Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 3 February 2017
KIERAN GILBERT: First of all my interview a bit earlier with Mathias Cormann.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, thanks very much for your time. While the Prime Minister has been cautious in not wanting to release too much detail of the conversation although it was leaked by US officials, he has made it pretty clear that he gave as good as he got.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister made very clear that the conversation with US President Trump was courteous. The Prime Minister has been standing up for Australia’s interests and has been focused on delivering outcomes. We leave the commentary to others.
KIERAN GILBERT: Are you worried though about the implications for the alliance if Mr Trump continues to behave like this?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Australia has been and is a long-standing, strong and reliable friend and ally to the United States. Our alliance is strong and will continue to be strong in the years and decades to come. It has been a strong alliance under governments of both political persuasions, both in Australia and the United States. We are very confident that that will continue for a very long time.
KIERAN GILBERT: He says that he has respect for Australia and its people, but in comments overnight a couple of times, he seemed to say while it was a robust phone call, that countries are taking advantage of the US. He was saying that in the same breath basically. Do you think that that shows a lack of respect not just to Mr Turnbull but to the alliance given we have fought in every conflict alongside the United States since World War II?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I said at the outset, Australia is a long-standing, strong and reliable friend for the United States. We value our alliance with the United States. It is very clear that President Trump would not have entered into the deal that the Obama Administration entered into. He is reflecting on work that was done by the Obama Administration. But what matters to us is that a deal that was entered into between Australia and the United States, between the governments of Australia and the United States will be delivered on. That is the only thing that matters. The Prime Minister has been focusing on delivering an outcome for Australia and he has been successful.
KIERAN GILBERT: And if this is not delivered on. If they do revoke the deal, although they have said again this morning the White House that they will push ahead with it under extreme, very, very extreme vetting is the way that Sean Spicer put it. But if they do revoke the deal that would potentially put a real strain on the alliance wouldn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We don’t expect that to happen. Prime Minister Turnbull has a clear commitment from the President of the United States directly. That has been confirmed by the President’s spokesman Spicer twice now. There have been various other formal confirmations. We understand that President Trump does not like the deal that was entered into by the Obama Administration, but we are very appreciative of the fact that he has given a very clear commitment that the United States will follow through on the commitment that was made.
KIERAN GILBERT: John McCain spoke to Joe Hockey last night, made a phone call to express his support for the alliance and well he basically in other comments blasted Donald Trump for putting stress on the relationship with one of America’s oldest friends and staunchest allies. Do you welcome that intervention from the senior Republican Senator?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are very confident that President Trump and the Trump Administration values the friendship and relationship with Australia. We are of course always grateful for support for that very important relationship from all quarters in the United States.
KIERAN GILBERT: Bill Shorten says that it is not appropriate that we should be finding out information via a US newspaper and from the US side of the relationship before Mr Turnbull reveals information to the Australian people. What do you say to that criticism from Bill Shorten?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten is very irresponsible. It is of course appropriate that the Prime Minister does not provide a running commentary on private conversations between leaders of different countries, itt is of course appropriate beyond what was agreed to be publicly announced. If Bill Shorten suggests that as Prime Minister he would conduct the affairs of the nation in a way where he provides a running commentary on private conversations with world leaders, then that is just another reason why people across Australia should not entrust him with that office.
KIERAN GILBERT: I want to ask you about this issue of clean coal. This notion that Mr Turnbull was arguing that the Government needs to look at. That industry needs to look at. This was at the Press Club this week. How willing is the Government to put its money where its mouth is, in this regard and directly support providing incentives for a new generation coal-fired power station.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our policy objective is to ensure a secure, affordable, competitively priced energy in a way that is as low emissions intensive as possible. In that context what the Prime Minister said is that we ought to be completely technology and energy source agnostic. Coal is an important energy source. It will continue to be an important energy source. There is opportunity to provide reliable, secure, affordable energy supply in a way that is much more emissions efficient. These are opportunities that we are looking to explore whether that is through cleaner coal power generation or carbon capture and storage technology. These are things we will explore in the months ahead. There will be announcements in due course.
KIERAN GILBERT: All of the major energy companies though, from AGL to Origin, they are all saying that they have got no plans to pursue another coal fired power station. So is this simply a nice idea on paper but there are no expressions of interest certainly from Australian energy companies right now in that regard.
MATHIAS CORMANN: In Australia we do have very large coal supplies. Coal is an energy source that does provide very reliable secure base world power in a way that is affordable. So the challenge is to ensure that that can be done in a way that is much less emissions intensive …interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: But you need companies to build them.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is why we are currently looking at how the right incentives can be provided in a way that is technology agnostic to ensure that we have got the most reliable secure energy supply that is as affordable and competitively priced as possible in a way that is as low emissions as possible. These are all policy considerations on how we can provide the right incentives to the market to ensure that that is provided in the appropriate way.
KIERAN GILBERT: And would you like to see, just finally, would you like to see money going to provide those incentives from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for example?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are all things to be considered. I am not here to make relevant announcements today. We are working our way through how that can be best be done, providing those incentives to the market to deliver affordable, reliable, secure energy with the lowest possible emissions intensity.
KIERAN GILBERT: Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann appreciate your time as always, thank you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.