Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister, what do you make of the revelations this morning that Barnaby Joyce inappropriately was touching a woman while he was drunk a couple of years ago?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are allegations that I understand are being refuted. I understand that Barnaby Joyce will make a statement sometime later today. You have to remember, these are allegations that are sourced by a long-time political rival, at a time when, that seems to a rival to be an opportune time to make these statements now.
QUESTION: Do you still have unqualified support for Barnaby Joyce?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have said all the way through, the leadership of the National party is a matter for the National party. But of course, we all support Barnaby as a valued friend and colleague. I can only imagine how distressing the events of recent days and the reporting of recent days would be to his wife and kids, but also to his new partner for that matter. These are deeply personal matters. To have this dragged through the front pages of the newspapers must be very distressing for all involved.
QUESTION: Minister, you just referred to Vikki Campion as his new partner. When did she become his new partner?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are not questions for me. These are questions for Barnaby. I am not aware of the precise timeline.
QUESTION: At the end of the day, are you confident that he'll be able to ride out these revelations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Barnaby is big and ugly enough to explain himself. He has been doing that. I understand he is going to make a statement later today. It will be a matter for others to judge.
QUESTION: What about the statement? Can you give us any details? Can you give us a location? Can you give us a time? What he is expected to say in it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to pre-empt a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister. I will leave that to him.
QUESTION: There was an Essential poll out today that found out a majority of Australians want forced wage rises if company taxes are cut. Just what is your reaction to that? The sense that there's popular support for such a move?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I would say to all who hold that view is that we want both, more jobs and higher wages. The only way to secure more jobs and higher wages, instead of increases in the unemployment rate, is by making sure that the businesses that have to pay for them, the businesses that have to create the new jobs and pay for the higher wages have the best possible opportunity to be successful and profitable into the future. The reason we are pursuing a business tax cut, given what has happened in countries around the world that we compete with, is to ensure that businesses in Australia have the best possible opportunity to be successful and profitable into the future, so they can hire more Australians and afford to pay them higher wages. More businesses being more successful and more profitable means there will be stronger demand for workers. Stronger demand for workers means that business will be forced to pay more for those workers, not because of a Government mandate, but because of the realities of the market. We want businesses to pay more for their workers, but for the right reasons, because the economy is performing strongly, because business is being successful and profitable and because businesses are able to grow and need to hire more people and because of the competition for workers will be forced to pay them higher wages as a result.
QUESTION: Is it frustrating for you that the Government agenda has been thrown completely off course with the Barnaby Joyce issue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Australian people want us to be talking about our plans to secure more jobs and higher wages. They do not want to see us talk about ourselves. They do not want us to be distracted by the sorts of issues that have been on the front pages of the newspapers in the last few days. There is no question that this is a distraction. We all need to focus, to move on from it.
QUESTION: Is there a division between the Coalition out of this issue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. The Coalition is strong and united. This is a deeply personal matter for Barnaby. One that he has sought to address. One that I understand he will address further in that statement later today.
QUESTION: Penny Wong will be delivering a speech today where she says that a future Labor government will increase foreign aid. How important is foreign aid do you think? And would a Coalition Government match that.
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. The Coalition will not match that. The Coalition Government is providing appropriate levels of foreign aid given our fiscal circumstances. Our commitment to foreign aid is there for all to see in our Budget. Until such time as we get the Budget back into surplus it really is not affordable for us to lift that commitment beyond what we have made so far.