Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Tuesday, 16 June 2020
QUESTION: Senator, Amanda Stoker in the Senate last week described Annastacia Palaszczuk as the knee on the throat of Queensland businesses stopping them from breathing. You said you were going to speak with the Senator. What did you say to her?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I did speak to her. Last night she apologised for her comments. That is the end of the matter.
QUESTION: She didn’t apologise publicly when she was asked about it. She said that it was language that was floating around that just slipped out. Is that an appropriate excuse?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think you will find that last night she went into the Senate chamber and apologised.
QUESTION: The branch stacking allegations that have affected the Labor party, is it more widespread that just Labor?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave Labor party matters to Anthony Albanese and the Labor party. That is entirely a matter for them.
QUESTION: Would it be worthy considering extending any inquiry into branch stacking as a practice into something more broader, affecting all political parties?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are some issues in the news in relation to the Labor party. I will leave Anthony Albanese and the Labor to deal with their internal party matters as I would expect any other political party to deal with their own internal party matters. Political parties are very important parts of our democracy. As issues arise from time to time they have to be dealt with.
QUESTION: Are you confident the Liberal party is immune to these problems?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Liberal party is a great party organisation. I have experienced it as a vibrant organisation in which we argue and compete about policy ideas, from time to time argue and compete in relation to personnel. That is what you would expect in a democratic party organisation. I do not think this is a time to try and come up with excuses to focus elsewhere. There are matters that Anthony Albanese and the Labor party have to deal with and explain. I will leave that to them.
QUESTION: Minister, is it really realistic to bring forward infrastructure spending for big scale projects when small scale projects that you promised only a couple million or a couple of hundred thousand before the election haven’t even started?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have worked with State and Territory governments in relation to the projects that are shovel ready and the projects that they would like us to bring forward. That is $1.5 billion worth of projects right around Australia where the States have told us that they are ready to get cracking. That is what we have done. Since November, we have brought forward nearly $8 billion worth of infrastructure projects to deliver them sooner, so we can get construction activity underway sooner and we can get these jobs created sooner.
QUESTION: Is the problem though in Victoria and New South Wales in particular you have got State governments that have got full infrastructure commitment schedules, cannot possibly build any more in the short term and there is no room in the system to get it started.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is your assertion that is not what those State governments are saying to us. We have worked with State governments all around Australia to identify those projects which might be able to be delivered faster, if money is brought forward. That is what we have done. That is what the Prime Minister announced yesterday.
QUESTION: So can the election commitments promised before the last election in terms of infrastructure, with the guarantee that they would effectively be done by the time of the next election, will you still meet those targets?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are moving as fast as we can. We are working in with State and Territory governments to get those infrastructure investments delivered on the ground as fast as possible. Everybody knows the Commonwealth works together with State and Territory governments in relation to the delivery of these matters. The announcements the Prime Minister made yesterday are reflecting the agreements that we reached with State and Territory governments on these matters.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that someone could covertly film inside the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Security Committee’s room in the House of Representatives?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Very hard for me to comment, because I do not understand what has happened there. On the face of it, it is of concern. No doubt relevant authorities will be making all of the appropriate inquiries. Let us see what comes out of that.
QUESTION: Just one more, the Prime Minister yesterday in the House of Reps said that the Government can cushion the blow but it can’t stop the blow. Is that a signal to Australians that the worst of this is yet to come later in the year and how important is it for you to avoid what Labor’s calling snapback in September to actually soften that blow?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We want the strongest possible economic recovery on the other side. So far, Australia has performed comparatively well in a very difficult environment when it comes to our economic performance. The third lowest fall in GDP across the OECD. Certainly, the June quarter is expected to be worse than the March quarter. The journey from here is going to remain difficult because the global economic context is going to be challenging for some time. In that context, we have to make every post a winner domestically, so that we put ourselves in the strongest possible position moving forward. That is why we are making the announcements we are making on infrastructure. That is why we are pursuing a pro-growth agenda across tax, across regulation, across workplace relations, across skills and education. It is going to be a complex environment for us to manage the best possible recovery.
QUESTION: Minister can I just ask you a quick question. Are you surprised that the Senate rejected the mandatory sentencing bill against paedophiles last night in the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Labor party used a procedural trick to vote against the minimum mandatory sentencing for child sex offenders. It is extremely disappointing, extremely disappointing. Last week, Anthony Albanese wanted everyone to believe that Labor was supportive of our legislation. He said in the Parliament that he would be doing everything he can to help. Last night his Labor Senators, I do not know if it was against his wishes or whether he was aware of what was happening. Last night the Labor party in the Senate used a procedural trick to vote down minimum mandatory sentencing for child sex offenders. Crimes against children are the most heinous crimes you can think of. The legislation that we have put forward is entirely appropriate. About 39 per cent of child sex offenders do not do any time in jail. Anthony Albanese has a lot of explaining to do today whether he supports what his Labor Senators did in the Senate Chamber last night.
QUESTION: Minister, just quickly on that. Bill Shorten has said this morning that Labor will back it in if it goes back through the Senate in the form that it will go through in the House. Your response to that? Essentially they will walk away from what they did…
MATHIAS CORMANN: If that is the case, why did they play games last night? Why is the Labor party playing games with increased penalties for child sex offenders?