Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Lots going on in Canberra. As we know the Morrison Government has been forced even further into minority status care of that sensational resignation from the Libs yesterday of Julia Banks. Let us go to Parliament House now. We are joined by the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Minister good morning to you.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: I know the Prime Minister essentially flagged a May election yesterday, announced an April the 2nd Budget, but is your Government going to last until May?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Morrison Government has been a minority Government from day one. We continue to get on with the job, building a stronger economy with more jobs and getting the Budget back into surplus as soon as possible, so that funding for all the important essential services Australians expect can be guaranteed over the long term.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: What can you say to people who are looking on at this chaos, and it is chaos, that the Government will last until May and it will not fall because of a vote on the floor some time before then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have just said to you, the Morrison Government has been a minority Government from day one, which continues to enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives. So we are getting on with the job. We are continuing to deliver stronger growth, more jobs and a stronger and improving Budget position. If you look at our track record, having inherited a weakening economy, rising unemployment and a rapidly deteriorating Budget position from the Labor Party back in 2013. Economic growth today is stronger, stronger than anywhere in the G7, well above the 2.5 per cent OECD average at 3.4 per cent, more than 1.1 million new jobs created and the Budget on a strong and improving trajectory, which puts all of the important funding for our services provided by Government on a sustainable foundation for the future.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: And just while you are talking on the Budget, on this surplus, how big a surplus is it going to be? Is it going to be fairly small, sizeable? What can Australians expect?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Budget, which will now be delivered on the 2nd of April, will be delivered at that point in time. I am not going to deliver the Budget for next year, for 2019-20 on your program today…interrupted
MICHAEL ROWLAND: You are quite welcome to.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am sure, but what I would point you to is the most recent financial year for which we have a final Budget outcome, the 2017-18 financial year. The Budget bottom line outcome was $19.3 billion better than anticipated at Budget time and that was on the back of more Australians in work, paying personal income tax and fewer Australians claiming welfare payments because of the strong growth and the strong employment growth in the economy as well as, of course, our discipline in controlling expenditure growth across Government.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: With Julia Banks going, the Government now has only 12 women of the 74 MPs on the floor of the Lower House, that equates to 16 per cent. That is the lowest proportion since 1996. You got a bit of a women's problem, haven’t you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working very hard to select high-quality women right across Australia for the next election, including, of course, Gladys Liu as our outstanding Liberal candidate in the Victorian seat of Chisholm. We have two high quality women in winnable positions in Tasmania. We endorsed Georgina Downer as an outstanding candidate in Mayo. Right across Australia, we are working very hard to ensure that we have a strong line-up of outstanding female candidates, complementing the existing team.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Let us go to the existing team. Julia Banks made it very clear that she felt threatened as a woman in Parliament in her speech yesterday. Kelly O'Dwyer, your ministerial colleague, says the Liberal Party is anti-women. Senator Lucy Gichuhi, Liberal Senator from South Australia says the Liberal Party has to stop beating up on women. So these are members of your own team. These are female members of our own team saying you have a problem?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well I am not aware of the circumstances that Julia Banks is referring to. I am genuinely not aware…interrupted
MICHAEL ROWLAND: She says she was bullied, this is going back to the coup. She said she was bullied around the time of Malcolm Turnbull's knifing.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I did not speak to any of the people that you have mentioned during that period. So I am really just not aware. What I would say is whether you are a man or a woman, leadership transitions are traumatic periods, that is the reality of it. It is not something that any of us enjoy. It is something that is a very unpleasant experience for any of us.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: There is unpleasant and there is bullying, there is a bit of a gap between those two, isn't there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I am unaware of any specific instances that have been referenced. So I cannot really assist you.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Again, the public face put onto the Australian public care of Barry O'Sullivan, a National Senator yesterday speaking about Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens Senator and I quote, "There's a bit of a Nick Xenophon in her and I don't mean that to be a double reference. But there's a bit of Xenophon in her." What do you think of that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it was an inappropriate comment. I was not in in the Chamber at the time, but he was picked up by the President, as was appropriate and Senator O'Sullivan withdrew his comments as was appropriate
MICHAEL ROWLAND: But what do you think a member of your Coalition team actually a. thinking that and b. saying that on the floor of the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think it is disappointing.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Can you understand women watching that from outside politics thinking that, gee, I do not want to engage in politics and if I am thinking of running for Liberal pre-selection or National's pre-selection, I do not want to go there?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again I am not sure what else you want me to say. I think it was an unacceptable comment. The President asked the Senator to withdraw and the Senator withdrew.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Parliamentary sitting calendar released for next year shows there is only seven sitting days before the April the 2nd Budget. The Opposition is arguing you are in a go-slow campaign. Why so few sitting days, Mathias Cormann?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Opposition is wrong. What we have done is bring the Budget forward by six weeks to the 2nd of April to accommodate the timing of the election in the first half of next year, which is due by the end of May. I heard in your introduction earlier that supposedly we had only scheduled ten sitting days in the first eight months. That is plainly wrong. That is a complete and utter lie by the Labor Party. If you look at the sitting calendar, 11 sitting weeks were scheduled for the first eight months of the year, but presumably the Labor Party also is making assumptions in relation to the fact that there is an election and what that would mean, but that is just the reality. If there is an election, of course during an election period, Parliament will not be sitting. That is always the case. But in relation to the period to the Budget, we have six fewer weeks in the period to the budget now at the beginning of next year as a result of having to bring the Budget forward by six weeks, in order to accommodate the timing of the election. That is all that there is to it. In the lead-up to every Budget, there is a period of about five to six weeks when Parliament is not sitting. That is always the case and that will be the case next year.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Lots going on in Canberra. I really appreciate you making the time for us, Mathias Cormann. Thank you so much for joining us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.