Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
KIERAN GILBERT: This morning, of course, Parliament returning you can see the arrival doorstops, news conferences, with a couple of the crossbench Senators right now in fact you have got Ricky Muir and Bob Day there on multiview, just press red on your remote. Here in the Canberra studio live I am joined by the Finance Minister and Special Minister of State, Mathias Cormann. Those two individuals, two of the crossbench trying to thwart the Government in its bid to undertake electoral reform of the Senate. They don’t have any prospect really at the end of the day of securing that because you have got the support of the Greens and Xenophon on this.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t make any assumptions on the ultimate vote in the Senate later this week. But the Senate this week has the opportunity to ensure that the result of future Senate elections reflects the will of the Australian people. What the Senate has in front of it to consider this week is our proposal to empower voters across Australia to determine what happens to their preferences. Not just to their primary vote when voting above the line, but also to their preferences when voting above the line, which is surely preferable to the current arrangement where political parties trade and direct those preferences through non-transparent voting ticket arrangements ... interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: But you’re confident, you must me confident because you have got the Greens and Xenophon saying they are going to back that, so surely they won’t acceed to the crossbench stunts here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I won’t speak for the Greens or Senator Xenophon. But I have been very pleased to see that they, very strongly, have been supporting the reform proposals the Government is putting forward. As far as the Greens are concerned, what we are putting forward is a long standing policy position that they have pursued and similar with Senator Xenophon. So yes, I am quietly confident, but I would never take anything for granted when it comes to the Senate.
KIERAN GILBERT: Does this put you in a difficult position, the Muir, Ricky Muir’s effort to bring on a vote on that Australian Building and Construction Commission, because this is something that potentially, and the likelihood is that you would want to go to a double dissolution election on that issue, if you’re not bringing on a vote when you have got the opportunity, is that really going to be a viable trigger then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, it doesn’t put us in a difficult position. The restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission does remain a high priority for the Government. The Senate has been filibustering debate on this for a very long time, including sending the same Bill to three different Senate committees for enquiry, one of which will be reporting today. We have always been very clear that this week, which is a relatively short week, the priority would be to secure passage of Senate voting reforms. We believe that will take all of the usually available time and more, which is why we are asking the Senate to extend sitting hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We believe that still, all of that time will be taken up by Senate voting reform. We will revisit the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation at the earliest opportunity when we come back in May.
KIERAN GILBERT: But you have got the crossbench on all sorts of issues trying to split the Coalition and the Greens on the same sex marriage, they are trying to bring on a vote there too, to entice the Greens away from this agreed agenda which they have got with you this week.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will not get distracted. I’m confident that the Greens will not get distracted. The objective this week is to pass Senate voting reforms, which is the right thing to do. It is in the public interest. It is designed to empower people to determine what happens to their preferences so that the result of any future Senate election actually reflects the will of the Australian people.
KIERAN GILBERT: Did you ever think you’d be in this position, doing a deal with the Greens?
MATHIAS CORMANN: If there is common ground on public policy, in the public interest, then of course we would work with anyone, including the Greens or the Labor party or any of the crossbenchers, and indeed we have.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Opposition Leader today, just on another issue, is going to be addressing the National Press Club. He’s putting full employment at the centre of a future Labor government’s priorities. What do you say about that, do you welcome that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: If Bill Shorten wants to see stronger growth and more jobs, he should get behind our agenda for stronger growth and more jobs. He should rule out today the reintroduction of a carbon tax. He should rule out today, his disastrous negative gearing changes, which would actually hurt the economy, hurt families and cost jobs. So let’s see. It’s one thing to say these sorts of things, it’s another to actually follow through with actions. Let’s see what Bill Shorten does…interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: It’s a worthwhile goal isn’t it, to have full employment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are all in favour of creating more jobs in the economy. Under our Government, job creation has been very strong. More than 300,000 new jobs have been created. The unemployment rate is below what had previously been anticipated when Labor was in Government. Indeed, our unemployment rate is lower than the OECD average. So we do have a good record, but we do have more work to do. We are committed to pursuing policies to help the transition from resource investment driven growth to broader drivers of economic activity and growth and to strengthen job creation.
KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, the Opposition Leader appears quite emboldened at the moment. He’s even saying that the Prime Minister is shrinking in the job.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is ridiculous. You’re right, he’s getting quite cocky and arrogant…interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: I didn’t use those words.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You’re saying emboldened. I would say cocky and arrogant. He is getting cocky and arrogant. Right now Bill Shorten is siding with union heavies and backroom operators in political parties against the public interest, as he so often does, when it comes to empowering voters to determine what happens in the Senate elections.
KIERAN GILBERT: Finance Minister Cormann, thanks for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.