Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Wednesday, 23 August 2017
PATRICIA KARVELAS: You have got until tomorrow night to add yourself to the electoral roll or update your address details if you want your say on same sex marriage. More than 577,000 have done this already, but has the ABS worked through all the detail on how to get the paperwork to every Australian eligible to vote. And the taxpayer will pick up the tab for all those High Court cases involving Section 44 and dual citizenship, so just how much will it cost? Senator Mathias Cormann is the Minister for Finance and the acting Special Minister of State which means he is responsible for this survey. Minister welcome back to RN Drive.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be back.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Crossbench MP Bob Katter says he is seeking a meeting with Tony Abbott when Parliament resumes. Why would he be doing that? Do you have a message for Bob Katter?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You would have to ask him why. Every Australian including every Australian Member of Parliament can seek meetings with whomever they want. I wish him a good meeting.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Are you concerned about the meeting?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Why not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Why would I be?
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well because the implication is obviously around supply. Bob Katter has said he will not guarantee supply. Now I know you still have a one seat majority, but things are getting a bit on the edge as we know with these citizenship challenges and the High Court. So it does matter.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has a clear majority in the House of Representatives. The Government has 76 seats to Labor’s 69 seats. During the last sitting fortnight the Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie and the Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan have also again confirmed that they supported confidence and supply. There is no question that the Government is very stable and secure.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: As of yesterday, the AEC counted around 55,000 additions to the electoral roll. At the end of June this year there were 811,000 people missing from the rolls. Are you concerned that there are many people that are missing out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have made a real effort and the Electoral Commission has made a real effort to encourage all Australians to enrol so that they can have the opportunity to have their say as part of our Marriage Law Postal Survey. More than half a million Australians have updated their details and more than 50,000 additional enrolments have occurred. That is as you would expect, young people coming onto the roll for the first time. We are very pleased with the level of engagement of Australians so far.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Tony Abbott says the vote is on political correctness, religious freedom. Is it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to get myself involved in the campaign, one way or the other. My personal view is well known and I have talked about it on your program. What I would say is the question that the Australian people will be asked to answer is whether the law should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry. That is going to be the question in front of people. Whatever motivates people to make a judgement in their own conscience one way or the other is a matter for them. What I would say to all Australians, make your own judgment based on what you believe is the right way forward and for those that campaign either for the yes or the no side of the argument, I would encourage all to engage in this debate respectfully and courteously.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well some of your colleagues, Christopher Pyne this afternoon said that it was inaccurate to say it was about broader issues. Another one of your colleagues George Brandis said it was basically trickery. So some of your colleagues actually think that this muddying of the waters is inaccurate.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well Patricia, I am responsible for the process. I am responsible for the integrity of the process. I have said very clearly right from the outset that I will not be engaging in the campaign. I will not be engaging and campaigning for one side or the other. I have my personal views and I will express those views in filling out the survey as every individual Australian on the electoral roll will be able to do. But beyond that I am not going to get myself into the ins and outs of the argument.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: People can nominate a trusted authorised person to collect, to fill out and to send back the postal survey on their behalf. How is this going to be policed for fraud?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are the usual arrangements that would take place at any election. You have to remember at normal elections Australians can issue their votes by postal vote now. There are arrangements in place for certain categories of Australians to fill out their ballot paper at a Federal Election in precisely the same way. So the usual arrangements apply and the guidance is to ask a trusted person to provide assistance and that is a matter for the judgement of the individual Australian that wants to take advantage of that opportunity.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you cannot rule out fraud though can you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is not any more or less a problem than it would normally be in an election. What I can say to you is that the individual Australian that wants to rely on the help and support of a trusted other, would do that in precisely the same way as they would do it in the lead-up to a Federal Election when taking advantage of the opportunity to vote by postal vote.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: There will be a paperless option for people overseas, in remote areas or with a disability. Has the ABS worked out the details of that yet? How is that going to work?
MATHIAS CORMANN: They have and I would encourage you to get the ABS to appear on your show so they can provide information…interrupted.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: They are very hard to get, let me tell you Mathias Cormann.
MATHIAS CORMANN: They will be able to provide information to your listeners and they have released quite a bit of detail on their website in relation to all of this. Our commitment, and we have said this from the outset, is to ensure that all eligible Australians will have the opportunity to have their say. For those Australian’s in remote communities or overseas or in the Antarctic or ADF personnel on overseas deployment and the like, there are special arrangements that are being put in place to ensure that they will be able to participate, irrespective of some of the logistical challenges that are involved. The ABS have already made relevant announcements in that regard and I would encourage you to get the Deputy Statistician onto your show as soon as possible, I am happy to help facilitate that if you like.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Good, okay. I would like to get the Deputy Statistician on tomorrow night, can you help me do that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will do my best.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Excellent. There has been some pretty offensive material already distributed in Melbourne, I am sure you have heard about it, the posters, everyone has heard about it. Do you still believe that Australians are capable of having a civil debate? Is that part of the civil debate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes I do believe Australians can have a civil debate, I believe that all, but very…interrupted.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Was that part of the civil debate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well no, obviously not. The poster that you are referring to was offensive, it was unacceptable and it was inaccurate and wrong. But as I understand it and I do not know who is responsible, but as I understand it, the poster actually did not just emerge in the context of this ABS survey, it is something that had previously been circulated. The point I would make is that all but very few Australians would recognise something like this as deeply offensive, inaccurate and quite frankly I believe it is not at all helpful to the cause that they are seeking to promote. Because Australians object to that sort of carry-on would be my judgement. The truth is that very few people in Australia would have these sorts of views and that is now brought out into the open and I believe that the Australian people will rightfully dismiss and reject these sorts of statements and that sort of material.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Will the Government refer Labor MPs to the High Court who have questions surrounding their citizenship?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Why not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it is not up to us to sit in judgement along Party political lines on Members of other political Parties. In the end there is a well-established process when it comes to challenging someone’s eligibility to sit in Parliament through the High Court sitting as a Court of Disputed Returns. In recent weeks in the Parliament, a number of Members of Parliament have self-identified as potentially having an issue to be addressed by the High Court and they have taken steps to have the Parliament refer them to the High Court. That has been supported by the Leaders of their respective Parties on every occasion. I do not believe that it would be appropriate for political Parties on partisan lines to refer Members of other Parties to the High Court through the Parliament. I think that would be a very dangerous precedent and I do not think that is something that should be done.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Taxpayers will be paying the bill for these High Court citizenship cases, is that appropriate? Isn’t it their job to check their citizenship? Why should taxpayers, like all of my listeners be paying for their cases?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As in any court case, those involved pay their own legal fees, that is for starters, unless the court orders otherwise. Whether the High Court orders otherwise in this matter is entirely a matter for the High Court. The Government fully respects the separation of powers and will comply with any direction that we are given by the High Court on these or other matters.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally, you are giving a pretty significant speech tonight. The theme of your speech is opportunity versus the politics of envy. Can you expand on what you mean by that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: For Australia to be as successful as we can be, we need individual Australians to be as successful as possible and we need to put the policy settings in place that encourage and incentivise the pursuit of success rather than to pursue as Bill Shorten is proposing to do, the politics of envy which seek to drag a section of the community down, trying to make people believe that they would be more successful if other people are less successful. That is just a proven method for failure. Clearly Bill Shorten has made a judgement that enough people across Australia have forgotten about the historical failure of socialism. That is why he believes that his own personal political success will be maximised by essentially turning Australians against other Australians.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do you think that is really what he is doing? Really can you characterise Labor’s policies as socialist?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I would characterise Labor’s policies as socialist, absolutely.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: How? How could you possibly defend that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You look at all of Bill Shorten’s rhetoric in recent weeks targeting millionaires, targeting the supposedly undeserved rich. All of his language is anti-success, anti-opportunity, trying to make people across Australia who are doing it tough believe that they would be better off only if other people are worse off. This leads to mediocrity, it leads to everyone being less well off, it leads to less opportunity, fewer jobs and lower wages. Whereas what we are seeking to do is to provide better opportunity for everyone to be successful, get ahead, while of course making sure that there is an appropriately generous and well-targeted safety net in place.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But Minister, the definition of socialism is pretty loose that you have used. You know Labor still believes really in different tax rates, there’s people, there’s business that can certainly make money in this country. That’s not socialism.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor wants to permanently increase the top marginal tax rate to just under 50 per cent. So for every dollar above $180,000, they want to take nearly half of that for the Government. This is absolutely socialism, they want to do that on an ongoing and permanent basis and I mean $180,000 is hardly the millionaires that he supposedly says he wants to target. Wherever you look, and they are looking at taxing workers, savers, home owners, small business owners more. Everywhere they go, they are going after success, after aspiration and that is not the best way forward for Australia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Mathias Cormann thank you so much for joining me.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.