Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister, Perth was a seat where the Liberal Party actually won on primary votes at the 2016 Election, didn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The local Liberal Party organisation in Western Australia made a decision not to contest Perth and Fremantle at a by-election. We will contest both those seats at the next general election, which is about a year away. Perth and Fremantle are both seats which even when the Labor Party was completely and utterly on the nose in WA, because they had imposed an anti-WA mining tax, they had imposed an anti-WA carbon tax, they had created chaos at our borders, to the point where we had illegal boat arrivals get here as far south as Geraldton, even then, when we won 57 to 43 per cent of the two-party preferred vote and we won 12 out of 15 seats in Western Australia, we still did not win Perth and Fremantle These are Labor seats. It is not since 1911 that an incumbent Federal Government has won a seat off an Opposition. Clearly, the Liberal Party organisation here made a decision to prioritise the contest where we could send Labor a message, which is in Darling Range. To concentrate all of our resources on wining the seat of Darling Range. Clearly, a disgraceful circumstance in Darling Range, where the former Labor Member of Parliament had to resign. I think it is the right decision by the WA Liberal Party.
QUESTION: Don’t you think that Patrick Gorman is more beatable than the previous two Labor candidates for Perth?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, even when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had run the most anti-WA agenda against Western Australia in the history of the Commonwealth. Even after Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard gave us the anti-WA mining tax, the anti-WA carbon tax, created chaos at our borders to the point where we had illegal boat arrivals as far south as Geraldton, even then the Labor Party still won Perth and still won Fremantle In a by-election, it is well known that incumbent Governments do not secure swings towards them in by-elections against the Opposition of the day. I think the WA Liberal Party made a sensible decision to concentrate and prioritise its resources on defeating the Labor Party in the seat of Darling Range, which is eminently winnable for us, given the disastrous circumstances in which McGowan’s Labor Member had to resign from that seat.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that you are not very popular here in Western Australia though?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We were incredibly popular in Western Australia after Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard ran on an anti-WA agenda, giving us the anti-WA mining tax and the anti-WA carbon tax and created chaos at our borders here in Western Australia with boats arriving as far south as Geraldton. We were so popular in Western Australia, that we secured 57 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. We won 12 out of 15 seats. Even in those circumstances, because a seat like Perth is fundamentally a Labor seat, we were not able to win Perth, at a time when we were at our highest high watermark ever. The proposition that we would do better than after Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd’s anti-WA mining tax, anti-WA carbon tax and their chaos at our borders, when we won 57 per cent of the two-party preferred vote - the proposition that we would do better at a by-election, when that is not what history shows, when history shows that no Government has won a seat off an Opposition at a by-election since 1911, is just plain wrong.
QUESTION: Do you think Patrick Gorman is beatable?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, this is a Labor seat…interrupted
QUESTION: You know him and you know his credentials, do you think that he is beatable?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a Labor seat. It is a seat that we could not win when we were at our absolute height on the back of Labor’s anti-WA agenda. Labor’s anti-WA mining tax, Labor’s anti-WA carbon tax, the absolute chaos that Labor created at our borders with illegal boat arrivals as far south as Geraldton. The proposition that as an incumbent Government we could win a Labor seat like this at a by-election, when we could not win it at a time when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were completely on the nose with the people of Western Australia is just wrong.
QUESTION: Do you have any advice for Liberal supporters in Perth about where they should send their preferences? Are they going to vote for Gorman or are they going to vote Green?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge. I am not even sure that Tim Hammond has physically resigned yet. He has announced that he would be resigning. I understood that that was taking a while. The Liberal Party here in Western Australia has made a decision. I think it is a sensible decision. Our supporters always want us to fight every contest, but the truth is we have to be strategic and considered with these things. In all of the circumstances, I think it is the right decision.
QUESTION: Your colleague Dean Smith says the Party has turned its back on its supporters by not running a candidate. Is Dean wrong?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will be running a candidate in Perth and in Fremantle at the next election.
QUESTION: There has been some talk, the Party is obviously not extremely flushed with cash at the moment. There has been a lot of talk about having difficulties fundraising in the past year or two. Was that a factor in the decision?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Liberal Party organisation, like I suspect any Party organisation, always has to make judgments on prioritising limited resources. It is never a good idea to just waste money on a contest that you are unlikely to win. In fact that it is not possible for you to win. We were not able to win Perth or Fremantle when Labor was at its lowest ebb in Western Australia after years of anti-WA taxes and anti-WA chaos at our borders from Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. No Federal Government has won a seat off an Opposition at a by-election since 1911. So whether you have a lot of money or just lesser resources, it is never a good idea to waste money. You always ought to concentrate and prioritise your resources into those contests where you are most likely to be successful. That is what the Liberal Party in Western Australia has done.
QUESTION: Minister what about the decision of the State Executive to intervene and save Ian Goodenough in Moore? Is that the right decision and what do you think about that in relation to Jane Prentice in Queensland?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Liberal Party pre-selection matters are a matter for the Liberal Party organisation. It is not a matter for Members of Parliament to talk about…interrupted
QUESTION: But aren’t you a powerbroker here in WA?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are your words.
QUESTION: Minister do you think that Ian Goodenough is the best candidate to represent the people of Moore?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Ian Goodenough is a good friend. He is a valued colleague. He is a hardworking local Member in the seat of Moore and I work with him very well.
QUESTION: Do you think the Jane Prentice situation is a bad look for the Party given it is already quite short on women in Parliament?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not commenting on pre-selection matters in Western Australia, let alone commenting on pre-selection matters in Queensland. What I would say is that the Queensland Liberal National Party selected an outstanding woman to replace former Leader of the Government in the Senate George Brandis in Amanda Stoker. For all of us, any of us who want to run for Parliament, there are two steps in that process. Step number one is to win over the confidence of the majority of relevant people in our Party organisation, our pre-selectors. Step two is to win a majority of votes in the electorate. We all know that if we want to continue to serve, if we want to continue to represent the people we represent, we have to win both of those contests.