Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
KIERAN GILBERT: Returning to our top story now. The decision the Prime Minister is going to make, announce today as to will he or won’t he endorse or nominate at least, Kevin Rudd for the United Nations. Joining me from Perth is the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. It sounds like quite a robust discussion yesterday in Cabinet on this issue, Finance Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We had a very good Cabinet meeting yesterday, which was principally focussed on getting on with the job of implementing our plans for the economy, our plans for stronger growth and more jobs and dealing with the details of the Royal Commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory, which was announced yesterday.
KIERAN GILBERT: But you are widely reported as saying, in arguing in the meeting that you oppose nominating Rudd for the job. Will you accept the Prime Minister’s verdict either way here today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, as you would know, I do not talk about what is discussed in the Cabinet, either privately or publicly. It is very important that we maintain Cabinet confidentiality, because Cabinet confidentiality and ensuring that we can have free ranging, open discussion leads to the best possible decisions for Australia. That is why that is very important. Of course I support the announcement that the Prime Minister is expected to make later today. One hundred per cent.
KIERAN GILBERT: And just on the point that Anthony Albanese made this morning, that in these sorts of issues, why should we not just instinctively be backing the Australian here.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to go into the substance of the discussion. These are matters that were canvassed widely in the Cabinet yesterday. I am not going to go into the detail of that discussion. The Prime Minister will make an announcement in due course. I one hundred per cent support the announcement that the Prime Minister is making later today.
KIERAN GILBERT: Now you have got the Royal Commission, you said was the focus yesterday, understandably given those images that were reported earlier in the week. What do you make of the comments of your fellow WA Liberal, Colin Barnett, saying that the Northern Territory government simply is just not competent to be dealing with the juvenile justice system and the challenges it faces there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have a Royal Commission, which is now going to get underway, which is going to investigate the facts. You are right, that footage, that Four Corners footage earlier in the week was just shocking. It was appalling. Our children in detention deserve to be treated with humanity, with respect. The Royal Commission now has a job to do independently, to identify all the facts, to look at what has happened. It is a focussed and targeted inquiry, to make recommendations on how these sorts of events can be prevented in the future. It is an independent inquiry. The Royal Commission is in charge of its own destiny. It can investigate any matter related to its terms of reference. Let’s just wait for the outcomes of that very thorough and substantial inquiry.
KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, I want to ask you about comments made by one of the nation’s most successful immigrants, Frank Lowy, in which he is saying that immigration must be controlled by government rather than being reaction to global upheavals. As an immigrant yourself, what is your take on Mr Lowy’s intervention in that particular debate today? Front page of The Australian newspaper.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Mr Lowy is right. Government must control its borders. The Government must be in charge of the immigration program. Immigration is a very important feature for Australia. Immigration has played a very important role to our success as a nation. Most of us somewhere along the line are either migrants ourselves or are descendants of migrants who have come to Australia to build a life in Australia. We are a very successful migrant nation, but as a Government, people expect us to determine who can come to Australia, the circumstances in which they come, they expect us to ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place and administered effectively. That is what our Government does.
KIERAN GILBERT: And he also makes the valid point as well that as a large nation, we need that immigration growth in order to foster economic growth.
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no doubt that strong levels of migration for many, many decades indeed, for our whole existence as a nation, has been central to our economic success. There is no doubt about that.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay Minister, appreciate your time this morning. We await the Prime Minister’s decision on Kevin Rudd. We will talk to you soon.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.