Transcript

Doorstop – Mural Hall

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

Transcription: 

PROOF COPY E & OE

Date: 

26/2/2018

Topic(s): 

National party, Barnaby Joyce

QUESTION: Can we just start with clearing up a couple of issues around this phone call. So there seemed to be some claims by media outlets that the Prime Minister was not aware that Barnaby Joyce was resigning until they let him in on the secret. Can you take us through what time Barnaby Joyce actually called you and how quickly you informed the Prime Minister?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Barnaby Joyce rang me several hours before he made the announcement in a press conference. I immediately rang the Prime Minister on the spot.

QUESTION: Okay and do you remember what time that was?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I will have to check my records. 

QUESTION: Do you think it was reasonable that he chose to call you rather than Malcolm Turnbull? Or does it reveal that the relationship between the two men had broken down?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I was the acting Prime Minister. I was the Prime Minister’s representative on the ground. I do not know that this is really all that productive. We are about to have a new Deputy Prime Minister. The Coalition is strong. The Liberal-National parties work together very well for the benefit of all Australians and will continue to do so.  

QUESTION: Andrew Broad suggested in the last twenty-four hours that the National party did not leak the identity of the woman who has raised concerns about Barnaby Joyce on sexual harassment grounds. But that a Liberal knew about it. Are you going to conduct any sort of investigation into how this woman’s name got into the public domain?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of the circumstances in which the name became public. It was a complaint that was made formally to the National party. I am not aware who Andrew Broad is talking about when he references a Liberal MP. I note that he somewhat qualified his comments earlier today. You would really have to ask him about any details in relation to that. 

QUESTION: Okay, there have been claims that the outing of this woman was an act of intimidation. Now something quite similar occurred when Jamie Briggs was accused of misbehaviour where photographs from Mr Briggs’ phone was released of the woman. Do you think the Liberal party or the Coalition has form in terms of trying to intimidate women who raise claims of sexual harassment by revealing their identity?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I completely reject that. I am not aware of any Liberal having had any involvement in this matter. As far as I am aware, I certainly was not aware of the complaint having been made until such time as it was revealed in the newspapers. 

QUESTION: Graham Richardson in The Australian today says it is hard to think of a more unworthy winner. Michael McCormack has achieved nothing as a Minister and is a question time non-event.  

MATHIAS CORMANN: Graham Richardson is a former Labor Senator. I am not surprised that a former Labor Senator who is still a very passionate Labor supporter would be critical of Coalition Ministers. 

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the fallout of this fiasco will involve George Christensen or another National MP sitting on the crossbench? He is already saying that the Coalition Agreement should end. I assume in that respect what he is saying is that the Nationals should act as independent rather than change who they support as Government. But do you think that the time is right for a re-think of the Coalition Agreement?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not a commentator. The Coalition is a strong and united team. From time to time there are issues within the Coalition, policy issues that are debated, as you would expect to be the case. We will continue to focus on the job that we were elected to do and that is to deliver for the Australian people stronger growth and more jobs. 

QUESTION: How do you feel to see Barnaby Joyce go as Deputy PM?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Sorry?

QUESTION: How do you feel to see Barnaby Joyce go as Deputy PM? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I have answered these questions last week. Barnaby Joyce made the right decision in the circumstances as they emerged on Friday to step aside. Allegations of sexual harassment are very serious allegations. They ought to be and they are being properly investigated. He took the initiative to refer the allegations to the police. He recognised, appropriately, that this was not something that he could deal with in the position of Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National party. 

QUESTION: Now that Barnaby Joyce is gone, do you still need a sex ban for Ministers?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister expects very high standards from his Ministers. The Ministerial code has been amended to reflect that. All Ministers are expected to comply.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, Ainslie Gotto passed away. I assume that you would have known Ainslie from when she was working for Helen Coonan. Any reflections on her passing? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I did not know Ainslie well. Obviously it’s very sad to hear of her passing. My sincere condolences to her friends and family.

QUESTION: Just finally apart from revealing to the nation that you like to eat mayonnaise with hot chips, have  there been any other high points for you as acting Prime Minister?  

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister was still the Prime Minister including from Washington. I enjoyed the opportunity to use the additional interest to promote our very important case for business tax cuts. Families around Australia need us to pass the business tax cuts in full, so that business can create more jobs and pay higher wages. 

QUESTION: So any plans to switch into the House of Representatives so you can do the job more full time? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: No. 

Thank you. 

[ENDS]

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Perth