Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Thursday, 20 August 2020
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Qantas results released today show what we have always known. The aviation sector was hit first and was hit hardest. The aviation sector remains very much on the frontline when it comes to the economic impact of this coronavirus pandemic. That is why the Federal Government has provided substantial support over and above the JobKeeper support being available economy wide to the aviation sector, $1.3 billion worth of support, which is designed to ensure that Australia can continue to maintain two viable national airlines into the future. There is clearly a difficult period ahead, in particular for sectors of the economy that are on the front line like the aviation sector and today’s results are just a manifestation of that.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Do you agree with Alan Joyce’s suggestion that state border closures appear to be politically motivated?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Governments all around Australia, State Governments and the Federal Government, are working very hard to protect people’s health and that is an important part of protecting our economic opportunities into the future. This is a terrible virus, it is incredibly infectious. The experience in Victoria has shown how dangerous and how fast the spread of this virus can get out of control. At the moment everybody is trying to do their best to make the decisions that need to be made to keep people safe.
QUESTION: Do you think that State Premiers through are amenable to at least trying to plan some sort of lifting of the borders?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are working with State and Territory Premiers as appropriate in order to work through practical issues caused by state border closures. For example, the flow of freight across Australia is very important. There are other issues that will continue to emerge and will have to continue to be managed. Ultimately, we do need to get the Australian economy back to as close as possible to normal, bearing in mind that the virus is likely to be with us for some time. These are matters that will continue to be worked through in a cooperative fashion between the Federal Government and State and Territory Governments.
QUESTION: Will there be nationally consistent guidelines on state border restrictions and will that be discussed at National Cabinet next week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As we move forward, I am certain that there will be discussions at National Cabinet around the most effective possible management of state border arrangements into the future.
QUESTION: Is there a plan for a staged reopening of Australia’s border yet? Is there anything in the wing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There are about 260,000 new cases a day in the rest of the world, so we are taking a very cautious approach. We cannot foresee from where I stand here today, from where we are here today, we cannot foresee the timetable by which international borders will be able to open.
QUESTION: Is it safe to assume though that the international borders won’t open on January 1?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I am not going to put a specific date on it. Based on the information in front of us today, we cannot foresee what the most realistic timetable would be. 260,000 additional cases a day on average globally at present. It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic continues to present significant risks. Many parts of the world are much worse off than Australia and right now we will continue to take a cautious approach when it comes to our international borders.
QUESTION: Can you put a timeline on when it might be reviewed though, rather than checked?
MATHIAS CORMANN: All of these matters are always under review. But I cannot put a timetable on this as I am standing here today.
QUESTION: The National Farmers’ Federation has swung behind a net zero emissions target for 2050, is it time for the Coalition to do the same?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have outperformed our 2020 Kyoto target. We are on track to meet and exceed our 2030 emissions reduction target agreed to in Paris. We will make decisions in an appropriately orderly fashion in relation to any further commitments beyond 2030.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you saw Joel Fitzgibbon’s comments. Do you commend him for speaking up behalf of his electorate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I always enjoy reading Joel Fitzgibbon’s contributions to our daily political affairs. I would encourage him to speak openly more often.
QUESTION: Federal Parliament comes back next week. Should WA politicians have to quarantine when they return to WA?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, these are matters for the authorities here in Western Australia to determine. I would say that over the last six or so months, Federal MPs out of Western Australia, representing Western Australia in Canberra, have been exempt from these arrangements. We do have travel arrangements in place that ensure that Federal MPs from WA do not present a risk to the population here in WA in terms of COVID safe work practices and COVID safe travel arrangements, that will ultimately be a matter for the Premier and the State Government.
QUESTION: In respect of quarantine, I am not sure when the first statement was, it was announced this morning that people who are in doubt about flight from quarantine hotels, they are going to slap tracking bracelets on them. Do you think that as a West Australian is a good idea?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Look I will let the State Government here in Western Australia make their decisions. We have enough on our plate at a Federal level without providing a running commentary on state matters.
QUESTION: Just on Federal Parliament next week, how will Parliament next week work? How many Senators or MPs will be working virtually?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, we will see, we will see. There will be the opportunity for Members and Senators to contribute, make speeches virtually. Any Member or Senator who wants to attend from Victoria will have had to have undergone two weeks of quarantine prior to the sittings. All the necessary steps are being taken. Social distancing arrangements are in place and have been in place for some time. All of the appropriate arrangements are put in place in order to ensure that the workplace that is Parliament House is as COVID safe as possible.
QUESTION: Will Members attending virtually be able to vote?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. Those attending virtually will be able to contribute by way of speeches. They will not be able to vote, and they are not part of forming quorum.
QUESTION: The Defence force, the WA Premier here is requesting additional Defence force help, around 140 soldiers, have you been involved in those discussions and is that something that is likely to happen soon?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave that to the Minister for Defence to make any relevant announcements if and when we are ready.
QUESTION: There has been a few state matters of late. Have you backed the way the State Government has approached the Clive Palmer issues (inaudible)?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. We are not across all of the advice that they have in front of them. We found out about what the Government was doing at the same time as everybody else, as the legislation was introduced into the Parliament. They have all of the advice in front of them to inform their judgements on what is in the best interest of the people in Western Australia. We back their right to make these judgements as the elected Government of Western Australia.