Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SABRA LANE: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins us now in the studio. Good morning and welcome.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good Morning Sabra.
SABRA LANE: On this citizenship saga, the Government wants to refer Labor MPs Josh Wilson, Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Xenophon MP Rebekha Sharkie to the High Court. None of them is willing. There is no Crossbench support for it. Will the Government now wait the result of the Katy Gallagher referral before deciding what to do next?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Labor has referred Katy Gallagher to the High Court. There is absolutely no difference between her situation and the situation of Josh Wilson in Fremantle and Justine Keay in Braddon. I heard Rebekha Sharkie say in the Chamber yesterday that she was prepared to refer herself. Bill Shorten has been found out. He has been running a protection racket. He has been misleading people across Australia for months now, trying to suggest that somehow there were no issues, no citizenship issues, in the Labor party. Clearly there are. There are people who by their own admission were citizens of another country at the time when they nominated for the last election, even though they certified at that time that they were not. In fact there are people who are likely to still be dual citizens now, David Feeney, Susan Lamb who is in precisely the same position as Malcolm Roberts. Her attempt at renunciation was clearly ineffective because she did not provide the right paperwork to the right people at the right time.
SABRA LANE: These cases are not black and white. They are grey and there are a number of grey cases too where Government MPs are under a cloud. People like Arthur Sinodinos, Labor has said if he was in Parliament at the moment and not on extended sick leave, they would ask for him to be referred. Alex Hawke, Nola Marino, Julia Banks, Jason Falinski, the documentation for these people is either missing or it is not clear. That is a problem too for the Government isn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No that is wrong. The Labor party is desperate to muddy the waters. If I may, the people on the Coalition side who had problems have identified themselves and have taken steps, have taken action. They have either resigned from the Parliament like Stephen Parry or like John Alexander or they referred themselves to the High Court like Matt Canavan, Fiona Nash or Barnaby Joyce. The Labor party has got people on their side like Josh Wilson, like Justine Keay, like Susan Lamb, like David Feeney who either, by their own admission, not by what we say, by their own admission were dual citizens at the time of nominating for Parliament, or who are likely to still be dual citizens by what they say. In relation to Nola Marino for example, there is clear and official evidence that she is not a dual citizen. There is a clear and official evidence that she is not an Italian citizen from the Italian Government on the same terms to the evidence that Labor relies on for Tanya Plibersek.
SABRA LANE: All these cases, they are all disputed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: They are not disputed.
SABRA LANE: They are disputed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is because Bill Shorten is seeking to defy official evidence from other governments when he relies on that same official evidence from other governments for his own MPs like Tanya Plibersek.
SABRA LANE: The Government is playing the same tactics on this. Given that most voters are heartily sick of this, they are heartily sick of this. Given that the issue has put a pall over the entire Parliament and our way of democracy, why can’t the major parties sit down and sort this out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Because Bill Shorten is being entirely unreasonable in relation to this. Coalition MPs who had a citizen issue took action … interrupted
SABRA LANE: Has the Government actually attempted to sit down and sort this out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have attempted to sit down with Labor along the way. But Labor is not taking a reasonable position here. Coalition MPs who had a citizenship issue took action. Labor now wants to muddy the waters by suggesting that somehow we should refer Coalition MPs who demonstrably do not have citizenship issues to make up for Labor MPs who demonstrably do have citizenship issues. That is entirely unreasonable. That would be fake bipartisanship and it would do nothing to help resolve this issue.
SABRA LANE: Will the Government now use the Katy Gallagher case as a kind of judicial guinea pig case if you like?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Bill Shorten needs to explain why … interrupted
SABRA LANE: Could you answer that question?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to pre-empt what is going to happen in the House of Representatives. What I will say is that the Labor party decided to refer Katy Gallagher, who is in the Senate. There is no difference between her position and the position of Josh Wilson and Justine Keay. Bill Shorten needs to explain why he is treating Katy Gallagher differently from Justine Keay and Josh Wilson. He needs to explain why David Feeney should not resign, the same way as John Alexander resigned. He needs to explain why Susan Lamb should not resign, given that she is in precisely the same position as Malcolm Roberts from One Nation.
SABRA LANE: As Finance Minister are you provisioning in the upcoming Budget update for a super Saturday of by-elections?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Elections and by-elections are a demand driven program as they say in technical terms, in Budget parlance. So if and as they happen, of course they will be funded and the Australian Electoral Commission will be funded to ensure they can properly organise any by-elections that will be required.
SABRA LANE: By the end of today same-sex marriage should be legal. Even though you did not support it, you made sure that the survey process happened and you oversaw the process here in Parliament. Will you enjoy any satisfaction at all that you have fulfilled personally an election promise?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I feel great satisfaction that we have been able to resolve an issue that has been unresolved for Australia for a long time. It was a polarising issue on which good Australians had strongly and sincerely held views on both sides of the argument. I and my colleagues on the Coalition side always took the view that the best way to resolve a disagreement in the community like this is by giving the Australian people a say, which we did. We kept faith with it. The Australian people embraced the process and the result was emphatic. The Parliament is in the process of delivering on the decision of the Australian people.
SABRA LANE: Personally though, any satisfaction?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I feel personally satisfied that I was able to play a role to give the Australian people a say, which has helped resolve this issue for Australia.
SABRA LANE: Just quickly, we had growth figures out yesterday showing that the economy is doing quite well. But wages growth is still anaemic, households have cut back on discretionary spending. When are people going to feel like they are going to get a pay rise?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Wages growth over the last quarter was 1.2 per cent, three per cent over the year, so it is trending up … interrupted
SABRA LANE: But people have closed their wallets.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our plan for jobs and growth is working. We now have secured 2.8 per cent growth over the year. Our policies are helping to create additional opportunity for Australians to get ahead. When you compare that with Labor’s approach, which is all about increasing taxes and making it harder or business to be successful which would lead to less investment, lower growth, fewer jobs and lower wages. We will continue on our path, which demonstrably is delivering nearly a thousand additional jobs a day, which is delivering wages growth now which is also continuing to deliver stronger growth.
SABRA LANE: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, thank you for joining AM this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.