Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
LEIGH SALES: With me now from Canberra is the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. Thank you for coming in, Senator.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good evening.
LEIGH SALES: You were instrumental in the removal of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister. How do you think that is working out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not accept that I was instrumental. That week and it is a matter of public record, Malcolm Turnbull decided to bring on a surprise leadership ballot and as a team we had to deal with the events and the circumstances as they subsequently emerged…interrupted
LEIGH SALES: You are very influential member of the Parliamentary Party as you know and your decision does influence other MPs, but nonetheless, the bigger point is how do you think is it working out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, we are where we are. The Morrison Government has been a minority Government from day one, but the Morrison Government continues to enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives and we continue to get on with the job of delivering stronger growth, more jobs, and getting the Budget back into surplus as soon as possible so that funding for all of the essential services Australians expect can be guaranteed over the long-term.
LEIGH SALES: Let me put to you a question that I put to John Howard the other night so I can get your take on it. We have seen the Coalition lose its majority in the Federal Parliament, as you pointed out. Centrist independents have claimed seats in Coalition heartland, Wentworth, Mayo Indi. You have had a Liberal in a blue ribbon seat, Julia Banks defect to the crossbench, numerous Liberal MPs expressing dissatisfaction with the direction of the Party, including its treatment of women. You have had an epic loss in the state election in Victoria, you have an ageing and declining membership, money troubles, a lack of organised volunteers to help you get your message out, compared to Labor. You also have gone through three Prime Ministers in five years. Don't all of those things, when taken together, add up to a genuine crisis for the party?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. We are the custodians of a set of values and principles, free enterprise, reward for effort, encouraging people to stretch themselves, to have a go, take risks, supported by a well targeted social safety net, which we know delivers better outcomes for individuals, better living standards for individuals, their families and the communities they are living in compared to the alternative of those pursuing an agenda of seeking to achieve equality of outcomes, which leads to a weaker countries and poorer people in those countries. We are the custodians of a superior set of policy values and principles, delivering better outcomes for people. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to implement those effectively in government. What I would point out to you is that as a Government, in 2013 we inherited a weakening economy, rising unemployment, a rapidly deteriorating Budget position. Over the last five years, through our effective policy agenda, underpinned by our values of supporting free enterprise, the free market, reward for effort, encouraging people to stretch themselves and a well targeted social safety net, we have been able to get to a situation now where the economy is stronger, the economic growth outlook is better, employment growth is much better, the budget is in a much stronger and improving position. Not only have we created more than 1.1 million new jobs, we also have the lowest proportion of working age Australians on welfare in more than 25 years. These are all substantial achievements, very much underpinned by our values and principles as a very significant political party.
LEIGH SALES: Let me ask you a first principles question. Do you still believe that federal elections in Australia are won on the centre ground?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes, absolutely. I think the Liberal Party as a party is more successful, as John Howard said the other day in your interview, which I watched, when both the classical liberal tradition and the conservative tradition are represented effectively, work together effectively in a united fashion and cover the broad spectrum that we traditionally cover.
LEIGH SALES: OK, so you agree that elections are won on the centre ground. You have gone through the Government's economic achievements. Can I ask you, then, do you believe on social issues, women's issues, same-sex rights, climate change, euthanasia, the ABC, that the Liberal party today speaks to the majority view of Australians?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I believe that the Liberal party in the Federal Parliament has a broad cross-section of representatives from right around Australia, from a whole variety of backgrounds and that yes … interrupted
LEIGH SALES: That is not exactly what I asked. I asked if the party represents the majority view of Australians on social issues.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We clearly do, because we won the last election and the election before that. So this is tested at every election. It will be tested at the next election. The Australian people will get the opportunity to form judgement. In the end, we are a team of men and women from right across Australia, representing different perspectives, who come together to find solutions to problems facing Australia. One of the key problems that Australia faced when we came into Government was that the economy was weakening, unemployment was rising and the budget position was rapidly deteriorating.
LEIGH SALES: Sorry, you did make that point already and I give you plenty of time to make it. In your home state of Western Australia, a poll found that only one in four women would vote for the Liberal party. Do you think that there is a problem with the party's attitude with female representation, and if so, how can that be addressed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, I cannot predict the next election. I can only point you to the last series of elections. In Western Australia, for quite a number of elections now we have secured significant representation in the House of Representatives and in the Senate and we have had a very high primary vote. We will go to the next election with our track record, a plan for the future, and with our analysis on why the alternative would be bad for families … interrupted
LEIGH SALES: But how about the party's image with women?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, we have work to do to persuade all Australians, men and women, right across Australia, including in Western Australia that we are the best … interrupted
LEIGH SALES: So you don't think it is a particular problem with women?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I believe that as a Government it is incumbent on us to deliver the best possible policies for men and women of all backgrounds and to make sure that we continue to make the right decisions to take a country forward, to take our economy forward, to create more jobs, to create better opportunities for families around Australia to get ahead. To create better opportunities for men and women and children, grandchildren and grandparents to get ahead.
LEIGH SALES: Specifically, do you think that the Liberal party has an image problem with female voters?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not accept that we have a systemic issue in terms of our image with women voters. But of course in the lead up to every election we make sure that we have the best possible policy agenda to take to the Australian people, because we believe that our agenda will deliver better outcomes for families, for men, for women and their families, in the years ahead.
LEIGH SALES: We appreciate your time, thank you very much.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.