Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Sunday, 5 July 2020
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you for joining us this morning.
As I have said in the paper this morning, it has been a real privilege to serve the people of Western Australia as a Senator for Western Australia. It has been a real privilege to have the opportunity to contribute to the future direction of our country as the Minister for Finance over the last seven years. It has been a great journey, a lot of work has been done as part of a great team.
I did speak to the Prime Minister to explain that I did not intend to recontest the next election. As such, later this year, the end of this year, would be a good opportunity to manage an orderly transition in my portfolio. I am very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me that opportunity.
It has been an incredible journey. Over the last seven years, as a team, we have worked very hard to create the best possible opportunity for Australians today and into the future to get ahead. We have been dealing with challenges. We have been working to seize opportunities. But nothing has been more significant in terms of the impact on our country in living memory than the coronavirus crisis that we have been dealing with over the last few months or so.
It is a moment of personal satisfaction and pride that Australia went into this crisis in a position of comparative fiscal and economic strength as a result of the work that we have been able to do as a team over the last seven years or so.
I am not going anywhere just yet. There is more work to be done. I have come out now and I am coming out today to clarify my future intentions, but there is more work to be done over the next six months. There is another budget to deliver. There is a half yearly budget update to deliver. There is a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of decisions to be made to responsibly transition Australia out of this coronavirus crisis and to set ourselves up for the strongest possible economic and jobs recovery for the future.
I am looking forward to working with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the whole team to ensure that we continue to make the decisions to put Australia on the best and strongest possible path for the future. After that I will look forward to getting back home and exploring future opportunities as part of a new chapter.
I am happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Senator how long have you been considering this move?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, I was first elected in 2007. I have been in Parliament now for 13 years. I am the longest serving Minister for Finance. I am the only serving Minister in the Cabinet who is still in the same portfolio as when we got into Government back in 2013. During every term of Parliament you have to make a decision about whether or not you will recontest the next election. The end of this year is halfway through our current term. My view was that if I continued on beyond the end of this year, then I was honour-bound, duty-bound to go to the next election. I had made a decision not to contest the next election. As such I feel that this is the most appropriate time to manage an orderly transition. These things are not decisions that you make quickly from one day to the next. It is something that you think about, that you ponder and, ultimately, you make a decision, including, and in particular as part of a family. That is what we have done. It is not something that I just decided yesterday, clearly. It is very important to me that this is managed properly and in an orderly fashion. This is an important job. The Government of Australia is an important job. That is why I sought to manage this as carefully and as properly as possible.
QUESTION: Do you feel very conflicted in that sense with where Australia is coming out of COVID and the experiences you have brought to the table to bring Australia out of it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have given this job my everything. I have left nothing on the field. When we came into Government there was a big job to be done to repair the Budget, to put the economy back on a stronger, more sustainable foundation and trajectory for the future. There was a lot of work to be done to create more new jobs for Australia and we did that. When the crisis hit earlier this year there was a lot of work, a lot of decisions to be made. I was at the heart of that with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Health Minister and others. I am there now, working with the team to help manage the best possible transition out of this coronavirus crisis and to help finalise and settle the plan for the future, our five year plan for a strong economic recovery on the other side. Beyond that, there are lots of talented people in our team. There are lots of talented Members and Senators in our team. I think it is time for somebody else to step up. I believe that I have genuinely and sincerely given this my everything. Our family has given this our everything. And for us it is time to move on to the next phase. We will continue to contribute, I will continue to contribute in other ways. But this is the time for somebody else to step up into these shoes as Finance Minister from the beginning of next year. I am sure that they will do an outstanding job. They will have my full support.
QUESTION: Any idea on what you will be doing next?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. There is six months of hard work ahead of us. There is an economic statement on 23 July. There is a Budget on 6 October. There is a half-yearly budget update in December. That will have my 100 per cent focus over the next six months. At the appropriate time we will consider what is next for me and for us.
QUESTION: Is there a chance you'll change your mind, Senator?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, no, no.
QUESTION: We had a State Treasurer who changed his mind in light of the COVID crisis.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Indeed. I have a very good personal and working relationship with Ben Wyatt who does a great job as our Treasurer. I was pleased that he made the decision he did in the middle of a crisis. But we are not at that stage now. My decision, our decision, is a very carefully considered decision. It is deliberate. It is final. I was there with my colleagues doing everything that needed to be done in the middle of the crisis. I will be there to help guide our Government and Australia out of this crisis. I will be there to help set the plan and the trajectory for the future. But then there will be other very talented people who then take over the baton and run with it.
QUESTION: On this decision, anything you want to say about it?
HAYLEY CORMANN: Just how much we love Mathias and that we can’t wait for him to be home.
QUESTION: Could we see a return to State politics on the cards?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, definitely not.
QUESTION: You rule that out completely.
MATHIAS CORMANN: One hundred per cent. I have loved this job. I have thoroughly given this my everything. Politics is a noble profession. Public service through politics is one of the most honourable vocations that you can pursue. I spent a lot of time in the lead up to my initial preselection seeking to secure the support of Liberals across Western Australia. That was quite a journey in itself. I have now spent 13 years in the Parliament giving it my everything. I have had the privilege of serving for seven years in the Cabinet. Five years as part of the leadership group. I am Leader of the Government in the Senate. I have given politics absolutely everything that I had. After this, I can absolutely give you a 100 per cent guarantee that I will not run for State or Federal politics in any shape or form.
QUESTION: Is this partly because the last few years have been, bruising, very bruising, the end of the Turnbull Prime Ministership?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. Not at all. No. Nothing is forever. There is no one in the history of Australia who has done this job longer than me. There is no one who has done this job longer than me. Doing this job out of Western Australia, spending a lot of time in Canberra, a lot of time on planes, there is a physical limit to how long you can do this job. I have had a very, very good run. Through politics you are always going to have your ups and downs. People will have their views. There is always a lot of commentary. People are entitled to their views. But let me just make this point, at the end of this year, I will leave politics at peace with the knowledge that I have always sought to make the right decisions for the right reasons in the right way. In the end, politics is about making judgements. It is about making judgements about what you believe is the best way forward for the future. I have never shied away from that. I have never shied away from making judgements based on as I saw it. People are entitled to have different views. People are entitled to have their own opinions in relation to these things. But I stand by the decisions that I have made. I have always sought to clearly explain the reasons for them. In the end, that is what I saw my job to be, to make judgements, to make decisions, to help shape the best possible future.
QUESTION: So no regrets around any of your decisions or your roles in the fall of the Turnbull Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I stand by my decisions. In politics you are often confronted by very difficult circumstances and with very difficult challenges. The reason we get elected into these positions is to make decisions. You assess the facts, you consult with colleagues, you work as part of a team, and you make decisions. In the end, everyone is entitled to their own views. I am just one person. I am one person and there are lots of other people who have their own views. In the end, you have to make judgements based on what you think is right. I have always sought to do that.
QUESTION: Can you see any other members of the Cormann family going into politics? Or is there one…
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will not speak for any other members of the family.
QUESTION: Do you have any highlights of the last 13 years?
MATHIAS CORMANN: In politics, often your biggest contribution is the bad things you stop as much as the things that you achieve. Having been able to stop the mining tax, the anti-WA mining tax was a very proud moment. Having been a key member of the team that brought the Budget back into balance, it was clearly a very significant achievement. Being able to work with Scott Morrison on fixing the GST for WA is a very proud moment. Having been able to bring record levels of Federal infrastructure funding to WA is a proud moment. When we organised the Asia Pacific Regional Conference for Australian and German business in Perth and we were able to bring Nena to Perth to sing 99 Luftballons that was also a personal highlight. It has been an exciting journey. Travelling with the Prime Minister to the G20 leaders’ summit and sitting around the table with the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, I still scratch myself when I go to these sorts of events. It has been a cracker journey, but I am ready to move onto the next chapter. I think my kids are getting a bit cold. Sorry.
QUESTION: Who would you like to see replace you in your role as Finance Minister, or Leader …
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not a matter for me. These are entirely matters for the Prime Minister to determine at the appropriate time. As I say, while I am here, announcing my future intentions, I am actually not going anywhere just yet. I am still here for another six months. These things the Prime Minister will have the opportunity to consider them over the next six months or so. I am sure he will make a great decision. There are a lot of people, a lot of talented people on our team who could do an exceptional job in this role.
Thank you very much guys.