6PR - Marwick on Sunday

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


Date: Sunday, 28 October 2018

Moora Residential College, anti-venom availability, Nauru

JANE MARWICK: You know how I feel about country education and how hard I pushed for school of the air, that decision by the McGowan Government late last December. School of the air was going to be closed and so too some of the residential colleges including Moora Residential College. I pushed pretty hard. I went away on holidays on the fourth of September, only to land in Dubai to my phone going ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. People saying, Ken Seymour and Tracey Errington from the P&C saying call us, call us, it looks like the college is going to be saved. It took an intervention from the Federal Government and Mathias Cormann, the Minister for Finance spearheaded that intervention to save the residential college. I was up in Moora, they were celebrating on Wednesday. They are a bit worried about the bureaucracy and whether or not all of those plans will come to fruition. I thought let’s ask Senator Mathias Cormann who joins me now. Senator Cormann, good morning. Thanks for your time. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Jane. Good morning to your listeners.

JANE MARWICK: Firstly tell me what inspired you to get involved and save the Moora Residential College?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The community campaign in support of retaining Moora Residential College was very inspirational. Moora Residential College is broadly supported across regional WA. Indeed, it has a lot of support in the city here in Perth too. In the end there was an opportunity, I approached the Premier in early July, initially to explore whether there was a way that we might be able to work together to keep Moora Residential College open. In the end, in early September, we reached an agreement. That was essentially it. 

JANE MARWICK: Okay, what are the politics of that like, when you as Federal Government Minister sort of come in and say well we could give you some money, you won’t be seen to be doing a backflip, because that is what people are so critical of the government for. Quite honestly I would have applauded a backflip, but we will move on from that. What are the politics of that like? You’re Liberal. He’s Labor. You’re Federal. He’s State. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: There are times for us to compete with each other in the lead up to elections and there are times to get things done. I think people across Western Australia and people across Australia expect their elected governments to work together for the common good in the public interest. Certainly that is the way I see my role. We have been working with the State Government here in Western Australia across a whole range of areas. Infrastructure, the reform to GST sharing arrangements and also Moora Residential College. We do have a lot of interaction behind the scenes in relation to matters that just need to be resolved in the public interest. In the course of those discussions, there is opportunity to raise issues like this one. 

JANE MARWICK: Okay, so what the community there wants to know is, because they are concerned, they are worried and you will pardon me for saying this, but they are worried that if there is a change of government at the next election, I know you tell me there won’t be, but they are concerned that if there is a change of government at the next election that this deal might fall flat. They want to know is the Federal funding locked away, is it guaranteed? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: The funding is locked away and it is guaranteed. It will be resolved well and truly before the next election. In fact I am very confident that everything will be in place well and truly before the end of this year. Both the Federal Government and the State Government here in Western Australia have locked in. We have made an $8.7 million capital grant available. On that basis, the State Government has committed to keep Moora Residential College open. Inevitably, after you have made the funding commitment, there is some work necessarily involved in getting all of the project details fleshed out and making sure that all of the plans and paperwork is done properly. That is currently underway. The commitment is absolutely rock solid. I am very confident that everything will be squared away before the end of the year. 

JANE MARWICK: Squared away before the end of the year, so well and truly before the caretaker mode kicks in. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well and truly. The election is not due until late in the first half of next year. This will be done by the end of the year.

JANE MARWICK: I can’t see you rushing to an early election.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Not our plan.

JANE MARWICK: I feel like we are doing the country half hour here, but I think this are important issues because they affect the whole State. A lot of us know people in the bush. You have just heard all of these calls and I am sorry to have delayed you. But you’ve heard what’s going on in our regions with health services and a lack of access to anti-venom. I’m not, I have spoken to that many registered nurses, I am not going to cop this thing that it can’t be administered. If you have got the right people there, it can be and it used to be. What do you make of that? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: I heard the tail end of your interview there. Tragic and very sad to hear some of those stories. You are right of course, we should have access across regional Western Australia to these sorts of treatments. I am not meaning to go for the cop out, but it is very much a matter that is administered at the State level. Very hard for the Federal Government to interfere in the running of the State health system. In terms of funding, I heard those remarks as well, there is significantly increased funding going into Western Australia from a Federal point of view and indeed around Australia for health services. In the end, I do not think this is a matter of inadequate resources, I think this is a matter for management decisions on the ground, making sure the appropriate services and the appropriate products are available to treat people if and as required. 

JANE MARWICK: Okay, one thing I do need to ask you that is breaking news today. You and I know how this news cycle works. There is a real push to get children off Nauru. What’s interesting today Senator Cormann is this YouGov Galaxy poll commissioned by the Sunday Telegraph. So a more conservative media organisation if you like, revealing 79 per cent of people want children and their families transferred off the island. That’s interesting that shift. Are you seeing a shift in public sentiment in regard to those kids? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: We have to make decisions that are right. You have to remember that when we came into Government there were 2,000 children in detention and way too many children died at sea, because the decision that the Rudd and Gillard Governments made to dismantle the border protection policies of the Howard Government encouraged way too many people, 50,000 people on 800 boats, to take the highly risky journey across the ocean to Australia … interrupted 

JANE MARWICK: Yeah, so sorry to interject, we understand those push and pull factors, but what do we do with those children and the fact that it seems public sentiment is changing? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: We have to make decisions that prevent children from taking the risky journey across the ocean. We continue to make decisions based on what is right. We will continue to make decisions that are compassionate but that are also focused on protecting the integrity of our borders, not providing encouragement to children and their families to come across the ocean and put their lives at risk. 

JANE MARWICK: Yeah okay, what about those ones who went from Nauru to the United States. Now there is nothing precluding them from eventually coming to Australia is there? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: You are going well and truly outside area of responsibility … interrupted 

JANE MARWICK: Yeah, okay, sorry. I will leave it. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: As Finance Minister, I would encourage you to take these issues up with the Immigration Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs. 

JANE MARWICK: I will indeed. I am just asking you because you are a Government Minister and it is news of the day. Look I think the people of Moora will be heartened to hear that you think that that deal will be done, that everything will be settled by the end of the year. Mathias Cormann, thanks for joining me this morning. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.