Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Should Senator Cash resign?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely not. Senator Cash is a highly effective Minister who has been responsible for significant economic reforms, which will make a positive difference to our economy and to the opportunity for Australian job seekers to get ahead for many years to come. In relation to the matters that have arisen over the last twenty-four hours, Senator Cash has acted entirely appropriately. She provided truthful evidence based on the knowledge she had at the time earlier in the day. As soon as she became aware of corrected information, of different information, she provided that to the Senate at the earliest opportunity. She disclosed that in the Senate Committee at the earliest opportunity, which is precisely the way a Minister is expected to act.
QUESTION: Regardless, she misled the Senate Estimates hearing. Is that not grounds for her resignation?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Senator Cash provided truthful evidence to a Senate Estimates Committee earlier in the day, based on the knowledge that she had at the time. As soon as she was presented with different information she disclosed that to the Senate Estimates Committee at the earliest opportunity, which is precisely the way Ministers are expected to act. If you become aware of different information to that which you have previously provided, you are required to correct the public record at the earliest opportunity, which is precisely what Senator Cash did yesterday.
QUESTION: Do you think that votes though may have lost faith in her ability, or the ability of her office and by association her, to do her job given that she did not have the correct information and misled the Senate via the Estimates hearing.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not believe so. I do not believe so at all. People across Australia know Senator Cash to be a hard working, honest, honourable, effective Minister. People around Australia can see that Senator Cash, in her role as Minister for Employment, has been very effective in getting important reforms through the Parliament, in particular through the Senate, reforms which will help ensure that our economy is on the strongest possible foundation and trajectory for the future, that more jobs will be created. In relation to the events that unfolded yesterday, a single staff member made a serious error of judgement. He disclosed that to Minister Cash during the dinner break yesterday. He resigned. He paid the ultimate price, he resigned. At the earliest opportunity Senator Cash disclosed that information to the Senate Estimates Committee as is appropriate.
QUESTION: Were you or anyone in your office aware of the raids before they happened?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No.
QUESTION: Isn’t the Minister responsible for her staff’s actions?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Senator Cash acted entirely honourably and appropriately, providing truthful information to the Senate Estimates Committee process based on the knowledge she had at the time. When the staff member who made a serious error of judgement disclosed what he had done, he resigned. He paid the ultimate price. Senator Cash disclosed that information at the earliest opportunity to the Senate. Right now Senator Cash is answering questions in relation to all these matters before the Senate Estimates Committee. Senator Cash is being directly accountable to the Parliament as is appropriate.
QUESTION: But why isn’t she responsible for her staff?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The staff member made an error of judgement. The staff member did not disclose that error of judgement at first. He disclosed that error of judgement during the dinner break and immediately resigned his position. Senator Cash disclosed that new information at the earliest opportunity, which is precisely the test that applies to Ministers to correct the public record at the earliest opportunity when new information comes to light. That is what she has done.
QUESTION: How is it possible that ministerial staff could sit there and watch their boss essentially mislead time and time again?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is a question for that individual staff member, who clearly made a serious error of judgement and paid the ultimate price. The point though is, in relation to Senator Cash, who is an outstanding highly effective, hardworking Minister in the Turnbull Government, she provided truthful evidence to the Senate. When she was presented with new information, with different information, she disclosed that new information at the earliest opportunity and right now is answering all of the questions that Senators want to put to her in relation to the events of the last 24 hours.
QUESTION: To what extent do you think this undermines the credibility of the ROC as an institution?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It does not at all. The Labor party is desperate to discredit the important work of the Registered Organisations Commission. We know why, because Labor is desperate to ensure that there is no independent investigation into some of these alleged events that have occurred in the past. So Labor is pursuing a blatant political agenda designed to protect Bill Shorten. The Registered Organisations Commission and the Australian Federal Police are independent organisations. They do not act at political directions from the Government. They act independently based on their judgement. Labor is pursuing their own political self interest, not the public interest in running the arguments that they are running.
QUESTION: Senator Cormann just on something completely different if I may. The Government has rejected the proposal for an Indigenous voice to Parliament. Will there be something though from the Coalition? Is it committed to something in this space?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will let the responsible Minister deal with that.