Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Date: Tuesday, 15 March 2016
MATHIAS CORMANN: This week the Senate has the opportunity to ensure that future Senate election results reflect the will of the Australian people.
The reforms that we have put forward and which the Senate will be debating this week are designed to empower Australian voters to determine what happens to their preferences when voting for the Senate above the line, which nearly 97 per cent of Australian voters did at the last election.
Surely this is preferable to the current system where political parties trade and ultimately direct those preferences through non-transparent group voting ticket arrangements.
We call on all parties in the Senate, but in particular the Labor party to come on board with these reforms in the national interest. They do implement the unanimous recommendations of a cross-party committee of the Parliament which inquired into the conduct of the last election. As the then Labor spokesperson, Gary Gray has said on several occasions, we need to get on with this. We need to ensure that the electoral process delivers an election result which truly reflects the will of the Australian people. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Is the Government going to go to a double dissolution election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The timing of the election is a matter for the Prime Minister. As we have said on several occasions now, our very strong preference and indeed our intention is to go to the election in the usual timetable, August, September, October this year.
What we have in front of us today though and what the Senate will be debating this week, is a reform proposal, which will ensure that the future results of any Senate election, whenever that might be, whenever that might take place and whatever form, truly reflects the will of the Australian people.
Bill Shorten is siding with union heavies and backroom operators in political parties. We are siding with the Australian people. We are wanting to empower the Australian people to determine not only what happens with their primary vote when voting above the line in the Senate, but also what happens to their preferences. Right now, people’s preferences are traded away and directed through non-transparent group voting ticket arrangements in several directions by political parties. We believe it is up to the Australian voter to determine what happens to their preferences.
JOURNALIST: Senator Ricky Muir wants to bring on the vote for the Bill on the ABCC, why won’t the Government do that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission remains a very high priority for the Government. The Labor party and others in the Senate have filibustered consideration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation for some time. The same Bill was sent to three different Senate inquiries, one of which is due to report today. We will not be able to deal with that legislation this week because as we have said for some time, this week our priority, our number one priority, is to secure passage of the very important reforms to our Senate voting arrangements. Reforms designed to empower the Australian people to direct what happens to their preferences instead of having those preferences traded and directed by political parties and backroom operators in political parties. We will put the legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to the Senate when we come back in May.
JOURNALIST: A US study centre today has released a report saying there should be an economic element to the ANZUS treaty with the US and Australia's Treasurer and the US Treasury Secretary should be involved in the AUSMIN talks. Do you think there's merit in that argument?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will let the PM, the Foreign Minister and the Treasurer deal with this. Any more questions on Senate voting reform?
Thank you very much.