Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Thursday, 27 October 2016
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Senator Mathias Cormann is the Finance Minister, welcome to the program.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good evening.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Sky News broadcast details of Government talking points today. There is a heading titled 'Abbott Turnbull War'. Is that how it is seen inside the party? It must be.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have got no idea. I have not seen any such talking points. I am a member of the Turnbull Cabinet. I am focussed on doing my job. My job is to help implement our plan for the economy and jobs and to help get Budget improvement measures legislated through the Parliament. That is what I am focused on.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Sure, but they were certainly circulated. No one has denied that they exist. You may not have seen them. Is that an appropriate form of language. I mean, why is it being used.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I haven’t seen them. I am not a commentator. I will let you do the commentary. I will just ... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But it came out of your Government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You say that. I haven’t seen them.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The PM didn’t deny it today.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am focused on my job, which is to continue to do everything we can to implement our plan for a stronger economy and more jobs. That is what I am doing every single day.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, a report in the New Daily today quotes an unnamed Government Minister saying the Prime Minister is sick and tired of the Attorney-General George Brandis. Is he about to be fired?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Attorney-General George Brandis is a very good friend of mine. He is a valued colleague. He does a very good job as the Attorney-General. It is always a matter for the Prime Minister to determine in relation to all of us, whether we continue to enjoy his support. I am very confident that George Brandis enjoys the Prime Minister’s full support.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you think he enjoys the Prime Minister’s full support? But it has been an embarrassing affair?
MATHIAS CORMANN: George Brandis does a very good job as the Attorney-General. As I have indicated, I have got a very good working relationship with him. I look forward to continue working with him.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just on another big story of the day, coming out of your Government, George Brandis announced today that the Australia Law Reform Commission will conduct an inquiry into the high rates of indigenous incarceration. Now you heard just at the start there an assessment from Warren Mundine. He didn’t hold back. He is the chair of the Prime Minister’s indigenous advisory board. So that board exists entirely to give the Prime Minister advice on indigenous affairs. Was he consulted about this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You have to ask the Minister responsible what consultation has taken place. This is not in my area of responsibility. Warren Mundine is somebody that clearly we hold in very high regard. When it comes to the issue of indigenous incarceration I don’t think that anybody would disagree that incarceration levels are way too high. If you look at the period over the last twenty-five years since the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, when it comes to indigenous incarceration rates, we have gone backwards. They are higher today than what they were back in 1991. We have got to always think about how we can find better ways to deal with this. I certainly hope that Warren Mundine will continue to share with the Government his wisdom and his insights on how that can best be ... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: He did. He used the word dickhead. He said crap. I think he has shared his insights. He obviously thinks you are doing a very, not you specifically Mathias Cormann, but your Government, your Cabinet is doing a terrible job on indigenous affairs.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are always very keen to engage with somebody of the stature and wisdom of Warren Mundine. I am hopeful that he and George will sit down and discuss ways forward.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: What he does say though, is that this inquiry is not needed. He says that domestic violence is rampant. That women are being murdered at horrific rates and they are. So why conduct an inquiry. Why is this the right approach?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a range of different issues. Domestic violence is a very serious issue and one that our Government in partnership with State and Territory governments and a whole range of community organisations continue to address. In particular, through the national plan to reduce violence against women and children. My colleague Senator Cash is about to launch tomorrow, with the Prime Minister, the third action plan of that plan. There will be further resourcing and further initiatives there to try and address what is a terrible issue around Australia, with terrible implications for individuals, including and in particular for children and communities across Australia. I don’t think that you can say we should focus on one and not the other. I think we have got to focus on both, addressing the terrible impact and pushing back and preventing domestic violence, family violence across Australia. And also looking at ways to improve the unacceptably high indigenous incarceration rates across Australia. I am sure that Warren Mundine will continue to contribute to all of these public policy debates in the years to come.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: If you are just tuning into RN Drive, my guest is Mathias Cormann. He is the Finance Minister. And our number here at RN Drive is 0418226576. That is the number you can use to text in and share your views. You just mentioned that COAG summit on domestic violence in Brisbane tomorrow. The Prime Minister is attending. Labor says cuts to community legal services and homelessness prevention measures should be reversed to prevent domestic violence. Now if this is echoed at the meeting tomorrow will you reinstate the funding? I know that you have been talking about the general fiscal situation, but should money really have been cut from areas like this? These are frontline services that help people who are dealing with what you say you want to stop, which is domestic violence.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Michaelia Cash as the Minister for womens’ interests has been working very closely with womens’ groups and stakeholder groups across Australia when it comes to preventing and addressing domestic violence. We have made significant additional investments when it comes to the prevention and dealing with the terrible consequences of domestic violence across Australia. There will be further funding announced in relation to the third action plan tomorrow. I will leave the Prime Minister and Michaelia Cash to make these announcements tomorrow. The Government has considered all of these issues. The Government has considered how to most appropriately direct the resources available to us.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Are you giving me an indication that there might be some reversal on some of these priorites?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not giving any such indication at all. I just said to you that I will leave it to the Prime Minister and Michaelia Cash to announce how, based on the consultation that has been undertaken in recent times, that the Government has decided to prioritise the next wave of additional funding to address domestic violence across Australia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Now the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is looking into public servants making offensive and inappropriate changes to Wikipedia pages and your own page is one of the most edited, are you confident your department and staffers are in the clear? What are they doing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have read that story by James Massola today. To be fair to him he says that - because my Wikipedia entry is actually not that extensive and I was a bit intrigued as to what changes could or would have been made - I think his story says that changes on my page that have been made by whoever they have been made, are mostly formatting and date related changes, I think I read. I don’t know who in the public service or across Parliament ... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Have you ever asked anyone to change your Wikipedia page?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No I haven’t. I have never asked anyone to... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Have you gone in and had a go?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No I haven’t.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. Nick Xenophon wants the start date of the Government’s changes to paid parental leave pushed back and household means testing looked at. Will you consider his proposals?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are always engaged in a conversation with crossbench senators and with Labor and Greens senators for that matter when it comes to passing Budget measures, unlegislated Budget measures that need to be legislated. When it comes to the measure related to paid parental leave, what is proposed here is that where somebody gets access to a more generous scheme then the minimum default scheme provided by the Federal Government then, they shouldn’t be able to get access to both of those schemes. That there should be some adjustment to take into account what other benefits might be able to be accessed. We are continuing to pursue that. We think that makes arrangements fairer. The discussions with Senators like Nick Xenophon and others are continuing.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, but these are crucial numbers you need in the Senate. Do you think he makes a good point? I mean with superannuation you were very concerned about retrospectivity but apparently but when women are pregnant having babies, retrospectivity doesn’t matter.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t accept your characterisation at all ... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well it’s true, superannuation retrospectivity was a huge issue in the Government, yet women who are pregnant get hit by this, get stung by this.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t accept your characterisation. Firstly, when it was announced, it was some time ago, it was announced more than twelve months ago. Secondly, it hasn’t been legislated, so you should just wait and see. What I never do and what I won’t do on this occasion, is conduct discussions with the crossbench and other Senators represented in the Senate through your program. I know you always would like me to run an open and transparent negotiation through your program but... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well my listeners vote too and they like to know what’s going on in the Government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: And your listeners will be very pleased that when they see the outcomes at the end of what ... interrupted
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So there is room for negotiation there on start dates.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The start date was part of the measure as announced some time ago. It was part of the 2015-16 Budget and updated in the 2015-16 half-yearly Budget update. So the measure was first announced more than a year ago but it has not yet been legislated. Depending on when it is legislated, you will consider all relevant factors including the timing. I am not going to settle on a position here and now. There is a lot of discussions underway.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, well you have left some door open though. Australia is looking to sign a free trade deal with the EU. Canada has been trying to lock one in. Their deal has been knocked back by a regional government in Belgium called Wallonia, which just happened to be where you were born I have learnt. How confident are you that Australia can sign a free trade deal with Europe and are you the secret weapon as I have heard?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Certainly we would like to sign an export trade deal with the European Union, because we believe that there are benefits both for Australians and for Europeans doing more trade with each other. We believe that helping Australian businesses get better access to the European market is good for business and jobs over here. Helping get access to competitively priced European products into Australia is good for Australian consumers and it is good for business in Europe. We are hopeful that we can negotiate a deal with Europe that is mutually beneficial. If it would help me going over to meet with the government in Wallonia, which is indeed part of the region where my parents still live, then I am sure that that can be arranged.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Alright, you will use any card. Thank you so much, Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.