Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: This week Labor will have the opportunity to vote in favour of genuine needs based funding for our schools instead of 27 expensive special deals. Bill Shorten will have to decide whether he wants to continue to defend discredited Gillard era expensive special deals, or whether he wants to put the interests of school children and parents first. We call on Labor to start focusing on what is in the public interest rather than on continuing with their political games.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: You say that Labor needs to back the Government’s plan in, but it seems that there is division within Liberal ranks about this package as well.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have a strong and united team. We have put a package forward which has broad support. I am aware that my good friend and colleague from the great state of Western Australia, Chris Back, has raised some issues with Catholic schools. As he has indicated, he is very confident that in talking to the Minister, Minister Birmingham, that these issues will be resolved.
QUESTION: On radio this morning, he said that he wants there to be a twelve month moratorium, a review into the current funding situation or he may cross the floor on the issue.
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I have heard him say also, is that he is very confident that his conversations with Minister Birmingham will lead to a positive outcome and that he will be able to support the legislation this week. Again, we call on the Labor party to vote in favour of genuine needs based school funding. That is what supposedly they support. That is what supposedly they advocated for, for a long time. Surely Bill Shorten will not continue to defend 27 expensive, Gillard era special deals and stand in the way of the introduction of genuine needs based funding and $18.6 billion in additional funding for all schools over the next decade.
QUESTION: But Senator, why should Labor support the Government’s package when it does appear that the Government itself does not have its Members on board. Even Kevin Andrews was quoted in today’s paper saying he doesn’t want the Government to do a deal with the Greens if Labor doesn’t back your plan.
MATHIAS CORMANN: In the Senate, in order to get legislation through, given we have 29 out of 76 Senators, everybody knows that we need the support of 10 non-Government Senators to pass legislation. That has always been thus. In that context, we need to convince 10 non-Government Senators to support any Budget measure that we put forward. That is why I am calling on Bill Shorten to reflect on the national interest here. Why would he be fighting to defend 27 expensive, dodgy, Gillard era special deals, instead of grasping the opportunity to implement genuine needs based school funding, which has received broad support.
QUESTION: Labor says it will not support the Government’s measures saying it represents a $22 billion cut in funding. How confident are you that you can get these other ten crossbenchers, even if you don’t get the Greens on board, One Nation seems a bit divided on it all as well.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t accept your characterisation there. What I have heard and what I have read and what I am led to believe is that One Nation will vote in favour of our schools funding reforms. As is always the case with these matters, we do not negotiate through the media. We talk to all non-Government Senators and indeed, we talk to any Coalition Senator who has got views or issues. That is just business as usual.
QUESTION: Just finally, today’s Newspoll, fourteen Newspolls where the Coalition is falling behind Labor. What needs to happen here? Why isn’t the Government’s message getting through?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have to work hard, do the right thing, act in the national interest, provide good government. Between now and the next election, which is not due for another two years, we have some work to do to convince a majority of Australians that we deserve to continue to provide good government for Australia.
QUESTION: Were you expecting the polls to have moved at all? After the Budget?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator on fortnightly polls. Clearly, between now and the election which is two years away, the Government has got some work to do to ensure that we can convince, again, the majority of Australians to support us at the next election. In the meantime, it is important that we continue to provide good Government, that we continue to do the things we said we would do and that we point out all of the flaws in the alternative approach.
QUESTION: Is it concerning to you that One Nation seems to be gaining support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again I am not commentator. When we get closer to the next election, the Coalition, the Liberal-National parties will again be making our case strongly as to why we are the best option to continue to provide good government for Australia. We will be campaigning to make our case and to explain why the vote for any other party is not in our national interest.