Transcripts → 2017


ABC TV - Lateline

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


Date: Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Citizenship disclosures

EMMA ALBERICI: I was joined a short time ago by the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. 

Mathias Cormann, thanks for your company. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here Emma. 

EMMA ALBERICI: We started with a motion wanting to refer nine MPs to the High Court. In the end, only one is being referred. What is the public to make of that? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten clearly has lost the plot. Having told people for months now that there is nothing to see in the Labor party, the Labor party process is perfect, he was completely caught out. Because a number of his Members of Parliament clearly, manifestly, were dual citizens at the time of nominating for election at the last election, contrary to what they certified incidentally on their nomination form. Today he was playing some politics. Today Bill Shorten was trying to refer Coalition Members of Parliament to the High Court without any evidence of them being dual citizens. In fact, in defiance of official evidence to the contrary Bill Shorten wanted to make people believe that even though the Greek government clearly stated that for example Alex Hawke is not a Greek citizen that he, Bill Shorten knows better. Even though the Italian government, in the same terms as the Slovenian government said that Tanya Plibersek was not a Slovenian citizen, the Italian government on precisely the same terms said that Nola Marino was not an Italian citizen. Yet Bill Shorten wanted to refer Nola Marino to the High Court. He has completely lost the plot, because he has overreached. Yesterday, he was exposed as a dishonest, sanctimonious hypocrite. Today he was trying to recover the politics. That is what we have seen today. 

EMMA ALBERICI: What about Jason Falinski he was an obvious absentee from your list there. He says he consulted with the Polish consulate and the UK High Commission but hasn’t provided any documentation. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not my advice. My advice is that he has provided relevant ... interrupted 

EMMA ALBERICI: Have you seen it? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have not looked at every single one of the 150 Members of Parliament, no. 

EMMA ALBERICI: No, I am talking about your side. And you talked about Labor and Bill Shorten, but indeed it was Adam Bandt from the Greens today, who made the point that it must be even handed and non-partisan. That what is colloquially good for the goose should be good for the gander. Why only insist on referring Members of the crossbench and Labor while not wanting to refer your own people. That is one rule for them and a different one for you. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I completely reject that. Firstly, Coalition Members of Parliament have accepted the consequence where they were confronted with either doubt or evidence that they were dual citizens in ... interrupted 

EMMA ALBERICI: Well I have just given you doubt over Jason Falinski that can’t say otherwise to. Clearly the crossbench have satisfied itself that there are four Members on your side who still have questions to answer. If you have nothing to hide, surely you have nothing to fear by referring them to the High Court. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: On your argument where you say if you have nothing to hide why not just refer them to the High Court, on that logic, you should refer 150 Members of the House of Representatives to the High Court ... interrupted 

EMMA ALBERICI: Only those where there are doubts. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten today sought to refer Nola Marino despite official evidence from the Italian government that she is not and never has been an Italian citizen. He sought to refer Alex Hawke, despite official evidence from the Greek government that he was not and never has been a Greek citizen. Jason Falinski has clearly explained his position. Clearly the circumstances ... interrupted 

EMMA ALBERICI: He has explained it, but he, on that score has not provided the evidence. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Neither has Mark Dreyfus. Neither has Michael Danby. Mark Dreyfus when he was asked, well you Mark Dreyfus did not provide any evidence, he just asserts, well my parents came here stateless. I know German law. I know German law before and after the relevant period and so essentially go away.  Mark Dreyfus and Bill Shorten want to test, want to measure Coalition Members of Parliament on partisan grounds on a different basis to Labor Members of Parliament. We have been entirely consistent. What we have said is where there is objective evidence that there is a dual citizenship problem, which there has been in relation to a number of Coalition Members and Senators who have resigned or been referred to the High Court and have gone through the process already. We have taken that course. Bill Shorten put politics ahead of finalising the same-sex marriage. 

EMMA ALBERICI: To be fair Senator, this is the whole crossbench agrees with Labor on this. It is only the Coalition that is insisting this not be settled. There are eight people who the crossbench and Labor say have questions marks over them. The Australian public would be in their rights tonight to say, this is outrageous, wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they want to be settled in themselves to know that all these people are clear one way or the other and the only place to have that settled is the High Court isn’t it? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Emma, you are completely ignoring every single one of my answers. One of the people that Labor sought to refer was Nola Marino, even though there is objective evidence, the same evidence as for Tanya Plibersek, from the Italian government, that she is not and never has been an Italian citizen. Now, what the crossbench … interrupted 

EMMA ALBERICI: Well I understand with Nola Marino there is also a question of whether she has some allegiance to The United States. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no question in relation to that. That is a completely ludicrous proposition … interrupted  

EMMA ALBERICI: Well clearly Mathias Cormann it is not for you or I to make that judgement, but to the High Court isn’t it? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: There has to be a basic level of evidence of a contravention. The argument that the Labor Party has run, sadly so far successfully with the crossbench is oh, yes we have all these Labor Members that are in breach, on the face of it, of Section 44 of the Constitution and need to be referred, but please, please be fair … interrupted  

EMMA ALBERICI: That insults the intelligence of the Crossbench doesn’t it? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: That is the argument that the Labor party has been running so far in the face and in defiance of official evidence to the contrary. Now in relation to Nola Marino, because you have brought it up. Her father was born in the US in 1920. Her mother was born in Perth as an Australian. She was born in 1954 and the only circumstance in which the child of a US citizen, of a sole US parent can become a US citizen is if she was born after 1986, which manifestly Nola Marino was not. Nola Marino was not the daughter of two American citizens. She was the daughter of one parent who was born in the US in 1920. She was not born after 1986 self-evidently. So the Labor party is making this up, they are making this up on partisan grounds. They are making it up because Bill Shorten is embarrassed because has been caught out. Because for months he has told the Australian people that the Labor party has got this perfect process when clearly they did not. 

EMMA ALBERICI: Mathias Cormann, we have to leave it there. Thank you very much on this last occasion that we will get a chance to speak to you Lateline. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always a pleasure Emma.