Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister, how does this affect the Government’s legislative agenda moving forward?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has a clear plan for our economy and jobs. We have a clear plan to ensure Australia remains safe and secure. We will continue to implement that plan. There is a question now in relation to the final composition of the Senate, which will have to be resolved by the High Court. That will be done in due course. From the Government’s point of view we will just keep pressing ahead, implementing our plan.
QUESTION: So there will be no delay in any passage of legislation to the Upper House?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government before today did not have the numbers in the Senate. That does not change. We will continue to work with all Senators representing all parties and all independent Senators to explain to them the merits of what we are putting forward. The reasons why it is important to legislate the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission for example, is to bring down the cost of construction, to strengthen growth, create more jobs. But ultimately, the Government has to works its way through the Senate in the same way that we had to work our way through the Senate before.
QUESTION: On the timing of the issue though, are you likely to wait for the three weeks for the Senate position to be resolved. Or do you think you will push ahead with the vote?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a full program of legislation over the next three weeks. We have to deal with the plebiscite legislation. We have to deal with the appropriation bills. We have to deal with the VET FEE loan reforms. We have to deal with changes to the backpacker tax arrangements, so called. We have to deal with a whole range of bills. We have to deal with the legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and to introduce the Registered Organisations Commission. There is a lot of work to be done for the Senate. We will continue to work our way through these one by one.
QUESTION: A lot of that legislation would have had the assistance of Family First, will that be delayed now until you get that result back. Or at least know who will make up that twelfth seat from South Australia?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government will continue to pursue our legislative agenda through the Senate. We will continue to implement our plan for the economy and jobs, our plan to ensure Australia is safe and secure. It is up to the Senate, as always, to determine how they decide to deal with the Government’s legislation.
QUESTION: When did you become aware of some of the question marks around the validity of Senator Day’s election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Some questions arose on which we sought advice. The Government decided to seek expert, independent legal opinion, which we received late last Thursday. On Friday morning we passed that information on to the President of the Senate, leading us to this point today.
QUESTION: Senator Ryan has been looking into this as Special Minister of State. How long has he been investigating these claims?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is information that the Government became aware of, which raised certain questions. The Government sought advice. We received legal advice from an eminent expert, independent counsel last Thursday after five o’clock. We provided that advice to the President of the Senate Friday morning. When then Senator Bob Day announced his resignation yesterday, that triggered certain statements by the President, which meant that the Government also provided certain public information.
QUESTION: There are suggestions that that information came as early as August though. It was October before this legal advice was finally received from the Government. Why the delay?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are not straight forward questions. The Government was aware of certain information. The Government decided to seek advice in relation to that information. The Government decided to seek expert legal opinion from a very eminent counsel. That advice was received late last Thursday and provided to the President of the Senate on Friday morning. As soon as the Government had clear advice in front of it, we acted swiftly.
QUESTION: You mention that you sought legal advice. How early was that legal advice sought?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The specific detail is a matter for the Special Minister of State to go through. I am sure that he will be doing interviews on this, this morning. The important point is that the Government received clear legal advice from an eminent expert independent counsel late Thursday and provided that advice to the President of the Senate on Friday morning.
QUESTION: As part of the Senate Leadership team for the Government, are you still confident that the ABCC legislation can pass?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I am confident in, is that the ABCC legislation should pass, that it is very important for Australia’s future economic success. It is very important to bring down again the level of industrial disputation, to bring down the cost of construction, to facilitate stronger growth and stronger job creation, in particular in the construction industry. We will continue to support those arguments. We certainly continue to urge the Senate to pass that legislation.
QUESTION: Thanks Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you.