Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SABRA LANE: Joining us with his view is the Government’s Leader in the Senate and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in Perth. Good morning. Welcome to the program.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Sabra.
SABRA LANE: How imprudent was it for Mr Turnbull to use the loss of thirty Newspolls in a row as one of the reasons to remove Tony Abbott?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are not interested in history. We are looking forward. There is a job to be done for the Australian people. That is to continue to implement our plan for jobs and growth, our plan to keep Australia as safe and secure as possible. On all those fronts we have made significant progress. More than 420,000 new jobs over the past twelve months. Seventeen consecutive months of additional jobs growth. We have got to continue to press ahead.
SABRA LANE: In September 2015 though, Mr Turnbull did say that that polling result was a clear signal that people had made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership. The exact same argument could now be put about Mr Turnbull can’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In September 2015 the Liberal party room decided to change leader. We had a new Prime Minister who has led the Government ever since. We have got a significant record of achievement since that time. The test remains the same as what the test was back in September 2015, that is whether the leader, our Prime Minister, maintains the confidence of the party room, which he does. At the next election, we will present ourselves as a team under Malcolm’s leadership, providing our report to the Australian people on what has been achieved, our plan for the future, but importantly, also pointing out the risks and the incredible downsides from going to Bill Shorten as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, who would make Australia poorer and less secure.
SABRA LANE: You talk about the jobs figures, but the public is not giving you the credit for that. Why do you think Mr Turnbull’s popularity has tanked?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I disagree with you. Malcolm Turnbull is not unpopular at all. These are just your words. The truth is, the position of the Government in a pre-election … interrupted
SABRA LANE: You look at his preferred Prime Minister ranking and that has taken a huge hit since he took over the leadership of the party.
MATHIAS CORMANN: If you want to talk about the polls, our position in the polls is actually healthier than what it has been in the period of the Howard government, prior to John Howard winning election after election as incumbent Prime Minister. It is not unusual for incumbent governments in between elections being behind in the polls. We are not actually that far behind, the truth be told. Between now and the election there is some more work to be done. We will continue to work hard to implement our plan for the economy and for our national security. We will continue to work hard to win the trust and confidence of the Australian people in time for the next election.
SABRA LANE: Well how do you turn that primary vote of 38 into a 40 figure to be back in the game?
MATHIAS CORMANN: At the next election the choice will be between Malcolm Turnbull and our team and our plan for more jobs and higher wages and Bill Shorten and his high taxing agenda targeting every hard working Australian with higher taxes, which will make Australia poorer and less secure. At the time of the next election there will be a very clear choice in front of the Australian people. We will work very, very hard to ensure that people understand that for families to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead, we will need the continuation of our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and better wages over time.
SABRA LANE: The dissent on the Coalition side has not been helpful though, even John Howard noted that last week. How much of a hurdle is it for the Government to carry out governing, when you have constant distractions and diversions from the sidelines?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is very true that it is important for us to work as a strong, united and disciplined team. All of us in the Coalition have a responsibility to always remind ourselves that our job is to deliver for the Australian people. Our job is to continue to do the best we can to help families around Australia to have the best possibility opportunity to get head and to ensure our country is safe and secure. That is what we are doing. On all of the key policy issues we do have a strong and united position. From time to time there will be debates on policy. The Australian people expect us to do that.
SABRA LANE: You have got a pretty strong debate right now on energy.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I disagree. The position on the National Energy Guarantee, the position on our plan to improve affordability and reliability of energy supplies is overwhelmingly supported by the party room. This is an issue that when it was debated in detail and extensively in the party room some time ago, the position that was put forward by the Prime Minister and the Energy Minister, received the audibly overwhelming and enthusiastic support of the party room.
SABRA LANE: You have Mr Abbott and the new called ginger group, the Monash group keep offering up alternatives around new coal-fired power plants. This morning, Mr Abbott and Mr Andrews have posted a video of themselves talking about the need for new coal-fired power stations. How helpful is that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Sabra, I did not say it had the unanimous support of the party room. I said it had the overwhelming support of the party room. Various people have expressed their views in public and in private for some time. But let me tell you when the Prime Minister and the Energy Minister presented to the party room the plan for the National Energy Guarantee to bring prices of electricity down and to improve reliability and to do so in a way that helps us meed our emissions reduction targets - after an extensive presentation, lots of questions, lots of discussion, the party room overwhelmingly supported the plan put forward by the Prime Minister and by Minister Frydenberg. Just because people continue to express their views, does not mean that that somehow is a reflection of the overwhelmingly position of the party room.
SABRA LANE: Your point is it is irrelevant.
MATHIAS CORMANN: My point is that every Member of Parliament is entitled to express their view. Just because there is an alternative view does not mean that that is a reflection of where the party room is at. In relation to the National Energy Guarantee plan of the Prime Minister, it has the overwhelming support of the party room. When it was discussed and worked through, that was very clear.
SABRA LANE: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, thanks for joining AM this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.