ABC TV – News Breakfast

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






Citizenship reforms, energy, mandatory sentencing

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now, as we are reporting, the Federal Government has failed to get its citizenship laws through the Senate. But reports out this morning suggest it may secure some support from the Labor Party for its energy policy. Lots to chat about. Let us go straight to Canberra, our guest is the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. Minister good morning to you.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Firstly, the citizenship laws failing to get through the Senate. Are they now dead and buried?

MATHIAS CORMANN: No. We remain committed to these very important reforms and will keep working with all non-Government senators to secure the necessary support.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Do you have a plan B if that support is not achieved?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has put forward our plan. We understand that we do not have the numbers in the Senate. So we will continue to work with all non-Government Senators to see how we can best secure a consensus to ensure we can take a step forward. 

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Will you consider changing some of the legislation? There is opposition to that tougher English language test for migrants for a start?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to pre-empt these considerations. This is a matter squarely in the portfolio responsibilities of my good friend Peter Dutton. I will let him explain what his intentions are from here. 

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, reports in Fairfax press this morning that the Labor party is considering doing a deal with the Government on energy policy in the national interest. What can you tell us about that? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I will let the Labor party talk for themselves. We would welcome the fact that, if Labor sees the light and decides to back what is a very sound public policy reform proposal, our national energy plan, our plan for a National Energy Guarantee. If the Labor Party were to decide to back our proposal to put downward pressure on electricity prices, to improve reliability of electricity and to do so in a way that still helps us meet our emissions reduction targets, then we would welcome that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: One option, one reason Labor may be supporting this, this is also supported by people like Matthew Warren, the who is the Australian National Energy Council Chief, is that they see this legislation is de facto carbon pricing. Is that the case? That was pointed to in one of the briefing notes for the legislation as well. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not right. Certainly there are no subsidies under our scheme, there are no certificates. The trading that is taking place is trading in electricity. There is trading in electricity now, of course. So trading in electricity would continue either over the counter or through the ASX …interrupted

MICHAEL ROWLAND: But Matthew Warren, excuse the interruption, says there is pricing of carbon risk for energy companies and he would know as the representative of these companies. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: What this actually seeks to achieve, what this seeks to secure is certainty for investors so that we can have additional investment in energy generation. It is entirely technology neutral, but if we have more certainty for investors to invest in energy generation, we have increased supply into the market, then prices will come down and it will make it easier for us to achieve our emissions reduction targets at the same time. The problem that we have got at the moment, is we are not getting the necessary investment into energy generation, which is why we are seeing what we are seeing in relation to the price of electricity. On top of that, because of the ad hoc development of renewable energy in some parts of Australia, there is significant volatility in the supply of renewable energy into some markets. For example, in South Australia, over a few day period, the reliance on wind and solar went from more than 90 per cent to just three per cent of energy supply that came from these renewable sources. That creates significant volatility, puts the stability of the system at risk and also creates price pressures because there is this sort of volatility comes with significant spikes in prices. So what we are seeking to do, provide certainty so we can have more investment which will give us more supply, which will put downward pressure on prices and which will make it easier for us to meet our emission reduction commitments in a way that is more affordable for consumers and for business.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Another bit of legislation attracting a fair bit of interest up for discussion at Parliament at the moment is the Government's move to ensure there is mandatory sentencing for child sex offenders. The Labor party is supporting the approach in principle, but it is mandatory sentences because it argues amongst other things, if juries know a convicted child sex offender is going to be put away for a mandatory period, they are less likely to support that if there is no discretion for the judge on sentences. What do you say to that line? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: There are certain circumstances and the circumstance you mention is one of those where mandatory sentencing can be appropriate. But again, you are taking me way out of my areas of responsibility here. These are matters for the Attorney-General to address.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: But in principle, do you support? I mean I am assuming you have voted on this in Cabinet. Do you support mandatory sentencing for child sex offenders?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes, I do. This is what I am saying. Mandatory sentencing is not something that you apply across the board, but for certain offences it is something that is entirely appropriate. Child sex offending is one of the most abhorrent crimes there can be. That is one of those circumstances where mandatory sentencing is entirely appropriate.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We covered a fair bit of ground this morning. Mathias Cormann, thank you very much for joining News Breakfast.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you. 


Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth