Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Mathias, we’ll start with Barnaby Joyce, obviously more detail coming out about where the Nats are at, at the moment, this is a Nats issue, but you must admit that this getting to the stage where it is sucking all the oxygen out of the Coalition?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The leadership of the National party is entirely a matter for the National party. Barnaby Joyce is a good friend and valued colleague. He is an effective senior politician. He has made a significant contribution in the past. I am sure he will make a significant contribution in the future. What form that will take is a matter for the National party. He is the leader of the National party. Really it is a matter for him and for the National party.
QUESTION: We’ve heard that line a few times about it being an issue for the National party. But when Tony Abbott took over from Malcolm Turnbull in 2009, there were plenty of Nats knocking on his door. Why shouldn’t the Liberals have an influence on what is going on in the party room?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The leadership of the National party is as much a matter for the National party as the leadership of the Liberal party is a matter for the Liberal party. That is how it has always been. That is how it should be. That is how it will be in the future.
QUESTION: Barnaby Joyce says this whole matter is becoming a witch hunt. Do you agree with that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to be a commentator. The matters that were on the front pages of the newspapers last week, by and large, were deeply personal matters. I feel for Barnaby. I feel for his family and kids. I feel for his partner for that matter. It would have been a very difficult week for them. It was a distraction for the Government. That is a matter of fact. But moving forward, our focus is on progressing our plan for more jobs and higher wages. Our focus is on implementing all of our policies to ensure Australia can continue to be safe and secure. That is what the Government is focused on.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to Barnaby Joyce since you were chosen to be the acting Prime Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have left a voicemail message for him.
QUESTION: He hasn’t called you back?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have not had a chance to talk. No.
QUESTION: When did you call him, or try to call him?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I left a message for him over the last few days.
QUESTION: How do you imagine he is feeling at the moment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Barnaby has had a difficult week. There is no two ways about it. It would have been very tough on him as it would have been tough on his family and on his partner for that matter. It is important no doubt for him and his family, but it is also important for the Government, for us to get to the other side of this.
QUESTION: What is your view on the Ministerial sex ban?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister is very committed to ensuring that Ministers comply with the highest possible standards. We support the Ministerial code.
QUESTION: Do you see a need to modify or make some changes to Australia’s immigration intake?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Australia’s immigration intake today is lower than what it has been at its peak under the previous Labor government. The most important thing with our immigration intake is that we attract the right people to make Australia their home. The key is to attract people with the skills and the attitude to help make Australia an even greater place than it already is. That is what our Government is focused on. Australian migrants over generations have made a significant contribution to building and developing Australia. I would expect Australian migrants to continue to make a significant contribution in the years ahead. Every migrant who comes here to take a job and shops at the local shop helps ensure that the local shop can hire more Australians and pay them better wages. Every young migrant that comes to Australia to make Australia his or her home and takes a job, pays taxes to help fund the services provided by Government. In the end, attracting appropriately skilled migrants with the right attitude also helps ensure our economic growth into the future.
QUESTION: Do you believe migrants hurt the unemployment rate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, it is a matter of making sure we attract the right set of skills to help grow our economy. In that context, over decades, over generations indeed, migrants who have come to Australia have helped make Australia the successful economy that we are today.
QUESTION: Is it frustrating that Tony Abbott, one of your colleagues is expected to criticise the Government’s energy and education policies in a speech tonight?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Tony Abbott is entitled to his views.
QUESTION: The rail track corporation says that the inland rail project is unlikely to generate a commercial return. As the Finance Minister, how concerning is that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have done a lot of homework in relation to the inland rail project. All of the advice and all of the numbers that are in front of us indicate that the equity injection that we have made into the Australian Rail Track Corporation is expected to achieve a positive return sufficient to ensure that it can continue to be treated as an equity injection.
QUESTION: Are you looking forward to taking the Acting Prime Minister role this week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It will be business as usual. The Prime Minister even when he is in Washington continues to be the Prime Minister. I will do what I do every day. That is to help promote and progress our plan for more jobs and higher wages.
QUESTION: What have you said to close family and friends about this opportunity that you have been given?
MATHIAS CORMANN: People understand that this is a bit of a set of circumstances that have come together. This is really just business as usual. It is no big deal really.
QUESTION: Where will you run the country from if you like? Will you be in Perth or will you stay here in Canberra?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will be here in Canberra for the next few days. I will be going to some other places. I will be in Perth on the weekend.
QUESTION: And what sort of acting Prime Minister can Australians expect from Mathias Cormann?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Business as usual. I will continue to be the Finance Minister. I will continue to do my bit to help promote our plan for the economy and jobs and to repair the Budget. That is what I will continue to do over the next few days.
Thank you guys.