Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
TOM CONNELL: We are going to go live now to Perth where we are joined by the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. Minister thanks for your time this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
TOM CONNELL: These reports this morning of a possible split from Queensland Government MPs, that they are not happy with the number of Ministerial positions. That they have tried to split away with a separate LNP faction. Have you sought whether or not this has happened. Any clarification from any colleagues there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no split. The LNP in Queensland is a division of the Liberal party associated with the National party. Individual members of the LNP choose whether to sit in the Liberal party room or the National party room. We have a strong and united team. We have high quality Ministers representing the Liberal and National parties out of the great state of Queensland. We are just getting on with the job of providing good government.
TOM CONNELL: Right, so just to confirm again so there is no split. The reports today was that there was no split because it was voted down. Have you sought clarification over whether there is unrest there and Queensland MPs are considering trying to form this separate faction if you like.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Individuals in either the Liberal or National parties have views and ideas from time to time. But the important point here is that the LNP in Queensland as I have said is a division of the Liberal party, it is associated with the National party. Individual Members and Senators from Queensland, representing the Liberal and National parties, make a decision whether to be part of the Liberal party party room in the Federal Parliament or the National party party room. There is a strong Coalition between the Liberal and the National parties nationally. That is the way it has been ,in the lead up to the election. That is the way it will be for the remainder of this term in Government and beyond.
TOM CONNELL: And it would have to be a bit of a worry though that this possible split, four days after the Ministry was signed in.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. There won’t be any split. There are from time to time in the organisation discussions on organisational matters. Importantly, I will say it again, the Liberal National party in Queensland is a division of the Federal Liberal party and it is associated with the Federal National party. The arrangements continue as they have been.
TOM CONNELL: Okay, now we have this incident last night at Merrylands police station in Sydney, where a man in his sixties has driven a car with gas cylinders. It is believed he was alight at the time. We are still waiting for details. But police so far have said that they don’t really know what the incident was about and they have no links to terrorism. George Christensen put out on Facebook within an hour of this attack happening ‘I wonder how quickly some idiot is going to inanely say this has nothing to do with Islam’. Well that idiot appears to be so far the police. Has he jumped the gun there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I understand it, he has since retracted those statements and has recognised that this is not actually, as far as we know, a terrorist incident. It is a very concerning incident. The police have responded to the incident with great courage, but the investigation is ongoing. As far as I understand it, based on the information that the police have disseminated so far, this is not actually a terrorist incident, but rather a criminal event, perhaps linked to some mental illness.
TOM CONNELL: If I can get your thoughts on the meeting between the Health Minister and the AMA yesterday. The AMA boss Dr Michael Gannon said he would be gobsmacked if your government continues with this rebate freeze on the GP payment. Do you agree with that statement? And if you need to find the money here, would you offset it within health or could it be offset within other portfolios?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The reason we have had to make decisions to indentify savings within the health portfolio is because we had to pay for increases in funding for state hospitals. We had to find more than a billion dollars to help facilitate affordable access for patients to expensive drugs through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, in particular treatments in relation to cancer and other important treatment services that need to be accessible and affordable for patients across Australia. In the future, any decisions to spend more money on a higher priority in health, will have to be paid for with savings in other parts of the health budget. We are right now in a deficit position. We are in a position where our AAA credit rating is at risk potentially, if we don’t continue to make decisions to put the Budget on a stronger and sustainable position for the future. Until such time as we get back into a reliable surplus, we have to ensure that wherever we need to make decisions to spend more money on a higher priority area, we pay for those with savings in other parts of the Budget.
TOM CONNELL: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, thanks for your time this morning on Sky News.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.