Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Let’s start with S Kidman and Co, it does appear that Gina Rinehart’s made this $365 million bid for the company. She’d own 67 per cent. Would that satisfy the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These matters have to be assessed through a proper process. It is great news that there is a proposal for Australian majority ownership in relation to an icon asset here in Australia. But there is a process to go through. The Treasurer will make the appropriate decisions in due course.
QUESTION: How long do you think the process will now take, given that it has been rejected a couple of times before?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is an established process through the Foreign Investment Review Board. That would just happen in the ordinary course of events.
QUESTION: The CFA legislation is set to come before Parliament today. Are you expecting that to get the green light?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Michaela Cash, the Minister for Employment has worked very hard in putting our case in particular to the Senate crossbenchers as to why we need to protect volunteers at the Country Fire Authority from a hostile union takeover. We are quietly confident, but we don’t take anything for granted. We do hope that this will be passed swiftly by the Senate though.
QUESTION: If that does pass, does that give you hope then that you will get the ABCC Bill through Parliament by the end of the year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is very important to boost productivity, to boost economic growth and to bring down the cost of construction across Australia for the Australian Building and Construction Commission to be re-established. That was a very bad decision by the previous Labor government to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which had a proven track record in boosting productivity and improving economic performance in Australia. Again, Michaela Cash is leading the charge for the Government in relation to this important piece of legislation. We will continue to work hard to convince everyone in the Senate, every reasonable person in the Senate, that this is an important piece of legislation to pass.
QUESTION: Given the Government’s success on some issues, such as the Omnibus Bill and renegotiating superannuation, and potentially getting the CFA legislation passed, why do you think that Newspoll still has the Government behind Labor.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We went to an election just over three months ago. We went to the election with a plan for our economy, a plan for jobs and growth. We are now implementing that plan. We are getting on with the job. We are not getting distracted. The next time that the Australian people will have the opportunity to pass judgement on our performance and on our future plans will be in more than two years from now.
QUESTION: Standard & Poors has issued a warning, sorry if you have already covered this, about Australia’s foreign debt levels. Is this yet another warning to the Government about the risk of losing its AAA credit rating?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We need to continue to work hard to repair the Budget. We need to continue to work hard to get the Budget back into balance on the timetable set out by the Government. Having said that, the good news is that the Australian economy continues to perform comparatively strongly. Our economy is growing at a stronger rate than any of the G7 economies, at 3.3 per cent. Our unemployment rate at 5.6 per cent is well below what had previously been anticipated. Economic growth and employment growth are stronger than when we came into Government. On the Budget front, we have to continue to work hard to ensure that we put spending growth on a more sustainable and more affordable trajectory for the future.
QUESTION: Senator, are you expecting Labor to reject the enabling legislation for the same sex marriage plebiscite?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten has to decide whether he wants to stand in the way of the Australian people having a capacity to pass judgement in relation to this question. We went to the last election promising the Australian people that we would give them the capacity to pass judgement on whether or not to change the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act. That is a commitment that we will seek to deliver on. This week the Labor party will have an opportunity to give the Australian people the opportunity to pass judgement in relation to this very important matter. If Bill Shorten is genuine when he says he doesn’t want to drag this debate on, if he is genuine when he says this issue should be dealt with sooner rather than later, then he will recommend to the Labor caucus tomorrow to vote in favour of the plebiscite because that will be the fastest way to resolve this issue on a more permanent basis once and for all.
QUESTION: If Labor kills off the plebiscite though, by voting against the enabling legislation, does this mean that this issue is off the agenda for this Turnbull term of Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We went to the last election very clearly making a commitment to the Australian people that we would give them the opportunity to pass judgement in relation to this issue. We said very clearly that this would be a matter for the Australian people to decide, not for the Parliament. We intend to deliver on our commitment.
QUESTION: And can I just ask you a question about Senator Bob Day and his building firm, which has collapsed and has left a fair few families in dire straits. Does he need to, does he owe Parliament an explanation about what is going on with his business interests?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of the business arrangements for Senator Day. I haven’t got enough information to be able to make an informed comment there.
QUESTION: Can I ask finally about Donald Trump, if you haven’t covered this issue as well, Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch have just exchanged some terse words about support or not for his comments. What do you make of his comments he’s made about women that were caught on tape?
MATHIAS CORMANN: His comments were absolutely outrageous. They were completely unacceptable. No one in public life should be making such comments. Nobody should be making any such comments, whether in public or in private life. I made my views very clear on that yesterday. They were outrageously offensive. Outrageously inappropriate. It was quite appropriate that he apologised.
QUESTION: Is the Government getting increasingly concerned though about the prospect of a Trump Presidency now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Any Australian government needs to have and has a very good relationship with whoever the American people choose to be their President. It is a matter for the American people to decide, who they want to be their President.
QUESTION: Alright, Senator, thank you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you.