Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
CHRIS KENNY: I want to cross to Perth now and catch up with Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. Thanks for joining us Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
CHRIS KENNY: I want to get to some economic issues in a moment, but first up I want to ask a couple of questions in light of what has occurred in Christchurch. So I suppose first up I would just give you the opportunity Senator Mathias Cormann to express your thoughts about how this atrocity has impacted on Australians and of course our New Zealand cousins.
MATHIAS CORMANN: What happened in Christchurch is horrific. It was awful. It is absolutely harrowing. Our hearts go out to all those impacted. What it has shown is that Australians from all backgrounds and people from all backgrounds in New Zealand coming together, standing up together against this sort of hatred, against this sort of horrific terrorist act, standing up for who we are as a people, as a people who are tolerant, who support each other’s freedoms of worship. Australians, New Zealanders, people all around the world are entitled to feel safe, including and in particular in their place of worship. It is an absolutely awful, horrific, harrowing terrorist act that took place in New Zealand. Words are not enough to describe the absolute awfulness of what happened there.
CHRIS KENNY: Indeed Senator. Now we need to be a bit careful about specifics because we are being broadcast to New Zealand and we must keep in mind any legal considerations. But will there be a review of Australia’s security and intelligence services to see whether we have missed something here, especially regarding an Australian citizen?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As far as I am advised this particular individual was not on anybody’s alerts or anybody’s lists. There was not any prior knowledge in relation to him posing the sort of risk that ultimately, in the most horrific of circumstances, played out. But as always happens in these circumstances, investigations take place as appropriate. In the first instance, this is a New Zealand investigation, which we are contributing to as appropriate at the request of New Zealand authorities. There are some AFP officers in Christchurch now or on their way to Christchurch at the request of New Zealand police to provide assistance as appropriate. In a domestic context in Australia, these sorts of horrific events do cause you to reassess and reconsider to ensure that everything that needs to be done is being done. There is no specific information in front of us that would justify a change in threat level. There is no specific information in front of us in relation to any elevated risk at relevant religious buildings or Muslim buildings. We are doing everything that needs to be done to obtain the appropriate advice and to review all of the relevant information to make sure the right decisions continue to be made into the future.
CHRIS KENNY: Now Senator Fraser Anning, formerly a One Nation Senator, then formally a Bob Katter’s Australia Party and now essentially a Senatorial loner, he issued that despicable, ugly statement that effectively blamed the Muslim victims for being there. I know you were going to sponsor a motion in the Senate to rebuke him when Parliament returns next month. Is that all that can be done? Do we just have to wait and see what Queenslanders do at the next election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was a despicable statement and he stands rightly condemned for making it and in a bipartisan fashion the Government and the Opposition and I believe other parties represented in the Senate will join, to rightly condemn the outrageous attack, blaming victims as you say, vilifying people based on their religious beliefs and indeed seeking to inflame through completely inappropriate and outrageous statements. The Senate will, the Government together with the Opposition will … interrupted
CHRIS KENNY: Sorry to interrupt Senator, but is that sort of divisive language we have seen from Fraser Anning is that dangerous? Is that dangerous in our society?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I believe it is dangerous and I believe it is completely unacceptable. The Senate I believe, the Government and the Opposition working together in lock step in a bipartisan fashion to give expression to this sends a very strong signal. Now you asked what else the Senate can do. Well ultimately in our system, rightly, it is the right of the Australian people to determine who represents them in the Australian Parliament. People will have the opportunity very soon to express their view. That will be at the election sometime by the end of May.
CHRIS KENNY: Alright Senator Cormann, if we could move to the economy in this election year. You have rightly talked about wages flexibility and the way that has helped us keep high levels of employment in this country. But it is only natural isn’t it that people are frustrated by the low levels of wages growth that we have seen in recent years. How can you deliver on that? How can you possibly ensure that people get some wages growth?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The only way to sustainably deliver stronger wages growth into the future is on the back of stronger economic growth, stronger productivity growth and indeed making sure that the unemployment rate remains low and goes lower. When we came into Government in 2013, the economy was weakening and unemployment was rising. At his first press club speech as Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen told the press club in December 2013 that the measure of our success as economic managers should be among other things whether we would be able to keep the unemployment rate below 6.25 per cent. Now the unemployment rate is down to five per cent. The Reserve Bank has indicated recently that they expect it to go down further into the future. In the end, politicians sometimes have this temptation to make people believe that there is some magic bullet and some button that can be pressed and everything will be fantastic. But the truth is, in countries around the world, this central planning, central command model of determining through Government fiat where wages should be has been tried, and it has led to weaker economic performance, to higher unemployment and on the back of higher unemployment lower wages across the economy. This sort of central planning, central command model makes economies weaker and makes the people in those countries that try to pursue it poorer. Whereas what we are seeking to do is to strengthen the economy, attract more investment, generate stronger growth so that more successful businesses across Australia hire more Australians and as more Australians are hired around Australia and the unemployment rate goes down and competition for workers increases and the additional capital investment improves productivity, that is what drives stronger wages growth into the future. It is the only thing that sustainably drives stronger wage growth into the future. Everything else sadly is just a bit of a hoax.
CHRIS KENNY: Senator Cormann that is all the time we have got for the discussion tonight. It’s a big issue, hopefully we can come back to it in coming weeks. Thanks so much for joining us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Ok, good to talk to you.