Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Friday, 11 September 2020
PETER STEFANOVIC: Let’s go live now to the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Minister good to see you. Thanks for joining us as always.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But just on that story, you’ve got the 26 year-old, young girl from the ACT, where there hasn’t been a COVID-case for sixty days. She couldn’t go to Brisbane to see her father, to see the funeral. Is this a new low in the border wars?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What has happened here is heart breaking. That girl and that family will never be able to get that moment back. As you say, the ACT has had zero active cases for months, has had zero locally acquired community transmission for months. That girl did not present a risk just for holding her dad’s hand while he was passing away, or comforting her mum and her sister after her dad passed away. What happened here is just plain disgraceful. I am sure that that would be the overwhelming view of people all around Australia. People have to be careful not to lose their humanity here. In terms of risk versus what should have happened here, it is completely and utterly disproportionate. I just can’t get my head around that somebody could be so cold-hearted, so cold-hearted and so harsh and so nasty to prevent a girl in those circumstances to say farewell to her dad and be there with her family while they are grieving their loss. I just can’t get my head around it.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Is that what you think is happening here. That we have lost, well not everyone, but a lot of people have lost their sense of humanity?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Clearly some people have made judgements that being harsh in terms of State border closures is offering the opportunity for political upside in the lead up to an election. This is just a heart breaking example why that is just completely and utterly the wrong thing to do. At least show some humanity in these sorts of circumstances and make a genuine assessment of the actual risk. Nobody can tell me that the people of Queensland would have been exposed to risk, because somebody went to see her dad, somebody from a jurisdiction that is in a better position than Queensland, literally a better position than Queensland.
PETER STEFANOVIC: The Premier made a Point yesterday too when she was asked about it. That she said it wasn’t her decision. It was Jeanette Young, the Chief Health Officer’s decision to make. Then she went on to say…
MATHIAS CORMANN: She is only the Premier of the State. Really? Honestly, you can’t tell me that if the Premier of Queensland had said to the chief health officer, let’s be compassionate, proportionate and sensible here. Let’s have a common sense, empathetic, caring response to this. Let’s recognise the fact that there are zero cases in the ACT. There have been zero cases for months. There has not been a locally acquired transmission in the ACT for months. You cannot tell me that the Premier of Queensland if she had so chosen, would not have been persuasive in getting a more caring and a more appropriate outcome here.
PETER STEFANOVIC: No, it is difficult to argue with that point that is for sure. Meanwhile Jeannette Young did say that there had been exemptions given to sports stars, sport teams, the AFL executive teams, you also had Tom Hanks the actor, so Hollywood are getting special passes. While other people and it is not just this young 26-year old, we’re hearing and seeing more cases now of people wanting to get across the border to see sick or dying loved ones and they can’t do it. So is the suggestion of double standards.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is completely being mismanaged. People across Queensland I am sure will turn against this. The inconsistency and the inequity. As you say, to treat people on one side with open arms, and I am not arguing against that incidentally. I am not saying be harsh on one side. I am just saying be consistent and be empathetic. As I say, I am just so distressed for that poor family and other families like it, who get caught up in what is quite frankly a political situation, that it is entirely driven by the fact that there is an election in Queensland in October. It should not be like this.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But it is not just Queensland, it is all States. I mean everyone has a dog in this fight. It is WA as well …
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is not all States. That is not true. It is not all States. South Australia for example is not doing this. WA is also imposing these sorts of restrictions. All States should be empathetic, certainly on compassionate grounds. I am not aware of any cases in Western Australia like the one that we have witnessed in Queensland out of the ACT. But having said that, in Western Australia, I am aware of families that get stuck in this, where there are kids stuck interstate and stuff like this. All States should be practical, common-sensical and empathetic and proportionate to the risk that is actually there rather than just focusing on the political approach.
PETER STEFANOVIC: I guess some critics also say that Australians should be able to go overseas to see sick and dying loved ones, but they are not allowed to at the moment because of the stance of the Federal Government.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t disagree. My view would be that in cases where there are compassionate reasons, then they should be given these sorts of permissions. To be frank, I have had cases where I have dealt with these sorts of matters and I have been able to support people through those sorts of processes. When there are cases like this, I would be very surprised if people were not granted an exemption in those circumstances.
PETER STEFANOVIC: It is proving here that the Federal Government is powerless though because the Premiers are calling the shots, they have got all the cards. So what happens long term here if these border restrictions are in place for months, maybe a year away. What kind of federal intervention is needed here? May you withdraw GST, could that be an option?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No that is not an option. In the end, and I know that this is not popular everywhere, but there is a case in front of the High Court. The High Court will ultimately be called upon to resolve the Constitutional situation. That is a reality. But over time, I think people in all of those jurisdictions will put pressure on their governments to take a more sensible, more appropriate approach to these things. We have four jurisdictions who have had zero active cases and zero community transmission for some time. There is no reasonable, proportionate ground on which to prevent people interacting with each other from those jurisdictions. There is no additional risk by engaging with somebody from a jurisdiction where there are zero active cases and zero locally acquired community transmission. Over time, that rationality, I am confident will impose itself even on the most recalcitrant State Government in relation to these matters.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So at what point would you get the courts involved?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are not getting the courts involved. There are cases that were initiated by others. We are not party to them. But the High Court will clearly, at some point, if this case continues, which it appears it is, at some point the High Court will have to make a decision. I understand from what has been publicly reported that this is going to be dealt with by the High Court in November and that is clearly going to be a matter for them.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay Finance Minister we are out of time unfortunately.
MATHIAS CORMANN: All good.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Mathias Cormann joining us live this morning, as he always does. Appreciate your time, thanks.