Sky News – AM Agenda

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






Marriage law postal survey, energy security

KIERAN GILBERT: The Government says it is hopeful of finalising the ground rules for the campaign around the same sex marriage postal survey, with ballots of course being sent out to homes from tomorrow. Earlier this morning I caught up with the acting Special Minister of State, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government was always keen to ensure that this Australian marriage law postal survey would be conducted in a framework that is similar to that which would apply to an election period. We have been talking to stakeholders from both sides of the argument and in particular in the Parliament to the Opposition. I am quietly optimistic that we will be able to reach a consensus, which hopefully should see additional safeguards legislated through the Parliament by the end of this week.

KIERAN GILBERT: By the end of the week? Possibly today or how soon do you expect? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: The intention is to finalise the discussions today and to finalise legislation through the Parliament by the end of the week. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Can you give us a sense of where it is heading? We discussed this on Friday, but is it basically to mimic the election campaigns? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: In the broad. Some of the things that we would be providing for is authorisation requirements, so that any Australian who is reading an advertisement or watching an advertisement can know where that advertisement comes from. We want to provide fair opportunity for both sides of the argument through broadcasters to get their views heard. We want to ensure that there is no misleading of Australians in terms of how to fill in their survey form. A range of other provisions that would normally apply during an election period. 

KIERAN GILBERT: As you pointed out to me on Friday as well, there are already laws in place when it comes to things like abusive behaviour and so on. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: There are. What we have discussed over the weekend though, bearing in mind that we do want to ensure that all Australians can have the opportunity to express their opinion freely. None of us want people on either side of the debate to be vilified, intimidated or threatened. So we are comfortable that there is a way to appropriately achieve a balance protecting Australians from vilification, intimidation and threats, while at the same time protecting their right to have their say and express their opinions freely. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Well given all Parties now in the Parliament are campaigning, either for or against, it would be healthy wouldn’t it to have that sort of bipartisanship in terms of at least the ground rules? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it is desirable for there to be a broad consensus across the Parliament on the ground rules under which this process will continue to take place over the next eight weeks. The ABS is due to start sending out survey forms as of tomorrow. So as of tomorrow the process is underway in earnest. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s look at the Fairfax poll out today on the economic management front. More than ten points ahead, the Coalition over Labor. That must be something as the Finance Minister you would like to read. But for some reason it is not translating into the party vote, why is that? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Australians are increasingly suspicious of Bill Shorten. As people look at what Bill Shorten is proposing to do, they realise that it would leave all of us worse off. That it would lead to less growth, fewer jobs, lower wages, to less opportunity for people across Australia to get head. There is still a fair way to go to the next election, but what we can see is that people are starting to realise that Bill Shorten’s socialist agenda is bad for the economy, it is bad for people across Australia because it will lead to less opportunity and leave everyone worse off. 

KIERAN GILBERT: With that lead in the economic management component, does that give your colleagues a bit of hope, some green shoots so to speak? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working very hard every day to do the best we can to put Australia on the strongest possible economic and fiscal foundation and trajectory for the future. We also as part of our job need to point out the risks and the threats that would come with the alternative. That is what we will continue to do between now and the next election. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Turnbull has the preferred Prime Minister rating, well he has extended that lead by a significant margin today. Again, it doesn’t reflect in the primary vote. What is holding that up?

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no election on the horizon. It is good to see that the Prime Minister’s strong leadership is being recognised. It is good to see that people are starting to understand the risks and the threats that would come if Bill Shorten was able to implement his socialist agenda, the impact that would have on the economy and the opportunity for Australians to get ahead. 

KIERAN GILBERT: One of the elements that you have got to try and stitch up as well sooner rather than later, preferably by the end of the year, from the Government’s perspective would be the clean energy target. Yet the Nationals at the weekend, their conference voted against any type of clean energy target. That is ominous isn’t it? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus as a Coalition, our focus as Liberals and Nationals is on making sure that energy prices can be as low as possible. That energy security is as high as possible. That we are able to deliver both of these things while still bringing down and meeting our emissions reduction commitments. On the Labor side Bill Shorten’s policies would push up the cost of electricity, would reduce energy security and will ... interrupted

KIERAN GILBERT: The Coalition’s will push it up, if you can’t get the clean energy target done, because you need that sort of mechanism don’t you?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am very confident that we will be able to settle a sensible energy policy framework that will put downward pressure on electricity prices, improve energy security and reliability and will do so in a way that helps us meet our emissions reduction targets. 

KIERAN GILBERT: But you have got the junior party saying that they are not going to back it? Is that premature.

MATHIAS CORMANN: What I am suggesting to you is that we are working on landing a policy framework that will help continue to bring downward pressure on electricity prices and improve energy security and ... interrupted

KIERAN GILBERT: How do you bring the Nats with you on that?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working through that process as we speak. 

KIERAN GILBERT: It is not going to be easy though? If they have held this conference at the weekend and said we won’t back it? Against it from the outset.

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no specific proposal that has actually been adopted by the Government at this point in time. We are considering the Finkel review recommendation that you are raising. I am very confident that we will achieve a landing that is going to be in the national interest. 

KIERAN GILBERT: And the AGL chief Andy Vesey in town today for meetings with the Prime Minister and Energy Minister are you as confident of getting some sort of constructive way forward with him?

MATHIAS CORMANN: For the Government, it is always constructive.

KIERAN GILBERT: But this Liddell power station, the Government says according to regulators report that you need to keep that open for longer.

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is our position. It is on the public record. We believe that that is in the public interest. 

KIERAN GILBERT: He seems to be going counter to that though.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Let us see how the meeting evolves today.

KIERAN GILBERT: Alright Minister, we are out of time. Thanks, appreciate it.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.


Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth