Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Monday, 10 February 2020
QUESTION: Senator let’s start with Llew O’Brien’s decision to quit the, I don’t know if he’s quit the LNP, but he is definitely not going to be sitting in the National party room. What does this do for the unity for the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Llew O’Brien remains a member for the LNP. He continues to sit in the Coalition joint party room. He continues to support the Government. Matters inside the National party are obviously matters for the Nationals. I will not weigh into those. But as far as the Government is concerned, the Government remains strong and united. The Coalition remains strong and united. Llew O’Brien continues to be a valued member of the Coalition team as a member of the LNP and as a member of the joint party room.
QUESTION: But it was only a week ago, Michael McCormack said that his party was moving forward with being united. The Prime Minister said they could move on now as a united front. This is not sending a message of unity does it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave matters relating to the National party to the National party. I am sure that Michael McCormack will address those as appropriate. As far as the Government is concerned, we absolutely continue to work as a strong and united team. Llew O’Brien continues to serve as a member of the LNP. He continues to sit in the Coalition joint party room. He continues to support the Government. From our point of view, it is business as usual.
QUESTION: So what does this actually mean though in the House of Reps? You say he will support the Government, but will he always vote with the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In the Coalition, it is a matter of long standing convention that on matters of strong personal conviction every individual Member and Senator, unlike in the Labor party, has the opportunity on some matters to cross the floor if that is what they intend to do in relation to specific matters. That is nothing new. That has always been the case in the past. It will be the case in the future. But in relation to Llew O’Brien, as far as the Government is concerned, there is no change. He continues to serve as a member of the LNP. He continues to sit in our joint party room. He continues to support the Government. So, business as usual.
QUESTION: Minister, can I ask you about the coronavirus from a financial perspective. In your role as Finance Minister, we are seeing the tourism industry, the education industry, beef exports to China are already falling forty percent. What is the Government going to do to try and support these industries, should this crisis, as what it is now, drag on for months on end?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are very mindful of the impact of the coronavirus on our economy. A number of sectors have already previously been impacted by the bushfires as well. I think in particular about the tourism industry. The Government has been considering and has already made announcements in relation to supporting, in particular, the tourism industry. Dan Tehan as the Education Minister is working closely with the higher education sector to ensure that we can minimise the economic impact of the coronavirus on the higher education sector. We will continue to assess what sensibly can be done to support relevant parts of our economy to deal with the challenges flowing from the coronavirus.
QUESTION: You have the Indonesian President here in Canberra today to address a joint sitting of Parliament. He and the Prime Minister discussed the coronavirus. There is a concern Indonesia are not carrying out appropriate testing. What support is the Government looking at working with Indonesia on to deal with this health crisis?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is absolutely fantastic to have the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo here with us today. I am very much looking forward to his speech to the Parliament. Later today we will be having a series of meetings. The Prime Minister is meeting with the President first up this morning. There will be a meeting with the delegation and a delegation of Australian Ministers as well. We will be talking through all current and relevant issues. We always stand ready to support each other. The relationship with Indonesia is incredibly strong. Having finalised and now ratified the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, there is a great opportunity out of this for Australia’s exporting businesses. We will continue to explore ways to strengthen the relationship moving forward, including to deal with issues that arise from time to time.
QUESTION: Just on coal. There was an announcement over the weekend of a feasibility study for a new coal fired power station in Queensland. Would you like to see a new coal fired power station in Australia?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That feasibility study is part of an election commitment that was announced before the last election. It is implementing something that we said we would do in the lead up to the last election. Let us just see what the feasibility study comes back with. I would not want to pre-empt judgements until such time as the work has been done.
QUESTION: How important has now the free trade deal with Indonesia become, growing it from the current $17 billion in two way trade, given the problems that we are starting to experience with China?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our relationship with Indonesia is incredibly important. As a very close neighbour, but as a very significant economy, there are lots of opportunities for Australia’s exporting businesses to sell more Australian products and services into Indonesia, a strongly growing market but also for Australian consumers to access products and services out of Indonesia. It is in our national interest to diversify the economic relationships we have. The US and China are two very significant economic relationships. Indonesia increasingly will become a more and more important relationship into the future.
QUESTION: Going back to energy, will the Government commit to zero net emissions by 2050?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are on track to beat our emission reduction target for 2020 agreed to in Kyoto. We are on track to meet and beat our emission reduction target agreed to in Paris for 2030. We will consider over the next few months and in good time before COP26 in Glasgow what our thirty year target should be to 2050. We will be guided by wanting to have an agenda that is environmentally effective and economically responsible. Before we finalise those judgements we want to have a clear understanding of what the economic cost and the economic implications are of whatever target we agree to for Australia.
QUESTION: How do you deal with that given the divisions within the party room over this though? This is going to be very difficult for the Coalition party room?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the commentary to you. We have a very clear policy framework when it comes to addressing climate change. It has been a policy agenda that has been consistent all the way through over the last six and a half years. We will continue to make judgements based on our commitment to pursue policies that are environmentally effective and economically responsible.