Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 1 March 2019
KIERAN GILBERT: The Leader of the Government in Senate and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins us. To say that people might be kicked out of their homes, is that a bit much?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What Peter Dutton has said earlier this week and the Prime Minister this morning, these are just statements of fact. When Labor was last in government they weakened our borders and 50,000 people arrived here illegally by boat. We are still dealing with some of that legacy case load. Even before going to an election, Bill Shorten is at it again, having successfully initiated measures to weaken our borders. Self-evidently if more people come to Australia they will displace services that would otherwise be available for Australians.
LAURA JAYES: But not one person has come to Australia under these medivac laws so far. Are you saying that even one person, or would it be ten, twelve, I don’t know, thirty people, that it would take to disrupt the housing system and the hospital system. How many would it take? Just one?
MATHIAS CORMANN: When Labor weakened our border protection policies by dismantling the Howard Government’s offshore processing arrangements, the effect was not in the first few days. But by the time we reached July 2013, 10,000 people, a massive 10,000 people were in detention. Labor was forced to open or reopen 17 detention centres during their period in Government because of the absolute mess they created at our borders. This is a bill that has only just been passed. It has yet to receive Royal Assent. What we are saying, what we are pointing out, are just statements of fact. If you weaken our border protection arrangements, you force the Government to bring people to Australia that otherwise would not be coming to Australia … interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: But you are not going to kick people out of their houses, that is ridiculous.
MATHIAS CORMANN: … and you put the people smugglers back… interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: It is ridiculous to suggest people are going to get kicked out of the houses. Who would get kicked out?
MATHIAS CORMANN: … and you put the people smugglers back into… interrupted
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am quite happy for you to ask the questions and I am quite happy to answer them. If you put yourself in the situation where you put the people smugglers back into business, which is what Bill Shorten is setting out to do, then the risk is that the same as happened last time will happen again into the future. Last time … interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: But who on earth will be kicked out of their home. Just explain that to us. Because it seems the Government is overreaching again?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are quite entitled to be a commentator. You are quite entitled to express your opinions. The point that I was making … interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: It’s a statement of fact.
MATHIAS CORMANN: … is that the statements that were made earlier this week are statements of fact. That is if you bring more people to Australia that otherwise would not have come to Australia, clearly they will be accessing services that otherwise would be available to Australians. That is a plain statement of fact. If you look at the history, if you look at the history last time Labor did this sort of thing, we ended up with 50,000 illegal arrivals by boat. 1,200 deaths at sea. Labor was forced to reopen 17 detention centres in order to deal with the absolute mess that they themselves created. We have only just started to get on top of that legacy caseload. We now have no children in detention left. When we came into Government there were about 2,000 children in detention as a result of Labor’s mismanagement of our borders under the previous period in government. The Labor party lost the right to fiddle with our border protection framework because they made such a disastrous mess of it when they were last in government.
LAURA JAYES: But Minister what does it say about the public hospital system that you have presided over for six years when you are painting a pretty tenuous picture for us this morning. One person being brought from Nauru and Manus Island could bump Australians down the waiting list. That is a pretty bad indictment on your Government if that is the case isn’t it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I completely reject that characterisation. 50,000 illegal arrivals arrived by boat when Labor with Bill Shorten as a senior member of that government last weakened our border protection arrangements. 50,000 illegal arrivals by boat. 1,200 deaths at sea. Bill Shorten is at it again. Bill Shorten is exposing Australia again to the risks that come with weaker borders. We have already been forced to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre at a cost of about $1.4 billion over the forward estimates. That is $1.4 billion that could be much better used to fund services in other areas for Australians here in Australia. So anybody who says that $1.4 billion having to be spent as a direct result of Bill Shorten’s decision in relation to weakening our borders does not harm the interests of Australians wanting to access services in Australia is prepared to ignore the facts.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well there is some fair criticism there. I still don’t know who is going to be kicked out of their homes. But let’s move onto the free trade agreement with Indonesia. Can you explain to us how important this is to our economy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our trade relationship with Indonesia is incredibly important. Indonesia is an economy on the move, which is expected to grow significantly over the next few decades. As a result of the Indonesia- Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, by 2020, Australia will get either duty free or significantly preferential market access for 99 per cent of our products by value, which is fantastic for our exporting businesses. At this point Indonesia is our 13th largest trading partner, with about $16 billion worth of two way trade, but there is a lot of upside opportunity. Getting better access to that key market for Australian exporters will help us strengthen the economy create more jobs and create better opportunities for people to get ahead.
LAURA JAYES: This deal has been agreed to for quite some time. It was done under the previous Trade Minister, Minister Ciobo, but it has not been signed, there has been quite a delay, it will be done on Monday as you say. Does that mean the Government has dropped its planned review of the move of the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because that is what angered the Indonesians.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think you are mixing up a whole series of things here. Firstly, the substantive agreement was reached towards the end of August last year. As always happens with these sorts of international agreements, there is then a process of reaching agreement on the precise text in both languages, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s. That was just a usual process. In relation to the review on the matters that you raised, the Prime Minister has announced the outcomes of the review some time ago. That is a matter that has been dealt with.
KIERAN GILBERT: The GDP figures out next week, obviously great anticipation ahead of those, particularly when we are a month out from the Budget. Obviously you cannot go into all of the details and the expectations, but can you give us a broad sense of the Government’s thinking right now because obviously it is so important in terms of the economic outlook, but also your own political one.
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I can say is that the Australian economy continues to grow. The most recent national accounts data that was released showed growth of 2.8 per cent, which is stronger than any of the G7 economies, with the exception of the United States. We are facing downside risks, there is no question. The uncertainty from Brexit, the issues in relation to trade tensions between the US and China, a general softening in the global economy, which is why we are saying that this is the absolute worst time to hit the Australian economy with more than $200 billion in higher taxes, as Bill Shorten is proposing. Our focus, with our policy agenda of lower taxes, better access to key markets around the world, infrastructure investment and the like is to keep the economy strong, indeed to strengthen it further moving forward to ensure that the unemployment rate is as low as it can be, on the back of stronger employment growth and for wages to grow on the back of a reducing unemployment rate. Under the alternative, higher taxes, anti-business, anti-aspiration agenda of the Labor party, the economy would be weaker, the unemployment rate would be higher and Australians would be poorer.
LAURA JAYES: Do you need to have a quiet word to Tourism Australia, Minister, to explain that when you are in Kings Park you do not actually watch the sunset, you watch the sunrise?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There clearly was a caption error as I am advised in relation to that particular photo. I think it is a universal truth that the sun sets in the west and the sun rises in the east. I do not think that that is a reality that is unique to the great state of Western Australia. What I would say though is that Tourism Australia has strongly featured Western Australia in its advertising campaigns focusing on what the great state of Western Australia, has on offer. The original Dundee ad, which was launched during the Superbowl 2018 featured the beautiful Cable Beach in Broome. It was watched by more than 100 million people. There have been campaigns showing the beauties of Western Australia from Cottesloe to Margaret River to Rottnest Island …interrupted
KIERAN GILBERT: It is beautiful.
MATHIAS CORMANN: … Karijini National Park, Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef. So I would say to all of the many viewers of Sky News this morning, come West. Come and watch the sunset over the ocean and come and watch sunrise overlooking the beautiful city of Perth from Kings Park. You will love it.
LAURA JAYES: Alright, I think you have just made up for that administrative error as you say.
KIERAN GILBERT: Good Ambassador.
LAURA JAYES: Mathias Cormann, Minister thanks so much for your time, appreciate it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.