Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
KIM LANDERS: The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was with the Prime Minister at the G20 meeting in Germany and at the meeting with the French President in Paris. He spoke to me earlier.
Minister, good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
KIM LANDERS: You were at the G20, do you believe President Donald Trump has shown that he doesn’t have the desire to lead the world?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was a very important G20. Very important issues were progressed. In particular when it comes to the international response, the more effective international response to counter-terrorism, where our Prime Minister made a very significant and material contribution in getting other leaders to agree to strengthening the language on counter terrorism and making sure that we have an appropriate focus and commitment to ensuring that the rule of law applies in cyberspace… interrupted
KIM LANDERS: But I am thinking specifically, sorry, I am thinking specifically about North Korea. If the US President didn’t want to try to rally world leaders around an agreed statement on North Korea’s missile test, what does that mean for future of our alliances?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There was unanimous condemnation of the actions of North Korea, which everybody agrees are completely unacceptable. This is an economic forum. The view was that there was not enough time to get a statement agreed. Do not assume for one second that there is not a universal condemnation of the actions of North Korea. There is. The international community, through the United Nations have taken very clear action in the past.
KIM LANDERS: The Deputy Prime Minister has made a series of statements about North Korea’s missile capabilities. Yesterday he remarked that China could quote, just turn off its oil tomorrow and that would shut the show down. Do you agree?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we have said consistently is that we believe that China has got particular leverage when it comes to North Korea. We would like China to deploy all of its leverage as part of its responsibility as part of the broader international community. We believe that China … interrupted
KIM LANDERS: But with respect, with respect is there any indication that China is doing that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: China is certainly participating with international sanctions. As we say, we believe that China is in a particular position to do more and to deploy more leverage. That is an ongoing conversation that is taking place.
KIM LANDERS: You spoke to President Trump’s chief economic adviser on the sidelines of the G20 meeting. Did you get a guarantee from him that Australian steel and aluminium will be exempt from any US crackdown on foreign imports?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I spoke directly to the White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn. The Prime Minister and I personally spoke to the US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Then the Prime Minister spoke to President Trump directly, explaining the Australian position and our concern that should the United States decide to pursue any trade measures in relation to steel and aluminium as a result of their current investigation, then we would like to see Australia exempted from any such measures. We understand US concerns about the pressure their steel and aluminium sectors are under as a result of non-market policies pursued by some countries. But Australia is a close ally and a trusted trading partner, we are not responsible for the issues that the United States are concerned about. We make … interrupted
KIM LANDERS: But how do you rate Australia’s chance of getting that exemption? Did they give you a guarantee?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As a result of the strong representations by the Prime Minister, the Australian position is well understood. You would not expect me to relate private conversations. But the Prime Minister certainly made the Australian position very clear. Previously our Trade Minister, Steven Ciobo had similar conversations with the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as well.
KIM LANDERS: Is Tony Abbott to blame for the Coalition once again trailing Labor in the latest Newspoll?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I understand it, the position has not changed. Given the fortnight that we have had, if I was Bill Shorten I would actually be quite concerned that he didn’t make any progress compared to where the polls were in the past … interrupted
KIM LANDERS: So is Tony Abbott to blame though? Is Tony Abbott to blame for the Coalition’s standing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Coalition team, we are implementing our plan which we took to the last election. We have quite a bit more work to do to put ourselves in the position where we will be competitive for the next election. We will do that.
KIM LANDERS: So the Government is paying a price for infighting?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government is working very hard to implement our plan for the economy, for growth and to keep our country secure. In two years’ time there will be another election. By that time we have to ensure that we are in the most competitive position possible.
KIM LANDERS: The Coalition is trailing Labor by 47 to 53 do you think result might actually help the leadership team draw a line under the party infighting?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The way to win an election is by winning the confidence of a majority of people in a majority of seats. Once we get closer to the next election, we need to ensure that we get ourselves in that position, because we want to continue to provide good government. We want to continue to ensure that we can put in place the policies required to strengthen the economy, create better opportunities for people across Australia to get ahead and to ensure that we are secure. In order to be able to do that, in the lead up to the next election we need to ensure that we can win the support and the confidence of a majority of people in a majority of seats. We will be very focused on that.
KIM LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.