Senator Mathias Cormann – responding to questions by Penny Wong on the topic of Australia moving its embassy to Jerusalem

photo of Senator Mathias Cormann
November 15, 2018

The government’s position on looking into the merits of moving the embassy to West Jerusalem are clear and, the process has been set out by the Prime Minister very clearly as well. Australia will not conflate two very important but separate issues. We will make judgements in our national interest on the issue in relation to the embassy’s potential move to West Jerusalem in the proper way and we will make relevant announcements at the right time.

Full speech

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:02): My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. In an article in this morning’s media entitled ‘PM flags embassy retreat’ it is revealed that Minister Ciobo told the Indonesian Minister of Trade, Mr Lukita, that the chances of Australia moving its embassy in Israel were, ‘Less than five per cent’. Is Minister Ciobo correct? Why did Mr Morrison think it was worth putting his domestic political interests before the national interest for a decision with a less than one in 20 chance?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:02): In relation to the last part of the question, the Prime Minister did not do that. In relation to the other parts of the question: as I’ve said to Senator Wong and to the Senate more broadly before, ‘Don’t always believe everything you read in the newspaper.’

I can also confirm that no such suggestions have been made by the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment or the Minister for Foreign Affairs in any engagements with Indonesia on these matters. We don’t comment on—

Senator Wong: What about Mr Ciobo?

Senator CORMANN: I haven’t even finished my answer! I haven’t even finished my sentence! My advice is that no such suggestion has been made by Minister Ciobo either. I’m not in the habit of responding to unsourced allegations in the media. The government’s position on looking into the merits of moving the embassy to West Jerusalem are clear and, the process has been set out by the Prime Minister very clearly as well. Australia will not conflate two very important but separate issues. We will make judgements in our national interest on the issue in relation to the embassy’s potential move to West Jerusalem in the proper way and we will make relevant announcements at the right time.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:04): When pressed about whether a decision would be made in relation to the location of Australia’s embassy in Israel before Christmas, Mr Morrison, reluctantly, said, ‘Look, that’s our intention.’ Given that the Indonesian government is clear that the decision is the cause of delay in signing the free trade agreement, why is the Prime Minister delaying his decision to back down at the cost of Australian exporters, businesses and consumers?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:04): Firstly, I reject the premise of the question. We have an internal government process underway, which will take its course over the coming weeks and be completed by Christmas. It will take full account of our record of support for a two-state solution and the conditions required for progress. It will include external consultation and will report to the National Security Committee of cabinet and the cabinet following normal cabinet processes. In due course, when relevant decisions have been made, relevant announcements will be made about the decision that we have made.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:05): In this morning’s The Daily Telegraph, it was revealed that Mr Morrison:

… acknowledges his decision … was an error of judgement, made in desperation to hold onto predecessor Malcolm Turnbull’s seat, Wentworth.

Isn’t it clear Mr Morrison’s judgement cannot be trusted, and what is the cost of his poor judgement to Australian exporters, businesses and consumers?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:05): Firstly, I reject the premise of the question. There has been no such comment from the Prime Minister. When it comes to providing better access to markets around the world for Australian exporting businesses, there has been no better government than the Liberal-National government. What did Labor do over six years in government? What happened to the free trade agreement with China? Nothing. What happened to all these other free trade agreements? We have concluded a free trade agreement with China. We have concluded free trade agreements with Japan and with South Korea, and of course we’ve also successfully concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with the remaining 11 countries that were keen to continue. We know that, if we had listened to the Leader of the Opposition, supposedly the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, we would have put our arms up in the air and walked away from it. (Time expired)

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