Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: Last week the Senate had a very productive week, passing the Government’s superannuation reform package, making superannuation tax arrangements fairer and more sustainable, passing legislation to establish the Registered Organisations Commission, making sure that unions and other registered organisations have to comply with similar transparency and accountability standards as company directors.
This week the Senate has the opportunity to support legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which would be good for the economy, for growth and for jobs, because it would help ensure law and order returns to our construction sites. Investors having confidence that infrastructure projects across Australia can be delivered on time and on budget will drive more investment into more projects, creating more infrastructure and helping to strengthen growth and create more jobs.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Are you confident the ABCC actually getting through given so many crossbenchers are putting in all these conditions on it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: My very good friend and colleague Michaelia Cash has worked very hard with crossbench Senators on putting the case why the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission is so important, but also engaging with them in relation to any sensible amendments that they might want the Government to consider. We do not ever take anything for granted. We do believe the case is overwhelming that the Australian Building and Construction Commission needs to be re-established. We took this policy not just to one, but two elections. We took it to a double dissolution election. If the legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission did not pass the Senate, then it would be put to a joint sitting, given that it is a piece of legislation that we took to a double dissolution election.
QUESTION: And can you tell us a little bit more about this reported deal between Mr Turnbull and Senator Xenophon about the builders that refuse to pay their subbies?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will let Michaela Cash go through all of the detail in relation to agreement on amendments. The point that I am here to make is that the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission is a central part of our plan for a stronger economy and more jobs. Restoring law and order on our building sites will give confidence to investors that infrastructure projects in Australia for example can be delivered on time and on budget. It will help ensure that investors have the confidence to invest more, in more projects, so that we can not only deliver more jobs, but end up with more and better infrastructure, which helps to strengthen the economy. All of the detail in relation to any discussions between the Government and crossbench Senators will be announced in due course by my good friend and colleague Senator Cash. That will take place some time today.
QUESTION: Just how much ground is the Government willing to cede to solve this water dispute?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As we understand it, Senator Xenophon is very keen to ensure that the Government remains totally and unequivocally committed to the National Water Plan. We do remain absolutely and unequivocally committed to the National Water Plan.
QUESTION: And are you gearing up for the Cabinet reshuffle? How are you feeling about that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of any Cabinet reshuffle. I am just getting on with the job. The job at hand is to do the best we can every single day to put Australia on the strongest possible foundation for the future.
QUESTION: Tony Abbott has said that he does want to return to the frontbench. Do you think this, I suppose, jeopardises Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Malcolm Turnbull is providing very strong leadership. We are a strong and united team. All of us, in the Liberal National party Government, every single day are focused on doing the right thing by Australia, doing the best we can to put Australia on the strongest possible foundation for the future.
QUESTION: Do you think this is time to make some room on the front bench for Mr Abbott?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, these are matters for the Prime Minister to consider in due course. We are a strong and united team focused on doing the right thing by Australia. We are focused on doing the best job we can, putting Australia on the strongest possible foundation for the future.
QUESTION: What do you make of the Greens’ push for an inquiry into the latest Senator Brandis gaffe?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, I do not agree with that characterisation at all. I will let the Greens talk for themselves.
QUESTION: But would you support that inquiry and do you think it can achieve much?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I will let the Greens talk for themselves. I have not seen what the Greens are proposing. Let’s see what they put forward. But I would be very surprised if the Government were to support anything the Greens put forward in this space. They are just pursuing political lines.
QUESTION: Is it simply trouble making on their part?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is usually what we get from the Greens.