Adelaide, later today. From where I sit, I support strong efforts to encourage more women into politics. There is a discussion underway inside the Liberal party, inside the community at large, on how that can best be done. Let’s see where that discussion leads us, I’m just happy to support whatever efforts ultimately are judged to be most effective.  

DAVID LIPSON: Senator Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister thanks so much for your time today.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you. 


Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth