Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
CHRIS KENNY: Okay let’s now bring in the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, who joins us live from Canberra. Thanks for joining us Senator Cormann. You agreed to do this spot last week. With all the turmoil today, I thought you might want to pull out. So you are a good sport for turning up.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
CHRIS KENNY: Look, [inaudible] of the Liberal party. You would have worked very, very closely with Cory Bernardi. You would agree with him on many, many issues. How much of a blow is it, for the party to lose a man like this. To have him turn his back on the Liberal party when he has been a frontbencher twice, when he has been the State President of the South Australian Liberal party branch and obviously a close confidante of people like yourself.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Cory and I, we have been good friends and colleagues for a very long time. We knew each other well before either of us entered the Senate. My absolute preference obviously is that Cory Bernardi remains as a strong and effective conservative voice inside the Liberal party room.
CHRIS KENNY: If he goes, he is being a rat on the party isn’t he? He was elected on the party’s ticket just six months or so ago. He’s ratting on the party.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have not heard from Cory. There has been a lot of speculation, a lot of commentary today. Let’s see what happens tomorrow. It is a matter of record that Cory has been a senior office bearer for the Liberal party and that he has been elected on the Liberal party ticket to represent the state of South Australia for the Liberal party. That is a matter of public record. Let’s just see and hear what Cory has to say.
CHRIS KENNY: What about what is going on here. You know Cory, he is a smart bloke, he’s an affable bloke, he was a successful sportsman, a successful businessperson. He has got a fantastic wife and family, very involved in the Liberal party. They have been for many, many years. And yet there are a number of issues that he likes to talk about that obviously people in the community want to talk about, concerns about Islamic extremism in our community, concerns about abandoning the tradition view about marriage, these sorts of issues. He seems to have been railroaded to the fringes of politics for talking about these issues. Shouldn’t the Liberal party be a broad enough church for strong conservatives to voice their opinions free of any sort of sanction?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t agree that Cory has been railroaded at all. Of course the Liberal party is a broad enough church for people, including people like Cory Bernardi and other conservatives. There are many of us in the Liberal party that hold conservative views. The best place to pursue a conservative agenda is within the Liberal party. The alternative, at the next election, the choice will be between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. I would have thought that anyone who holds the views that Cory and I and others hold, would hate to see Bill Shorten end up being successful at the next election.
CHRIS KENNY: But there is obviously something going on in the electorate. We’re seeing it. And we have seen it most notably through One Nation. These are people largely on the right of politics, although obviously there are Labor voters there as well, perhaps the sort of Howard’s battlers that the Coalition should be looking for, but they have gone to One Nation because of concern about things like foreign investment, because of concerns about high levels of immigration, because of concerns of people in some suburbs getting around the streets in burqas, women being forced to wear burqas in this country. And the obviously feel that the Liberal party or the Government is not speaking to their concerns. Do you accept that there is, some mistake, some weakness, some element of blame in the way that the Coalition has been operating.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Chris, the first thing I would say is that in Australia, in our democracy, elections get settled every three years at a Federal level. We have had the most recent election, just over seven months ago. That election was won by the Liberal National party Coalition. We went to the last election with an agenda of what we would implement. A national economic agenda and an agenda to ensure that our country is safe and secure. We are working to implement that agenda bit by bit. It is indeed the Liberal National party Coalition which has restored control at our borders.
CHRIS KENNY: Absolutely.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is the Abbott Government and continued by the Turnbull Government, very effectively I might add, that has restored control at our borders. Those across Australia who are concerned about a strong border protection framework surely would not want to go back to the Labor Green experiment that took place between 2007 and 2013, when more than 50,000 people … interrupted
CHRIS KENNY: But they might want to go back, Senator Cormann, but they might want to go back to Tony Abbott. The man who actually stopped the boats. That is the feeling we are confronting here.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not an option that is available. The option at the next election is an option between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. What I would say to conservatives across Australia is that the Turnbull Government has been very effective in protecting the integrity of our borders, has been very effective in implementing the economic agenda that we took to the last election. So far we are only seven months in to our second term. There is still a very long way to go. We understand that we have had to make some challenging decisions along the way. We understand that not everything that we have had to do in our national interest has been universally popular. But we are doing everything that we are doing because we are convinced that it is the right thing to do for our country, it is the right thing to do to strengthen our economy and to ensure our country is safe and secure.
CHRIS KENNY: More to the point, you have had a lot of your agenda both under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull frustrated in the Senate. Is there a structural problem here? Do we need reform that can enable governments to get things done because there is a sense of frustration that not enough is happening at the moment. And of course the main reason for that is the Senate puts a dampener on any Government action.
MATHIAS CORMANN: In the end, the outcome in the Senate, the same as the outcome in the House of Representatives, is a matter for the Australian people. The Australian people passed judgement at the last election on the second of July last year. As a Government we have been working within the forty-fifth Parliament. I disagree with the proposition that not a lot has been done. If anyone had said on the second of July 2016 that by the end of the year we would have restored the Australian Building and Construction Commission, we would have established the Registered Organisation Commission, we would have legislated another $20 billion worth of Budget improvements, we would have legislated our reforms to superannuation, making superannuation arrangements fairer and more sustainable moving forward. People would not have accepted the proposition that we would have been able to get so much done in the first six months of our second term. Yes, there is a lot more work to be done. Yes, we are facing some global economic challenges and we are dealing with a challenging geopolitical outlook more generally in terms of national security challenges and the like, but we are dealing with them. We are implementing our agenda. We are ensuring that Australia is as strong as possible economically and in the best possible position to deal with any national security related challenges coming our way.
CHRIS KENNY: And jut briefly, you will be working briefly you will be working with Cory Bernardi on that legislative agenda from tomorrow no matter what party he represents?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I expect to see Cory in our party room meeting tomorrow morning. I look forward to working with him as I have for the last ten years that we have been in the Parliament together.
CHRIS KENNY: I would like to see that, Cory Bernardi and Mathias Cormann head to head, it would be quite a battle. No good luck, thanks very much for joining us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: On the same side. On the same side.
CHRIS KENNY: Well for now, perhaps not after that party room meeting. Thanks for joining us. Mathias Cormann, appreciate your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.