Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
KIERAN GILBERT: The former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as we have been reported throughout the morning, he told Paul Murray last night that the Nationals are clearly taking the issue of the Coalition’s policy on same sex marriage seriously. Mr Abbott responded to comments made by the Nationals MP George Christensen this week. He’s warning that changes to the Government’s marriage equality policy could see a split in the Coalition. Live now to Perth and the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins me. First of all, your thoughts on where this is at, because once the plebiscite, well you’ve dealt with that and it doesn’t get through Parliament. Where to next, because wasn’t it initially then the plan to have a free vote, once the plebiscite was dealt with?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are all taking our commitment to the Australian people to resolve this issue through a plebiscite very seriously. From the Prime Minister down, all of us are focused on delivering on that commitment to let the Australian people have their say on what the definition of marriage should be in the future. We have allocated the resources for it in the Budget. We have planned for it. We have introduced legislation to the Parliament. We expect the Senate to pass it. That was our policy going into the election. That is what we expect the Parliament, in particular the Senate, to deal with, respecting our mandate and respecting the Australian people.
KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, but that is not going to happen is it. That is the reality. So, where to next for the Government, because ...
MATHIAS CORMANN: The implication of what you are saying ... interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: You are not going to get it through.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The implication of what you are saying is that you suggest that we should change our mind. What we are saying is Bill Shorten and the Labor party should change their mind. Why are they so scared of the Australian people? Why don’t they trust the Australian people with having their say on such a fundamental change? Kieran, you have to remember, the reason there is such a diversity of strongly held views inside the Parliament on this issue is because there is a diversity of strongly held views in the community. The best and most appropriate way to resolve this on a more permanent basis, given that the Parliament over many, many years now has not been able to permanently resolve it, even though this issue has come before the Parliament on a number of occasions, the best way to resolve this on a more permanent basis, is to put this to the Australian people. Let the Australian people settle this. Whatever way the Australian people decide to go, the Australian Parliament will respect. That will resolve it on a more permanent basis.
KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, well, I am not actually saying you should change your mind. The question I was asking, I am just wondering will the plebiscite remain the policy beyond the election. That is what I am wondering, if you don’t get it through now.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We went to the last election making a promise to the Australian people that we would give them their say on this issue. We are acting to implement the promise that we made at the last election. All of us are advocating for it. All of us are taking the necessary steps to deliver on the commitment. The Senate will have the opportunity very soon, to vote in relation to this. We expect the Senate to respect our mandate, to respect the Australian people and to allow the Australian people to have their say in relation to this issue. Bill Shorten quite frankly, should get out of the way.
KIERAN GILBERT: I asked Mr Frydenberg this morning, the Energy Minister, will it remain your policy beyond the next election. He says I have no reason to doubt that it won’t be our policy. Now if that is the case, if it remains your policy for the foreseeable future, how will the moderates in your party manage that, given they are supportive of legalisation, most of them, of same sex marriage.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Kieran, I think you are getting way ahead of yourself. We went to an election just over three or so months ago. We took a clear policy to the election. We have taken and continue to take steps to implement that policy to deliver on the commitments that we made to the Australian people. There is legislation in the House of Representatives as we speak. It is legislation that we would expect to come to the Senate in the not too distant future. The Senate is expected and we expect the Senate to do its job, to deal with the legislation. We call on the Senate to pass the legislation, so that the Australian people can have their say. If that is what happens, then by February we will have a plebiscite. The Australian people will have their say. Whatever decision the Australian people make, the Australian Parliament will respect.
KIERAN GILBERT: What is your message to your fellow Western Australian the Nationals Leader, Brendan Grylls. He wants in introduce as one of the Nationals campaign policies in WA at the moment heading into the state election, he wants to introduce a $5 per tonne tax on iron ore.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am on the public record in this. It is crazy policy. Our iron ore companies here in Western Australia pay royalties on production. The higher the volume and the prices, the more they pay and they pay company tax on profits. The proposition to pick an obscure, out-dated payment and try and increase it 20 fold is an irresponsible approach. It undermines Western Australia as an investment destination. These are capital intensive industries. They need to have certainty in terms of tax and other significant policy settings. To create that level of risk, to undermine out attractiveness as an investment destination that way is very irresponsible. I fully endorse the comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in relation to this and Colin Barnett and other that have made similar comments.
KIERAN GILBERT: It is embarrassing through from a Federal Coalition sense isn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not embarrassing.
KIERAN GILBERT: I know that the Nationals and Liberals aren’t in a coalition formally in WA, but if they get it across the line they would be wouldn’t it? Having a State Government with the National parties as a minor party within Government, if they introduce a $5 per tonne tax?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, we have a strong and very effective Coalition in Canberra at a Federal level. We work together extremely well for the benefit of all Australians. In Western Australia it is a Liberal lead government. Colin Barnett is the Premier. Colin Barnett has made very clear that a Liberal lead State Government will not peruse such a policy under any circumstances. From that point of view, there is no prospect that this proposal would get any traction if the Liberal party is re-elected to lead the next State Government in Western Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: We’ve had some wins recently Federally, in terms of getting the Omnibus Bill through, there was the CFA bill, the tax cuts this week. But all of that overwhelmed in part by, we know the same sex marriage debate that the Labor party is trying to continue to foster but also your own mess ups in the Parliament. We saw that this week with Kelly O’Dwyer. These are really avoidable mistakes.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor party are behaving very childishly. They are running this kindergarten type approach to the Parliament. They pat themselves on the back. They are very pleased with themselves as Bill Shorten is running his kindergarten troops over the sand castles. They are very pleased with themselves. But they are actually not making any difference. They are not making any impact whatsoever. The Turnbull Government is delivering. We are delivering on the commitments we made at the last election. This week we have delivered income tax cuts for half a million Australians on average full time wages. We have delivered on our commitment to protect fire fighting volunteers from a Labor sponsored hostile union takeover. As you have said, we have previously passed significant Budget improvement measures. We are getting on with the job of delivering for the Australian people. Delivering our plan for the economy and jobs. In the meantime, Bill Shorten and his people are running childish, juvenile, kindergarten games, while we are just getting on with the job of governing for Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: And finally, so much focus on Trump and the US Presidential race. Is it unanimous within the Coalition that you are hoping for a Clinton win?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have been on the public record consistently for some time. Who the Americans choose to be their President is a matter for the Americans. But the reported comments made by Donald Trump in the past are outrageous. They are outrageously inappropriate. They are incredibly offensive and unacceptable. That is a view that I think is universally held across the board in Australia. I am sure it is a view that is universally held across the board in the United States. Who the Americans choose, who our friends in America choose to be their President is entirely a matter for them.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, thanks for your time. We will talk to you soon.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.