Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Steve Irons MP
Member for Swan
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you very much. It is great to be here with my good friend, the Member for Swan, Steve Irons, also the Mayor for the City of South Perth, Sue Doherty and the local ward councillor Cheryl Irons and of course our good friends from the RAC. It is very exciting today to be able to announce $6 million in technology grants for Perth as part of our Smarter Cities and Smarter Suburbs program. This is the first round of grants and the grant of just under $1 million towards the driverless shuttle trial between the city of South Perth and the RAC is one of the projects that we are announcing funding for today. We are providing $6 million worth of funding, but is leveraging $15 million in investment all up. This is what this is all about. It is about the Federal Government working in partnership with local government, with the private sector, with research organisations and organisations like the RAC. This is the first round. The program all up will allocate about $50 million nationally. There will be a second round early next year, which will be advertised in the first half of 2018. It is good to be here. I would like to ask Steve Irons and Sue Doherty to say a few words. We will take some questions after that.
STEVE IRONS: Thanks Mathias and thanks to the RAC and also to the Mayor of South Perth. This grant to the electorate of Swan, which has come out of the Smart Cities and Suburbs program is really relevant because we have had twelve months so far of research. This will extend that program for two years. So I know my local residents are excited about it, the fact that this technology could go to saving lives. We had 161 deaths on the roads in Western Australia last year. This technology hopefully will help reduce that road toll. It is an important part of our Smart Cities program, which as the Minister said is $28.5 million in the first round. Western Australia has got a fair share of $6 million, which I think is exciting. There is a focus of the Federal Government on Western Australia as it always is. Mathias to you, yesterday honouring our defence forces in Canberra, representing the Prime Minister and now in Swan making an announcement for this great program, congratulations on being here. We appreciate all the money that the Federal Government gives to the electorate of Swan and to the City of South Perth. Thank you.
SUE DOHERTY: Thank you very much. Thank you to the Minister and to our local MP Steve Irons for being here today, along with the ward councillor Cheryl Irons. The City of South Perth really has been proud to be part of the partnership with the RAC in the Intellibus. Behind you today, those who are taking photos, you can see it is actually version two. We had a first version and this version here has got air-conditioning on it, because the original Intellibus automated vehicle was built in France and it wasn’t conducive to the climate here. The contribution by the Federal Government from the Smarter Cities and Suburbs program will really inject the capacity for the RAC to look further into this technology. We are committed to sustainable transport in the City of South Perth. It is really quite interesting that this Intellibus, this automated vehicle starts from here and then goes to the Old Mill, which is the oldest mill in Western Australia and it was established in 1835. So we have the combination of the new innovative technology and the old in terms of the Old Mill. So thank you very much. We look forward to how the RAC are going to be using this funding to make technology and autonomous vehicles better in the future for everyone. Thank you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Okay, happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Do you support an inquiry into the SAS?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are not matters that are in my area of responsibility. I would refer you to the appropriate Minister.
QUESTION: But still you gave a speech yesterday as I understand it, that touched on some of these issues. You must have a view?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it is very important for us to treat our veterans with respect. It is very important that we preserve here in Australia, all of the things that they fought for overseas including and in particular the rule of law, the presumption of innocence and all of the important freedoms that Australians hold dear and that our soldiers fight for all around the world. I have said what I had to say yesterday.
QUESTION: Do you think though that the use of the word rumours in terms of the inquiry was over the top?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again my statement stands by itself.
QUESTION: Will the Government be stable now in the House of Reps in light of these reduced numbers?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has a majority in the House of Representatives. I think it is well understood various crossbenchers have made clear statements about their intentions when it comes to supply and confidence. The Government continues to govern.
QUESTION: But they haven’t made their intentions clear if it comes to Labor trying to shut down any motion to refer an MP with is a citizenship cloud under their head to the High Court. It could be that you, the Government does not have the numbers.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think you are getting way ahead of yourself. You are suggesting to me, that presented with evidence that one of his Members of Parliament was in breach of the Constitution when nominating, that Bill Shorten would stand in the way of having these Members in his party room dealt with in the same way as any other Member of any other Party. I would suggest that Bill Shorten having called for universal disclosure by Members of the Parliament, having supported a process of universal disclosure, than surely he also must support that the consequences in terms of any findings out of that process apply equally to all Members of Parliament, not just to Government Members of Parliament and other non-Labor Members of Parliament.
QUESTION: What Mr Shorten said was that all MPs should put their credentials on the table in the Parliament. Are you still of the belief that any Labor MP with a cloud under them should resign?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten has said quite a bit more than that in relation to non-Labor Members of Parliament. It is a matter of public record that the Member for Braddon in Tasmania for example has conceded that at the time of nominating for Parliament she was still a dual citizen. The findings of the High Court were pretty emphatic in relation to this. All we are saying is that the same consequences should apply to all Members of Parliament irrespective of which party you belong to. I would suspect that Bill Shorten, at the end of this process of universal disclosure by all Members of Parliament surely will be of the same view.
QUESTION: Should Nola Marino be referred to the High Court? I am told she married an Italian in 1972. Does that make her an automatic Italian?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The High Court has made very clear statements in relation to the circumstances in which you can become an Italian citizen. Nola Marino is not a dual citizen.
QUESTION: Is she still going to apply?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again I will let Nola Marino speak for herself. She has made it very clear on the public record that she is an Australian citizen and an Australian citizen only.
QUESTION: You have said that supply is not an issue, that you do have the numbers. But surely the word crisis does apply in the sense that Australians are looking at this as a crisis of confidence if you like in the ability of either party to conduct proper government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the commentary to you. As far as I am concerned the Government continues to govern. This whole issue started with two Greens Senators resigning because it became apparent that they were dual citizens in breach of the Constitution. Since that time a range of other Members of the Parliament have realised that through descent and without their conscious knowledge also found themselves in that situation. Certain outcomes are there for all to see. We are now going through a comprehensive process where every Member of Parliament is going to be called on to provide an assurance to the Parliament that they are an Australian and an Australian citizen only. That is process that will take its course over the next few weeks. We will just proceed on that basis.
QUESTION: And if the ‘Yes’ vote gets up this week, will debate begin on Dean Smith’s Bill?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The results of the Marriage Law Survey are due to be released on Wednesday this week. As the Government has said all the way through, if the ‘Yes’ case prevails the Government will facilitate the consideration of a Private Member’s Bill. Which Bill proceeds is a matter for the Parliament. What form the Bill will finally be passed through the Parliament is a matter for the Parliament. There will not be a Government position on the Bill. Members of the Coalition will have a free vote in how to deal with the Private Member’s Bill, as was announced at the time that we announced the survey.
QUESTION: Will it be resolved before Christmas?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is certainly the Government’s view, that it is desirable for it to be resolved before Christmas. Personally, I believe it will be resolved before Christmas. But in the end, we are in the hands of the Parliament.
QUESTION: Do you think it should be dealt with within this term of Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I believe it should be dealt with before Christmas. That is what I believe. But there will not be a Government position in relation to the Bill. As we have said when we announced the Marriage Law Survey initially, if there is a ‘Yes’ outcome, which Bill is considered by the Parliament and which Bill ultimately passes and in what form, after which amendments, is a matter for the Parliament. Every Government Member of Parliament will, as the Prime Minister has previously indicated, on the other side of this survey, will have a free vote in how to approach this issue.
QUESTION: In relation to the Liberal Party’s recent State Conference and the ‘Waxit’ Committee proposal that went through, and now with the Liberal Party’s decision not to proceed with that investigation into a ‘Waxit’, is that a victory for common sense?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I was in Canberra yesterday for Remembrance Day. I was not at the State Council meeting yesterday. So I don’t have firsthand knowledge on what was discussed. But … interrupted
QUESTION: Are you pleased that it is not being pursued?
MATHIAS CORMANN: To be frank, what was passed by State Conference was never what was presented in the media. The media always overstretch what was actually passed by State Conference. The State Conference of the Liberal Party essentially passed a heavily amended motion to explore ways to be more financially independent, which, from a Federal Government point of view and I think I said that at the time, we think it is a good thing for all States to aspire to be more financially independent, of course.
QUESTION: Why do you think the Party shied away from looking at that, though?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not sure that that is what has happened. That is your interpretation. I think the argument is still as to who should be on the relevant committee to explore this. Do not always believe everything you read in the newspapers, is what I would put to you.
QUESTION: Fake news, is it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am just saying do not always believe everything that you read in the newspaper. I suspect that the journalist who reported it was not present in the meeting. Neither was I. My understanding is that it is a matter as to who is going to ultimately be on the relevant Committee.
QUESTION: If December the 16th turns out to be the date that Mr Alexander of Bennelong goes to a by-election, would it make sense for those others whom it turns out have got to re-contest, should it all be held on one day, a number of by-elections? Wouldn’t that be sensible?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The first point is that all of us, every single Member and Senator in the Australian Parliament, has an obligation to ensure that we comply with the Constitution. We certify when we sign our nomination form with the Electoral Commission that we comply with the Constitution, including, in particular, when it comes to citizenship requirements. If we become aware of information that leads us to realise that we no longer comply with the Constitution, then it is incumbent upon us to take appropriate steps. Mr Alexander took that step yesterday. That was the honourable thing for him to do. Former Senator Parry did it before him. It stands to reason that the same approach should apply equally to all Members of Parliament. If there are other Members of Parliament who know that when they nominated for Parliament they were a dual citizen, in breach of the Constitution, then really those individual Members of Parliament do need to reflect on what the honourable thing to do is in those circumstances. Thank you.