Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2020
ALISON LANGDON: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has this morning tested negative to coronavirus following a coughing fit in Parliament which forced him to get checked. Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins us now for more. Minister, thanks for your time this morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
ALISON LANGDON: Obviously a big relief that he's okay.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yes, great to have Josh back. He clearly swallowed the wrong way, giving a long speech. It is good that everything is okay.
ALISON LANGDON: You know what though, it was a bad look yesterday because we are all being told if you are sick don't go to work. It was very clearly a dry cough. He used his hand. He didn't use his elbow. He should have stayed at home yesterday, shouldn't he?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, he wasn't sick. All of us are perhaps a bit exhausted, but he certainly wasn't sick. He was feeling perfectly fine. He swallowed the wrong way and needed to clear his throat. That can happen to the best of us. The proof is in the pudding. The test came back negative.
ALISON LANGDON: It overshadowed the horrific state of the nation's finances. There is going to be no V shaped recovery and massive deficits to come for years. It's pretty grim, isn't it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We do now focus on the strong recovery on the other side. We are working to ensure that we are in the best possible position to get the economy growing again. We have been winning the fight against the virus. We now need to ensure that we get businesses back into the most profitable position possible so they can hire more Australians.
ALISON LANGDON: We are trying to get businesses back and profitable. The problem you now have is a trade war brewing with China. Barley, beef and now potentially dairy. Have you pulled Australian industries and jobs under threat by going too hard pushing for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. We deal with issues on their merit. The relationship with China is a very important relationship. It's an important economic and strategic relationship and it benefits both of us. We will deal with issues on their own merits focused on our national interest. Our proposition for an independent inquiry, at the right time, into the causes and responses to the COVID-19 crisis is entirely unremarkable. Look at the amount of people around the world who have died, who have lost their jobs, who have had their lives seriously disrupted. Of course we want to ensure that we can avoid that risk in the future and if it does happen again that we can respond to it better than last time.
ALISON LANGDON: I don't think anyone disagrees that we need an inquiry into this, but the fact is you went hard, you went loud and you went alone. It's a bit like a gold fish staring into the mouth of a great white, and the great white is now threatening to bite.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don't agree with any of that. There is a… interrupted
ALISON LANGDON: Why not?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Because there is a Coalition of countries all around the world that share our view. It is in everybody's interests, all around the world, including the people of China, for there to be a proper independent inquiry at the right time… interrupted
ALISON LANGDON: Okay then, so why is China targeting Australia so directly here?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is your characterisation. This anti-dumping inquiry has been going for 18 months, since well before the coronavirus crisis or our request for a review ever came onto the horizon… interrupted
ALISON LANGDON: Hang on, is it a coincidence that you have now got… it’s barley, then it’s turned to meat, now dairy and we are also hearing potentially wine and seafood.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let’s just see what happens. We will continue to deal with these things one by one. Certainly, as far as the anti-dumping inquiry under the World Trade Organisation framework is concerned, that is something that happens all the time in relation to countries in all different directions. We are very certain that there has been no dumping and there has not been any inappropriate subsidies. Farmers in Australia are not subsidised. We believe we will be able to address those issues. We will be dealing with each of the issues one by one and on their own merits.
ALISON LANGDON: Are you confident of calming the situation?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will continue to do what we always do. We are always committed to the best possible relationship with any and every country, including with China, in particular with China. But we will also deal with our national interest and with issues that arise from time to time on their own merits.
ALISON LANGDON: Do you think we do need to see a little bit more diplomacy here and perhaps say to the backbenchers pull your heads in?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We do need to take a very considered approach to our relationship with China. It is an important relationship. But by the same token, from time to time, there will be issues on which we disagree and we have to work those through constructively.
ALISON LANGDON: Minister, thank you so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.