Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: While the Government is getting on with the job of protecting our borders, Bill Shorten is proposing to give the green light to people smugglers again.
It is time that Bill Shorten stood up to those in the Labor party who want to bring back the chaos and dysfunction that Kevin Rudd brought to our borders during the disastrous Rudd government era.
We always need to remember that when Kevin Rudd and Labor party decided to dismantle our strong border protection arrangements we ended up with more than 50,000 illegal boat arrivals, 1,200 deaths at sea, 17 new detention centres, an $11 billion budget blowout and more than 8,000 children in detention under Labor over that period.
After the very effective border protection policies introduced by our Government, we have now had more than 800 days without any boat arrivals and there is not a single child in detention.
It is very important that Bill Shorten stares down those in his Labor caucus who want to go back to the bad old days of chaos and dysfunction at our borders.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Would you in any way negotiate on the legislation to perhaps get it through?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This legislation formalises existing practice. This legislation formalises what Kevin Rudd announced on 19 July 2013, when he said that anyone arriving illegally by boat here in Australia would not be resettled in Australia and would be processed offshore and never be resettled in Australia. What we are calling on Labor to do is to support the legislation as it is. This legislation is going to be an important signal to people smugglers in our region, to show them the ongoing determination of Australia not to let them get back into business.
QUESTION: But shouldn’t your focus be on the Nick Xenophon team? They are looking relatively positively at it, but they are wanting an increase in the humanitarian numbers.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus is squarely on Bill Shorten and the Labor party. Bill Shorten wants to be Prime Minister of this country and he is not strong enough to stare down the people in his Labor caucus who want to bring back the Kevin Rudd chaos and dysfunction at our borders. Bill Shorten was part of that former Rudd Gillard Government. What we now see is that Bill Shorten doesn’t have the strength to do what is right by our national interest. He doesn’t have the strength to do what is right in protecting our borders. We are squarely focussed on Bill Shorten and the Labor party and calling on them to do the right thing in our national interest.
QUESTION: But could you look, could the Government look at increasing the humanitarian refugee intake. It has got nothing to do with stopping the boats.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have increased ... interrupted
QUESTION: But further?
MATHIAS CORMANN: ... the humanitarian refugee intake ... interrupted
QUESTION: You have, but further?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a distraction. There is a job to be done. That is to formalise in legislation current practice. Current practice which started under Labor and which Kevin Rudd is now telling us was, in his mind, only ever temporary. That is not what he told the Australian people in the lead up to the 2013 election. The truth is that Labor cannot be trusted with protecting our borders. Labor has got a terrible track record. Labor brought back the chaos and dysfunction at our borders. Labor changed policy such that more than 50,000 people arrived here illegally by boat, 1,200 people died at sea and more than 8000 children ended up in detention under Labor. Under our policy framework, under our policies to protect our borders, more than 800 days without an illegal boat arrival and not a single child in detention.
QUESTION: Hillary or Donald and do you hope it is a decisive result?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will soon find out who the American people have chosen to be their President. It is entirely a matter for the American people. The Australian Government will work closely with whomever the American people have chosen to be their President.
QUESTION: What would a Trump Presidency mean for Australia’s trade relations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will not have much longer to wait to see who the American people have chosen to be their President. I very much look forward to finding out the result. Whomever the American people have chosen to be their President, we will work with very well.
QUESTION: On the backpacker tax, surely this is on the Government if it does not go through, that backpackers are slugged 32 per cent.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Australian Labor party wants to just about halve the income tax for foreign workers. They want to increase taxes on Australian retirees to pay for a halving of the tax on foreign workers. We do not believe all is said and done on this. Once Labor properly understands what it is they are actually proposing to do, the implications of what they are proposing to do, we are hopeful that they will change their mind as they have done in the past.