Transcripts → 2017


ABC TV - 7.30

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia


Date: Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Marriage law postal survey

DAVID LIPSON: But if the Finance Minister and acting Special Minister of State is worried, he is not showing it. In March, you and Peter Dutton had already canvassed the option of a postal vote. That is before the Budget. You could have put money in the Budget and you didn’t.

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not quite right. I certainly did not canvass this. It is true that Peter Dutton was on the record as putting this forward as a potential option. I was aware that other Ministers were putting forward alternative options.But a Budget ... interrupted

DAVID LIPSON: You didn’t discuss it with him?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I was involved in discussions on options, but Budgets and Appropriations Bills are not a collection of hunches of what might or might not be done. They are not a collection of potential options and funding for things that may or may not happen. They are a series of Budget allocations to implement actual policy decisions of the Government.

DAVID LIPSON: You are not worried about the precedent that it might set?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor in Government, in the Rudd and Gillard years, used this Advance to the Finance Minister for relevant expenditure on 32 occasions. I have been the Finance Minister now for 4 years. I have used it on 2 occasions. I am very confident that based on the terms on which the Australian Parliament has given me the authority to make these judgements, that I have made these judgements appropriately. 

DAVID LIPSON: But what if he's wrong and the High Court rules the postal survey valid. There are different ideas within the Coalition about what's now being called plan C. One optimistic version is that the Prime Minister would have to take control and announce a free vote in Parliament to resolve the issue. Perhaps having first sent out a leading conservative to say there are no options left. That would get it off the agenda, but almost certainly spark a civil war. One senior minister is privately talking up another path, to push on and seek Parliament's approval for the postal survey. But ultimately, that means blaming Labor and the Senate for blocking a people's vote which didn't hold for long last time around. In other words, if there's a need for a plan C, it won't be pretty. 

If there was a change in policy, that would have to go through the party room wouldn’t it?

MATHIAS CORMANN: All I can say to you is that the Government’s policy consistently has been that we will give the Australian people the opportunity to have their say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed before any vote in Parliament. That is the commitment that we made in the lead up to the last election. That is what we remain committed to.