Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Let’s start off with the security briefing that Bill Shorten is going to receive today. Is the Government expecting Bill Shorten to compromise on this bill?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The absolutely unbelievable situation we are in is that Bill Shorten before Christmas was prepared to weaken our border protection policies, was prepared to put people smugglers back into business without having received a security briefing. The fact that only now is he asking for a security briefing as he is about to set out again to try and weaken our border protection policies is completely reckless and shows that he is not a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister of Australia. Anyone who aspires to be Prime Minister of Australia should be committed enough to our national security to have sought these sorts of questions and these sorts of briefings before making decisions to rush legislation through the Parliament that would put people smugglers back into business. The fact that Bill Shorten was prepared to push this through the Parliament in pursuit of a political win at the expense of our border security arrangements should be an issue of great concern to people right across Australia.
QUESTION: What sort of compromise would the Government be willing to accept with Labor?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely none. There is no way to improve this bad bill. This is a bill that would weaken our border protection policies. It is a bill that would put people smugglers back into business. We are not at all interested in weakening the current border protection policy arrangements that are currently in place and that are working well. People need to remember, Labor has done this before. Labor has form on this. Kevin Rudd once promised the Australian people that he would keep our borders safe and secure and as soon as he came into government he weakened our border protection policies. 50,000 illegal boat arrivals, 1200 deaths at sea. Bill Shorten is not even waiting for the result of the election. He wants to weaken our border protection policies now, without having received a security briefing before making his decision. It just shows you that he is not fit to be Prime Minister of Australia. He does not follow the processes required to make the best possible and the right decisions for the Australian people.
QUESTION: Do you share Christopher Pyne’s view that politics in Australia is in a self-obsessed panic mode spiral?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the commentary on commentary to you. I am focused and all of my colleagues are focused on doing everything we can this week to make Australia stronger, to make our economy stronger, to create more jobs, to give Australian families the best possible opportunity to get ahead and to keep Australia’s borders secure.
QUESTION: Are his comments damaging, the day before Parliament goes back?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are the commentator. I will leave the commentary to you.
QUESTION: When it comes to the bill, the border bill, the Phelps bill, if the compromise with Labor is that the Immigration Minister would be given complete discretion to reject a sick asylum seeker from coming to Australia, would that be acceptable at all?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is no need for a compromise. Our border protection arrangements are working well. There is no need to weaken our border protection policies in any way shape or form. In fact we absolutely should not weaken our border protection policies in any way shape or form. Bill Shorten on having received the security briefing should step back from his reckless decision before Christmas to weaken our border protection policies and to put people smugglers back into business.
QUESTION: Just on that issue, over the past month we have been talking about the security issues, we have been talking about franking credits but today’s Newspoll would still seems to show that Labor would win an election.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The election is sometime in May. There are a lot of conversations to be had between now and then with the Australian people. I think what you will find is that more and more Australians become aware of the negative impact on them and on Australia of Bill Shorten’s agenda, the polls will continue to tighten and we of course will do everything we can to ensure that we can continue to provide good government for the Australian people beyond the next election. Our agenda is all about making our economy stronger, so that more jobs can be created, so that Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead and to ensure we keep our country safe and secure. Under Bill Shorten’s high taxing agenda, under Bill Shorten’s agenda designed to weaken our border protection policies, our economy would be weaker, our country would be weaker, Australians would be poorer and the government would have less resources to fund the important services government provides and that Australians rely on.
QUESTION: Has your Government done enough to try and fix the flaws in the aged care system that we will hear details of today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have made some very significant additional investment, including an additional $320 million worth of funding, which is about $1800 of additional funding per permanent resident in aged-care facilities across Australia. We continue to work through all of the issues and continue to make additional investments if and as required. We are very much looking forward to the outcomes of the Royal Commission inquiry into the aged care sector and no doubt there will be further decisions made at that point in time.
QUESTION: Why did you not do it a bit earlier when you first came into Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We make decisions all the time about making additional allocations based on what is affordable and possible at the time and responding to the needs as they emerge. That is what we have done on this occasion.
QUESTION: Do you think Labor’s left and right are split over what to do on the medivac bill?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I know is that Bill Shorten was prepared, recklessly prepared, to compromise our national security and our border security in the pursuit of a tactical political win in the House of Representatives. He was prepared to undermine our national security and our border security arrangements without having sought a security briefing before he finalised his decision. That is an absolutely reckless way to proceed for somebody who aspires to be Prime Minister of Australia. All Australians should be very concerned that Bill Shorten was prepared to undermine our border security arrangements without having first sought the necessary advice from our security agencies.