Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister, obviously the Nats and their leadership is their business, but right now for the good of the Government, do we need something to happen either way. Either a real show of stability from Nats or to sort this matter out another way?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The leadership of the National party is a matter for the National party. We are in a Coalition with the National party. We have provided good and effective government with the National party. We want to continue to provide good and effective government with the National party for the Australian people moving forward. Obviously, this past week has been a distraction. That is no secret. The Australian people don’t want us to be talking about our own personal affairs. They want us to talk about how we plan to secure more jobs, higher wages and better opportunities for them to get ahead. It is important that we find a way to move on from this as swiftly as possible.
QUESTION: The leadership of the nation though would be of concern to the Coalition as a whole, with a concern about the look of Barnaby Joyce’s acting Prime Minister next week.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Deputy Prime Minister is the Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister is overseas. That is the arrangement. That is really all there is to it.
QUESTION: You are the Special Minister of State. Part of the rules around MPs hiring their partners, means that as Ministers you can’t hire your partner, a Minister can’t hire someone else’s partner. But there is no such rule for backbenchers. Is that a quirk that needs to be fixed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: When do you move from meeting somebody for the first time to being in a relationship to being a partner with somebody. I do not think that is something that I will be able to dissect for you. That is a matter for individual Members of Parliament to explain to you as required.
QUESTION: But even with the case of Damian Drum, he is not part of the executive, he could not hire his own wife, but someone else’s wife. Is that a strange quirk that needs to be fixed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not believe it is a strange quirk, no.
QUESTION: And just on the leadership again, I know it is not up to you, but Ken O’Dowd has been out this morning saying the party needs to tell Barnaby where he is at. We have got reports of delegations might be going. Surely you would be happier if this was sorted one way or the other, you need a bit more certainty?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The leadership of the National party is a matter for the National party. This is obviously a very difficult time for Barnaby, for his family, for his new partner for that matter. I feel for him. But yes, the Australian people want their Government to focus on them. The Australian people want their Government to focus on implementing our plan to secure more jobs and higher wages and better opportunity for them to get ahead. So collectively as a team it is true that we need to move forward and on from this as soon as possible.
QUESTION: How do you think the Australian people will feel about Barnaby Joyce running the country next week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, when the Prime Minister is overseas, the Deputy Prime Minister acts as the Acting Prime Minister. That is the usual arrangement.
QUESTION: Would you encourage Barnaby Joyce to perhaps take a leave of absence next week if only for himself, that might avoid any issues of perception.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to give public advice to any of my colleagues. Barnaby Joyce is a friend and valued colleague. He has made a great contribution to Australia for many years. He is going through a difficult period. It must be terribly distressing for him, for his wife and children and for his new partner for that matter to have all of their deeply personal affairs splashed over the front pages of the newspapers day in, day out. I feel for him. But in the end, we all have a job to do. We have got to focus on the best interests of the Australian people. That is, as a Government, what we are focussed on.
QUESTION: He’s detailed that he has tried to get things back on track with his wife in April last year, and that failed. If he has used family travel allowance after that time to meet with his wife is that within rules?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to get into the ins and outs of Barnaby’s personal affairs. I think that very much goes into his personal affairs.
QUESTION: But this is also the rules of travel isn’t it. I know it is not necessarily something that we want to be doing.
MATHIAS CORMANN: If you want to dissect the ins and outs of every single permutation of somebody’s personal life go right ahead. But I am not going to participate in it.