Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
HAMISH MACDONALD: Well here at home, much of the political focus this week will be on the Senate. It is set to vote on a number of key bills, including the same sex marriage plebiscite and the lifetime ban on refugees. But before all of that, later today the Chamber will be asked to refer both Bob Day and Rod Culleton to the High Court, which could shake up the critical numbers on the crossbench. Adding to that the growing perception of disarray, the Government divisions over free speech and a disallowance motion against the Attorney General George Brandis over his dispute with the former Solicitor General Justin Gleeson. Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann is the key Coalition strategist in the Senate. A very good morning to you Senator.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Before we get to the Senate, the US election. It is possible that Donald Trump will be elected President. We have heard across the board about the very significant impact this would have on Australia and in particular the economy. Are we prepared for that impact?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Any Australian Government will always work well and have a good relationship with whomever the American people choose to be their President. It is a matter for them. We look forward to their judgement.
HAMISH MACDONALD: It could drastically change our geo-political outlook in the region couldn’t it. Are we prepared for that outcome.
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have just indicated to you, any Australian Government of either political persuasion will always work well with any American President of either political persuasion, any President chosen by the American people. We have a long and very strong friendship, we have a very strong relationship with the United States. We expect that to continue into the future, irrespective of whom the American people choose to be their President.
HAMISH MACDONALD: What as you understand it, is your colleague Cory Bernardi doing in the United States at the moment.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Cory Bernardi is part of a long standing and well established program involving Members or Senators from both major parties participating in the United Nations in a Parliamentary placement program over a three month period at the United Nations in New York.
HAMISH MACDONALD: So it is a taxpayer funded trip?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a program that has been in place for some time. Where every year ... interrupted
HAMISH MACDONALD: Sure, but is it taxpayer funded or not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Of course it is ... interrupted
HAMISH MACDONALD: Well could you explain what he is doing, apparently campaigning for Donald Trump as President?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware that that is what he is doing. I think you should be asking him these questions.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Is it appropriate for him to be tweeting in support of Donald Trump, drain the swamp, make Australia great again, make America great again, on a taxpayer funded trip to the UN.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Senator Bernardi is entitled to express his view. He is a backbench Senator. He, like everyone in the Parliament is able to take advantage of his rights to free speech.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Okay, so it is appropriate for him to be doing what while there on a taxpayer funded trip to represent us at the UN.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is appropriate for him to express his views. I don’t know what specifically you are referring to. So I am not going to provide a commentary on something that I haven’t seen.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Okay, why did the Government have a double dissolution election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a matter of public record. It is very important that we re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to restore the rule of law across construction sites, bring down the cost of construction as part of our overall plan to strengthen growth and create more jobs. It is important that union officials and officials across all registered organisations have to comply with the same standards as company directors have to comply with. That is why we want to legislate the Registered Organisations Commission legislation. These are matters that the Government wants to progress as soon as possible.
HAMISH MACDONALD: So will you be able to do that this year in the Senate as it currently stands?
MATHIAS CORMANN: My very good friend and colleague Michaelia Cash has been working very hard with our Senate crossbench to explain our proposals and to explain the reasons why we believe those proposals are important. We have to bear in mind that this is a new Senate crossbench post the July election. It is not the same Senate crossbench in large parts as that which was in place before 2 July this year. We are going through that process. As the Prime Minister appropriately indicated, we will press ahead as soon as we can, once we know that we have the necessary support in the Senate
HAMISH MCDONALD: So will that be this year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The work with the Senate crossbench is ongoing. It will happen as soon as possible and as soon as we believe we can get this very important legislation through the Senate successfully.
HAMISH MCDONALD: But you currently can’t?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The work is continuing.
HAMISH MCDONALD: Sure, but as it stands, you can’t.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The work is continuing. As soon as we are in a position where we believe we have support across the Senate for this very important legislation we will progress it.
HAMISH MCDONALD: It does slightly beg the question though. If as you say the primary reason for having a double dissolution was to get this Bill through why you did it given that you now can’t.
MATHIAS CORMANN: After an election the Government needs to work with the Senate as was elected by the Australian people. That is what we are doing. We do have a new Senate. The crossbench in large parts is different from the crossbench that was in place before the election. Senator Cash and the Prime Minister and others, we are all working with the new crossbench in relation to these important bills as we are in relation to other legislation to ensure that we achieve the necessary support. That is just the usual Parliamentary process at work.
HAMISH MCDONALD: Some uncertainty relating to two members of the Senate. Does that mean that the same-sex marriage plebiscite bill has a greater chance of getting through the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We believe that the plebiscite bill should pass the Senate ... interrupted
HAMISH MCDONALD: Yes we know that. I am asking a question of whether it will get through the Senate.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I never take any vote for granted before it takes place. What I can say to you is the Government is totally committed to the passage of the plebiscite legislation. We call on Bill Shorten and the Labor party to allow the Australian people to have their say in relation to the future definition of marriage in the Marriage Act.
HAMISH MCDONALD: What about the lifetime ban on refugees? Bill Shorten has described the ban as ludicrous and ridiculous. If the Bill is defeated going through the Senate, where will that leave third country resettlements?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, it was Kevin Rudd and the Labor government in which Bill Shorten was a senior member, which after they had caused massive chaos and dysfunction at our borders and caused the arrival of 50,000 irregular maritime arrivals and 1,200 deaths at sea arguably through that policy, it is the former Labor government under Kevin Rudd’s leadership, which actually said that those from 19 July 2013 onwards... interrupted
HAMISH MCDONALD: With respect Senator, we are all familiar with the history...
MATHIAS CORMANN: If you will let me finish... interrupted
HAMISH MCDONALD: My question is...
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, this is a very important point ...interrupted.
HAMISH MCDONALD: My question is about third country settlement. If this Bill is defeated, does that cause a problem for third country resettlement negotiations.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Bill should not be defeated. The point I was about to make before you interrupted me, is that it was Kevin Rudd who actually reintroduced offshore processing and who also made the very firm statement at the time, which he now tells us was meant to be temporary, that as of 19 July 2013 no one arriving to Australia illegally by boat would ever be settled in Australia. Kevin Rudd now says he did not really mean it, but Bill Shorten will need to tell us whether he agrees with Kevin Rudd, that this was only meant to be a temporary ban or whether he stands by the policy the way it was expressed by the... interrupted
HAMISH MCDONALD: Sure, you still have given me no answer on third country resettlement.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well we are totally committed to third country resettlement. We are totally committed to offshore processing. We are totally committed to the proposition that no one who arrives here illegally by boat should be settled in Australia.
HAMISH MCDONALD: Mathias Cormann, thank you very much.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.