Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Special Minister of State
STEVE MILLS: I don’t understand Brussels, I have never been there. I know it is the central part of Europe as far as finance is concerned. And a bloke that is a West Aussie who we know really well was actually born there. He’s made himself a big name in our country as our Finance Minister. The Federal Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. And he joins us right now. He’s also the Special Minister of State. Good morning to you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
STEVE MILLS: You would have been shocked by what you saw last night. Those places would have been places you’d know very well.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was an awful day in Belgium yesterday. Our hearts go out to the people of Brussels and Belgium. I did live just a few hundred metres away from the subway station, Maelbeek, which was part of the attack. So that's very confronting. Zaventem Airport is an airport in Brussels where I have departed from on many an occasion. These are all locations that I do know very well. I still have a lot of friends who live in Brussels. My family lives about 120 kilometres east of Brussels, so they were at a safe distance. But I do have a lot of friends in Brussels.
BASIL ZEMPILAS: Sure Mathias, our condolences to all of those people of Belgium. It is a terrible, terrible tragedy. Were you on the phones to your family even though they were some distance away? I think that is always your natural reaction, isn’t it to make sure nobody was around the area at the time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I rang them straight away, as soon as I saw what was happening. Thankfully, all of them were safe. But a terrible day for Brussels and Belgium yesterday.
BASIL ZEMPILAS: And has Brussels been a place, a hot bed of unrest. I mean, did this shock you? Or is this the sort of event that potentially has been brewing given the relations between various factions in your country’s capital?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Across Europe in recent months and over the past few years there has been a lot of these sort of tragedies sadly playing out. Brussels has been in the middle of it for some time, but when it happens it is pretty terrible, pretty awful.
STEVE MILLS: Now you’re one of our leaders here and you have stepped up to the plate in many different ways, so it’s a challenge that we have all got, Donald Trump wants to be the President of the United States. He had this to say:
DONALD TRUMP (EXTRACT): In my opinion, this is just the beginning. It will get worse and worse because we are lax and we are foolish, we are foolish. At this point we cannot allow these people to come into the country. We are allowing thousands and thousands of people to come into our country and we don’t even know where they come from and who they are. We have to be very careful. We are not babies, we can’t do this anymore. We can’t have these attacks anymore. We can’t have world trade centres anymore and planes flying into The Pentagon. It’s time to be smart, it’s time to look carefully.
STEVE MILLS: What is he on about? Is he right or is he just being too simplistic?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not going to provide a commentary on Donald Trump. What I would say, as an international community we do face a serious challenge emanating from the Daesh death cult. There is a response required from the international community and all of us share a determination to get on top of that challenge. Simplistic solutions will not provide the answer we need. In Australia compared to Europe, we do have the benefit of our geographic distance from a lot of the events that are perhaps troubling Europe and other parts of that part of the world. We have just got to continue to focus in a sensible fashion on getting on top of this.
BASIL ZEMPILAS: It’s a sad day obviously. Wonderful country Belgium, great sports people and three languages Mathias, is that correct? Three languages that kids learn in Belgium?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That’s right. I grew up in the German speaking part of Belgium, which is on the Belgian-German border. It is a small community of about 65-70,000 people. Then there are the French and Flemish speaking parts. The Walloon part in the southern part and the Flemish part in the northern part which is essentially Dutch. 10-11 million people in about 30,000 square kilometres which is less than half the size of Tasmania.
STEVE MILLS: So what message would you like to get across this morning?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The message is, we can’t ever let terrorists get on top of us. We have got to press ahead. We are all sad and shocked by what has happened but we just have to press on and live our normal lives.
STEVE MILLS: Otherwise they win.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That’s it.
BASIL ZEMPILAS: Well said. Condolences again to you and your people over there and we thank you for taking our call.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you.