Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
DEB KNIGHT: Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann joins us now from Canberra. Minister, these are sweeping changes, but is Scott Morrison himself safe under these rules because they only apply to an elected Prime Minister don’t they and they do not protect a leader in Opposition?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is our promise and our bond with the Australian people that if they elect Scott Morrison Prime Minister at the next election, that he will remain as Prime Minister until the subsequent election. That is a very significant change in our rules, which ensures that we properly address some of the issues in the past.
DEB KNIGHT: So under these rules, both Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott would be safe. Which again makes voters wonder what was the point of rolling these leaders in the first place?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are right. I supported Tony Abbott remaining in the position and Tony Abbott would have remained in the position under those rules. I suspect that Malcolm Turnbull under these rules would not have initiated a surprise leadership ballot.
DEB KNIGHT: So what was the point?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are where we are. We cannot change the past, but we can certainly change the future. None of us enjoyed being part of these processes in the past. What we are making sure here, is to ensure that people across Australia can have confidence that if they elect Scott Morrison as Prime Minister at the next election, he will continue to be the Prime Minister all the way through the next term of Parliament, delivering stronger growth, more jobs and making sure that all of the essential services Australians rely on are funded sustainably over the long-term.
DEB KNIGHT: You might not be enjoying the voter backlash but you yourself were central to the coup that toppled Malcolm Turnbull. Why has it taken the Party so long to do this? Surely, it should have been the first order of business when Tony Abbott was rolled.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not accept that I was central to the coup. The central development…interrupted
DEB KNIGHT: You played a major part.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I played a major part in resolving the issue that was created by the surprise leadership spill on the Tuesday, which was initiated by Malcolm Turnbull. It is true that in that week the Party made a decision that we needed to resolve the leadership of the Party with more certainty. We have reflected on the events of the past, all the way back since our election to Government in September 2013…interrupted
DEB KNIGHT: But in the wake of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years, you saw the Labor Party bring in these rules themselves. Why didn't the Liberal Party act sooner?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We made a decision yesterday. This is now a change that takes effect immediately and it gives the Australian people confidence that the Prime Minister that they elect, if they elect Scott Morrison as Prime Minister at the next election, he will be there for the long haul.
DEB KNIGHT: The timing of this is interesting coming in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull's latest very damaging spray against the Party. Many are calling for Malcolm to be publicly reprimanded or even expelled from the Liberal Party. Should he be?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. Malcolm is a private citizen, he is entitled to express his views. I wish him well.
DEB KNIGHT: He has to be reined in though doesn’t he, because Malcolm Turnbull is doing enormous damage to the Party. He is the miserable ghost that he vowed he never would be.
MATHIAS CORMANN: So how do you suggest we do that?
DEB KNIGHT: Well you tell me, it is up to the Party isn’t it to rein in members who are speaking out against and doing enormous damage to it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Malcolm is a private citizen…interrupted
DEB KNIGHT: But he is not just a private citizen, he is a former Prime Minister and his views hold enormous weight.
MATHIAS CORMANN: He is a private citizen and Australia is a free country. He is entitled to express his view. We treat him with curtsey and respect and in the end the Australian people get to form their own judgement.
DEB KNIGHT: So it is fair enough for him to be making these comments and continuing to do so?
MATHIAS CORMANN: He is responsible for his own actions. He is a private citizen. It is a free country. In the end, it is up to the Australian people to form their judgments.
DEB KNIGHT: Mathias Cormann thanks for your time this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.