Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SABRA LANE: The Federal Finance Minister and senior WA Liberal Mathias Cormann says the result was not unexpected. Mathias Cormann spoke last night with our political reporter Naomi Woodley.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a big victory for Mark McGowan and the Labor party here tonight. It was not unpredicted. It has been coming for some time now. Published and internal polls have been quite consistent in showing that this was what was going to happen. Overwhelmingly the reason is the time that the Barnett Government has been in office, eight and a half years. Colin Barnett is one of the longest serving Premiers in the history of Western Australia. The overwhelming factor clearly, was an it is time factor.
NAOMI WOODLEY: You helped to set up the preference deal with One Nation. In hindsight that has been a significant mistake hasn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No I disagree. The party organisation in Western Australia, reviewed the internal research and where our primary vote was at, which had totally collapsed. If we wanted to have any chance of minimising losses or maximising the chance of holding onto seats we needed to be able to draw preferences from somewhere. Obviously we were not going to get preferences from Labor or the Greens. The only other party with a sizeable vote in Western Australia at this election was the One Nation Party. That does not mean that we support their polices, it does not mean that we support what they stand for. But it just means that they were our best prospect of being able to boost what was a very low primary vote.
NAOMI WOODLEY:But they ended up, it looks like with under five per cent of the vote in the Lower House, so did you misread their popularity?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not uniform across the state. There are some areas where they have a vote that is significantly stronger. They did not stand in all seats. In the end, we knew that our primary vote was way too low for us to be competitive in a number of seats that we needed to win. In the end we needed to look for opportunities to get preferences from those voters who were not prepared to give us their first preference. That is what we did. That is what we did across the board incidentally, not just with One Nation.
NAOMI WOODLEY: So would you rule out doing such a deal in the future, or it sounds like you think that it is still value assessing these things election by election.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, these are not my judgements to make. These are decisions that are made by the party organisation. What will happen after this result I’m sure, is that the Liberal Party organisation in Western Australia and indeed nationally, will assess the result and seek to draw some lessons. Relevant judgements will be made at the right time.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Should Malcolm Turnbull shoulder any of the blame for this result? Did he do enough to help Colin Barnett?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. Less than ten months ago, Malcolm Turnbull achieved 45.7 per cent of the primary vote here in Western Australia. Tonight was an election on state issues, fought in the context of a State Government that had been in Government for eight and a half years. Really the message that I heard at the polling booth today again and again was that the it is time factor, the fact that Colin had been the Premier for such a long time, overwhelmingly was the most important factor.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Will the Federal Government now reconsider providing Federal infrastructure funding for Labor’s MetroNet public transport policy instead of the Perth Freight Link road project? Doesn’t Mr McGowan have a mandate for that now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Perth Freight Link project is a very important infrastructure project of national significance, which happens to be in Western Australia. It has been independently identified by Infrastructure Australia as a critically important project to reduce congestion and boost productivity and ensure that freight can be moved more safely to the Fremantle port. We remain committed to that project. That money cannot just be shifted across to other projects. Of course we will sit down as a Federal Government with the new State Government and talk to them about their priorities. Anything that they want to put forward by way of proposal will be assessed in the appropriate way. We already are providing $490 million worth of Federal funding for the Forrestfield Airport rail link. That is already a Federal commitment that is taking place as we speak.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Bill Shorten and Federal Labor say that this sends the Government a message about penalty rates. In your view, did the Fair Work Commission’s decision have any impact on this result?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten was completely irrelevant in this election. We know that he came to Western Australia today to bask in the reflected glory of Mark McGowan’s victory. But Mark McGowan’s victory tonight is entirely a result of state issues and state dynamics. Bill Shorten did not in any way add to Mark McGowan’s vote tonight. In fact, if you look at Bill Shorten’s vote in Western Australia less than ten months ago it was down at 33 per cent. Significantly below what Mark McGowan achieved tonight.
SABRA LANE: And that was the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann speaking to Naomi Woodley.