Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Senator you mentioned the drought future fund there. Will it get through the Parliament this week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We call on all Senators to support the Government’s efforts to help rural communities that are impacted by the drought. We are putting forward a fund that will help improve the drought resilience of regional communities across Australia. The Labor party really has to make a decision on whether they are for or against helping farmers impacted by the drought. We stand side by side with our farmers. We want to help regional communities fighting the effects of the drought improve their drought resilience. We have a plan that in a fiscally sustainable fashion, in a fashion that is affordable within the Budget over the long term, will increase funding into drought affected communities. The Labor party needs to decide whether they want to stand against farmers, or with farmers.
QUESTION: What about delivering for farmers now? A Future Drought Fund, by its very name is for the future. What about the farmers now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are delivering for farmers now. We are proposing to increase the level of support by $100 million a year in a way that is affordable and sustainable within the Budget. The Labor party needs to decide whether they want to continue to stand against farmers. Or whether they want to support farmers alongside the Government.
QUESTION: Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne were under a review, under the Ministerial code breaches. Did they breach the Ministerial code?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As we have previously indicated, the Prime Minister sought independent advice from Dr Parkinson, the head of the Prime Minister’s department. Dr Parkinson reviewed all of the relevant information and also discussed these matters with former Ministers Pyne and Bishop. His advice to the Prime Minister is that there is no breach of the Statement of Ministerial Standards.
QUESTION: On what grounds is he comfortable that there is no breach?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will be providing all of the relevant advice to the Senate this morning as the Senate has asked me to do.
QUESTION: There is the possibility that Labor and the Greens might push this issue further, might push for further inquiries. Should this be the end of the matter?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will not speak for Labor and the Greens. We have done as we said we would do. The Prime Minister sought advice from Dr Parkinson. Dr Parkinson has provided that advice. Dr Parkinson’s very clear advice is that there is no breach. From the Government’s point of view that is the end of the matter.
QUESTION: Senator Hanson said though that these guidelines may need change.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The guidelines are what they are. All Ministers and former Ministers know what they are and need to comply.
QUESTION: But does it look to you though, when you look at it at face value, a former Minister of the Government taking a job or jobs in the areas where they have previously worked in, within in months of them leaving the Parliament, does that not look like to you they have breached these guidelines?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No it does not. The point I made earlier today is that Ministers and Members of Parliament when they leave this job need to continue to work, need to find other jobs. Like any other Australian who looks for new work they will of course pursue their career based on previous experiences. But what is important is that any future job taken on by a former Minister does not put them in breach of the Statement of Ministerial Standards. The advice from Dr Parkinson is quite clear. The jobs taken on by former Ministers Pyne and Bishop do not put them in breach of the Statement of Ministerial Standards.
QUESTION: And Senator we see reports today Liberal backbenchers want the proposed increase to the super default to be scrapped. Will the Government scrap those changes?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We do not have any plans to make any changes to what is currently legislated. The current legislation provides that from 1 July 2021 onwards, the level of super guarantee starts increasing by half a per cent a year until it reaches 12 per cent from 1 July 2025. That is what is currently legislated. We have no plans to change that.
QUESTION: Minister, Kerryn Phelps says that it is spiteful to repeal the medivac bill. Centre Alliance says that it will sully their relationship with the Government. Given they delivered you your tax cuts in full, should you just let the medivac go? No one has actually arrived on Christmas Island, so surely its fine as it is, it’s working.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are focused on the public interest. We are focused on the national interest. We are focused on making sure that we continue to protect the integrity of our borders. Our position is very clear. We took it to the last election. The Australian people voted for the agenda that we took to the last election. That is what we will be delivering on.
QUESTION: But if nobody has been there, what is in the national interest and what is in the public interest.
MATHIAS CORMANN: People smugglers understand that our Government is very strongly committed to protecting the integrity of our borders. We will continue to make all of the necessary decisions to give effect to that. One of the policies and one of the promises that we took to the last election is that we would repeal what we have always said was a bad piece of legislation. We will act consistent with the promises that we made to the Australian people at the election.
QUESTION: Stirling Griff says if this bill is repealed, people will die. Are you comfortable with that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I completely disagree with that. I hold Senator Griff in very high regard. But on this matter, we have a difference of opinion. The Australian Government has always facilitated appropriate access to medical care. That is a matter of public record and well established. The relevant legislation goes well beyond what we believe is sensible. We continue to be absolutely committed to do everything we can to protect the integrity of our borders. This legislation, as we said during the election campaign, is bad legislation. We will repeal it.
QUESTION: After the banking Royal Commission, the head of APRA can under a lot of pressure and a lot of criticism. But he has just been re-installed again for another five years. Do you think that that is a good look to the banking and the community at large?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The review into APRA found that APRA is an impressive and forceful regulator. But it also identified areas for improvement. Twenty-four recommendations all up. Nineteen recommendations directed at APRA which they have all accepted. Five recommendations directed at the Government. It is good housekeeping and good practice from time to time to review where things are at and to make judgements on how to improve things moving forward. That is what is happening here.
QUESTION: Just on foreign fighters very quickly, Labor says it is happy adopting temporary exclusion orders legislation if the Government will adopt recommendations of the intelligence and security committee. That is a Liberal dominated committee. Why don’t you accept those recommendations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have very carefully considered the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. We have amended the legislation following on from their recommendations. But ultimately it is a matter for the Australian Government to make judgements on what is in our national interest. Our focus is on doing everything we can to keep Australians safe. We want to ensure that we can deal with the risk presented by Australians who have acted as foreign terrorist fighters and want to return to Australia, that we are able to deal with them as far removed from our shores as possible in the first instance, so that appropriate risk mitigation measures can be put in place if and when they return to Australia. This is legislation which we will be putting to the Senate this week. Again, the Labor party needs to decide whose side they are on. The Australian Government, we are on the side of keeping Australians safe. It is going to be a matter for the Labor party to decide whose side they are on.
QUESTION: Just on medivac changes again, Jacqui Lambie seems as though she could hold the deciding vote in the Senate. She is becoming quite a formidable person in this Chamber isn’t she?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not provide any commentary on my colleagues. The Government works with all non-Government Senators in relation to our agenda. We are putting forward an agenda that we believe is required to build a stronger economy, create more jobs and keep Australians safe and secure. We have very much appreciated working with all crossbench Senators in recent times. We will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Minister, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea arrives at Parliament this morning. He has made clear that he wants Manus Island, the offshore detention centre shut and shut quickly. Is he going to get that wish while he is here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I look forward to joining the Prime Minister and others in meetings with our friends from Papua New Guinea later this morning. We had a very nice dinner at The Lodge last night. I will not provide a comment well and truly outside my portfolio in relation to these matters. Except to say that we have a very strong relationship with Papua New Guinea. We will continue to work through all issues as they arise in a positive and constructive fashion moving forward.