Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 12 June 2020
QUESTION: Minister what is the financial responsibility in closing down state borders and continuing to have them closed.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Closing down State borders costs jobs all around Australia. There are people in New South Wales who would like to go away on holidays to North Queensland or to the Gold Coast. If State borders are closed that means there are lots of businesses who are missing out on customers. Businesses that miss out on customers, miss out on income to pay wages.
QUESTION: Is the Prime Minister going to ratchet up the pressure on these Premiers at the national cabinet to open the borders today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the commentary to you. But the Government’s position, the Prime Minister’s position, the Government’s position has been very clear. We want to see State borders opened as soon as possible. As the Chief Medical Officer and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer have both made clear for some time there is no medical advice at a national level that would justify the ongoing closures of State borders.
QUESTION: Warren Entsch yesterday said that he thinks JobKeeper should be extended not only to the end of the year but beyond March. Is the Government, and he is confident actually that that will actually happen by the way, so I don’t know if he has spoken to you, but are you confident that tourism sectors, the electorates that are the highest impacted by job losses will get some level of support into the new year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Warren Entsch is an outstanding representative of his local community. He is a good friend. He always shares his opinions freely and that is a great thing. The Government as you know has put in place a temporary range of support programs including JobKeeper and an enhanced JobSeeker program, which are in place on a temporary basis to the end of September. That is when these programs are scheduled to come to a close. The Government is currently considering how to most appropriately transition out of the current levels of elevated support for business, for employees and for Australians who have lost their jobs. As soon as we have made relevant decisions, relevant announcements will be made. We have already made clear that in our economic statement on 23 July we will be making announcements about the future arrangements for JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
QUESTION: Is Mr Enstch right then to feel confident that tourism could benefit from some sort of stimulus or assistance beyond September?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will tell you what tourism businesses will benefit from and that is State Premiers opening those State borders as soon as possible. If State Premiers allowed customers for their businesses in their States to come across the border to buy products and services in their States. That is what tourism and hospitality businesses around Australia would benefit from.
QUESTION: Do you believe a voice to Parliament should be enshrined in the Constitution?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These are matters that I will let my good friend and valued colleague Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians deal with. There is clearly a process underway on all these matters. I will let Ken Wyatt continue to lead that process as he has, very effectively, engaging with all of the stakeholders. When we are in a position to make decisions on next steps, these things will be announced at the appropriate time. It is beyond the area of Finance.
QUESTION: But you must have a view. There are lots of things that go beyond Finance.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Indeed. I will let Ken Wyatt deal with his portfolio responsibilities.
QUESTION: I have heard it anecdotally that the border between New South Wales and Queensland, there’s tens of thousands of cars going backwards and forwards every day. It seems the border’s really are open in reality largely.
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I understand it exemptions are provided in certain circumstances. But right now it would not be possible for any tourist from New South Wales to choose to go to the Gold Coast or to North Queensland and spend money in the restaurants and tourist facilities in those respective areas. That means that businesses in Queensland are missing out on opportunities.
QUESTION: I have heard that an Uber driver, drives from Queensland into Northern New South Wales every day, back and forth, taking people across the border.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is very hard for me to comment on circumstances where I am not aware of the specifics.
QUESTION: Was it right for Pauline Hanson to move a motion in the Senate yesterday declaring that all lives matter? And what message do you think that sends Indigenous Australians who are disproportionately incarcerated in this nation?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Senate decided not to deal with that particular notice of motion during formal motions. That is because formal motions is the time of the day in the Senate when you deal efficiently with comparatively straight forward matters. That sentence, taken in isolation looks relatively straight forward, but you have to consider things in their context. In the current context it does raise a whole series of complex policy matters that we believe cannot be dealt with just by a simple notice of motion in the fashion as was proposed. It requires a much more nuanced and detailed debate about all of the issues that are involved. In the current context, we did not think it was appropriate to deal with that particular motion at that point in the program. That is why on behalf of the Government, I denied formality for that motion to be moved, which was supported by the Labor opposition. I think that that was the right course of action.
QUESTION: So it was a matter of timing, not content?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was a matter of not dealing in a simplistic fashion with something that raises a whole series of complex issues. In the context of a more detailed, more nuanced and more extensive debate, I think individual Senators would have the opportunity to more precisely explain what their position actually is. What seems like an innocuous statement on the face of it in its current context does raise a whole series of complex issues.