Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Mathias Cormann joins Insiders. -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: For more on the wash-up from the State election, we are joined from our Perth studios by the Minister for Finance Senator Mathias Cormann. Welcome.


CASSIDY: Well, good luck getting another preference deal with Pauline Hanson after that result.

CORMANN: Well, look, the election result last night has been a long time coming. It is obviously not unexpected. All of the published and internal polling indicated that this was the way it was going to go. I mean, as far as the preference deal is concerned, the Liberal Party's consideration was looking at our primary vote long before the campaign got underway, long before any preference arrangements were entered into. Our primary vote, according to internal polling, was as low as 29 per cent. And all throughout the campaign it has hovered at 29-31 per cent at the State level. So obviously, if we wanted to minimise losses, maximise our chances of holding onto seats, we needed to be able to source preferences and clearly, these weren't going to come from Labor and the Greens. And the State executive of the West Australian Liberal Party unanimously decided to make the arrangement that has been much talked about.

CASSIDY: But do you take my point that no matter what you might want in the future, Pauline Hanson won't be interested in any preference deal with the Liberal Party?

CORMANN: Well Barrie, back in 2001, the Liberal Party put One Nation last and as a result, One Nation put Liberal candidates and Liberal members of parliament last in every single seat and Labor was elected in 2001 on the back of One Nation preferences. This time around, we made a decision to put One Nation ahead of Labor and the Greens. That will help us in some seats. It will probably help us hold on in seats like Jandakot and Geraldton. These are judgements ultimately that are made on a case by case basis by relevant party organisations.

CASSIDY: But given the experience, you now rule out chasing a similar deal at the Federal level?

CORMANN: It is not a matter of chasing a deal. The circumstances at a Federal level is very different. At the federal level, we are in a strong and united Coalition with the National Party at the Federal level. That wasn't the circumstance in Western Australia and not because of us not wanting this. The National Party in Western Australia took the view that they didn't want to be in Coalition with us, they wanted to be more independent and only enter into an alliance. And the National Party in Western Australia has preferenced other parties ahead of the Liberal Party, including One Nation incidentally in the upper house for years, all the way back since 2008. It has always been a unique circumstance in Western Australia which is quite different to the circumstances at the national level.

CASSIDY: And because it's unique are you able to say now deal or no deal with One Nation at the Federal level?

CORMANN: These are not judgments for me to make. These are judgements that will be made at the right time. I suspect what will happen in the ordinary course of events is that the Liberal Party organisation in Western Australia and the Liberal Party organisation nationally will review the result. We will review obviously all aspects of the campaign and the ultimate outcome and relevant judgements will be made at the right time. I am personally very comfortable that Labor and the Greens obviously should always be towards the bottom of our ballot paper.

CASSIDY: Ok, so when you make that judgement whether you do a deal with them at the Federal level, would you keep in mind how your supporters apparently read this deal you did in WA, it looks as if they didn't like it at all?

CORMANN: Well Barrie, that is your interpretation, I think you would have made that no matter what the result. It is not the evidence that we have seen. The evidence we saw was that our primary vote, before the campaign started, before any preference arrangements got underway, was very low. It was as low as 29 per cent. That compares to the primary vote that was achieved in the Federal election when Malcolm Turnbull was campaigning across WA, 45.7 per cent and a two party preferred vote then of 54.7 per cent. So ur primary vote going into this election was low and the overwhelming reason for that was the time, the long period of time that Colin Barnett has been Premier and that the Liberal National Party has been in Government. In a period that Colin Barnett has been Premier, we have had five Premiers in New South Wales, four in Victoria and in fact in Victoria, we had two changes of Government and in Queensland they had two changes of government. There are only three Premiers in the history of Western Australia that served continuously longer as Premier than Colin Barnett. Overwhelmingly, across the electorate, as I was going from polling booth to polling booth, the feedback our volunteers were getting was that people wanted a change because of the long period of time that Colin Barnett had been in Government.

CASSIDY: But that's going back to the preferences. Here is an interpretation from former Nationals Senator Ron Boswell. Now he knows the bush as good as anybody. And he says by giving them preferences, you give legitimacy to One Nation. People feel as if it is safe to vote for her.

CORMANN: Well, again, the evidence is otherwise. The evidence is that fewer people ended up voting for One Nation than otherwise might. At the beginning of the campaign, our primary vote was on 29 per cent. The published polls were indicating that One Nation was on a 13 per cent primary vote and obviously they have come in less than that. People will have all sorts of interpretation but, in the end, you have to look at the evidence.

CASSIDY: The other thing Ron Boswell said. It came about in part because you want Pauline Hanson's support in the Senate. He said, he told The Guardian, that he said to his people "Stupid bastards" that is what he said about that, that is short-term thinking?

CORMANN: Well again Barrie, in the Senate, if we want to get important legislation through for our country, in our national interests, of course we have to deal with the people that have been elected by the Australian people into the Senate.

CASSIDY: So that was part of your motivation then?

CORMANN: No, that is not what I am saying. I am just responding to your criticism that we are dealing with One Nation in the Senate. In the Senate, if Labor and the Greens are opposed to legislation like the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, we need to get a certain number of cross benchers on board and we can't get any legislation through which is opposed by Labor and the Greens without the support of One Nation senators. So of course, we have to work with One Nation senators as we have to work with Nick Xenophon team senators, as we have to work with the Liberal Democrats and indeed Cory Bernardi and others represented in the Senate. That is our duty and responsibility to do that.

CASSIDY: Ok, one of your colleagues, Liberal Senator, Dean Smith, said a lack of real GST reform haunted the Liberals: "a failure to set a GST floor or a timetable had cost Colin Barnett dearly". Is he right about that?

CORMANN: Well look, in relation to GST sharing arrangements, we did as much as we could in an appropriate fashion, bearing in mind that a national Government has the responsibility to act in the national interests. We did recognise that the Commonwealth grants commission recommendations to drop the WA share of the GST down to 3 per cent was inappropriate, that is why we stopped that drop in the share of the GST from 2014/15 onwards by making unilateral Federal grants to Western Australia of half a billion dollars each year in 15/16 and 16/17. No national Government can side with one State Government against every other State Government and take money away from other state governments to hand it over to one State Government. What we did was, as much as we could, the Prime Minister did set out a timetable on how this issue could prospectively be resolved and that is the appropriate way to go. Under the current GST sharing arrangements, WA's share of the GST will start to increase in the ordinary course of events. When that happens, under the current system, what the Prime Minister's indicated that we should consider establishing a floor below the level that has been exceeded and that is still our position.

CASSIDY: But when? When will you do that? Because Senator Smith is talking about there will be losses at the Federal level if you don't do something about it between now and the election.

CORMANN: Well look, this was a big issue in the lead-up to the last Federal election and we won 11 out of 16 seats, 54.7 per cent of the two party preferred. This is an issue in WA, no doubt about it. By the same token, we have to be realistic on what a national Government can do in relation to these sorts of issues and the timetable is determined by what happens with the GST sharing arrangements moving forward. There is a flow through affect, principally from the prices for iron ore and the royalty revenue that is generated on the back of iron ore exports. That will play out over the next few years and there is an expectation in the not too distant future, WA's share of the GST will start increasing again and if and when that happens, there are certain options available where the floor can be established without actually taking money away from any other State. That is the way it should happen.

CASSIDY: And just away from the election, this talk about Scott Morrison and the Prime Minister stepping up and taking the lead in the run-up to the Budget, it wasn't just that. There was this suggestion around it that the ABC was backgrounded that he wasn't cutting through, that seemed to be the view in the Government. That is a bit embarrassing for him, isn't it?

CORMANN: That is not the view in the Government. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the cabinet, we work as a strong and united team. Of course the Prime Minister is the leader of our team. Scott Morrison is the leader of our economic team. He is a very strong and effective Treasurer. I very much enjoy working with him. We are all now focused on putting the Budget for the 17/18 financial year together which will be delivered on the second Tuesday in May.

CASSIDY: What are the prospects of you being Government leader in the Senate three months from now?

CORMANN: I am focused on the job. I thoroughly enjoy the job that the Prime Minister has given me for Minister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.

CASSIDY: You are aware of the speculation that there could soon be a vacancy?

CORMANN: I am not aware of... There is always speculation. I won't comment on speculation.

CASSIDY: Thank you for backing up so early this morning. Appreciate it.

CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.