Australia’s longest-serving finance minister, Mathias Cormann, says he has “left it all on the field” and announced he will be leaving politics by the end of the year.
The West Australian senator described himself as being “at peace” with the decisions he has made – including helping to bring on the leadership spill which ended Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership.
Flanked by his family and looking happier than he has since before the last federal election, Cormann was asked on Sunday morning if there was any chance he would change his mind.
He answered immediately: “No.”
Cormann said he would see the Morrison government deliver its post-Covid-19 budget in October, but would not see out the term.
Rumours Cormann wanted to leave the parliament have abounded since before the 2019 election campaign. He confirmed the worst-kept secret in Canberra with an interview in his local paper and a media statement on Sunday morning, days after the Australian Financial Review reported he was planning to end on his 13-year Senate career.
There will be time later in the year to pay tribute to Mathias, but Jenny and I just want to wish him, Hayley and their family all the best for their future. But for now, it’s straight back to work.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) July 5, 2020
Cormann, previously one of the Coalition’s most high-profile ministers, has been largely absent from the public stage since the 2019 election, his legacy having been bruised by the role he played in bringing on the leadership spill that ended with Scott Morrison ascending to the top job.
In his book, A bigger picture, Turnbull wrote of Cormann that his “treachery was the worst and the most hurtful”, as he had considered Cormann a friend, and was blindsided by his support for Peter Dutton’s ultimately fruitless leadership challenge.
Asked if he had any regrets as he announced his forthcoming retirement, Cormann said he “stood by my decisions”.
“At the end of this year I leave politics at peace with the knowledge that I’ve always sought to make the right decisions for the right reasons in the right way,” he said.
“In the end, politics is about making judgments, it’s about making judgments about what you believe is the best way forward for the future. And I have never shied away from that. I have never shied away from making judgments based on, as I saw it.
“People are entitled to have different views, people are entitled to have their own opinions in relation to these things, but I stand by the decisions I have made and I have always sought to clearly explain the reasons for them and, in the end, that is what I saw my job to be, to make judgments, to make decisions to help shape the best possible future.”
Thank you @JoshFrydenberg. Much more work to be done over the next 6 months to responsibly transition out of this coronavirus induced crisis and to finalise and set in train our five-year plan to maximise the strength of our economic and jobs recovery. Looking forward to it! 👍 https://t.co/zLKh5xosJ3
— Mathias Cormann (@MathiasCormann) July 4, 2020
Cormann’s departure opens the door for a wider reshuffle of the Morrison ministry at the year’s end. The South Australian senator, Simon Birmingham, the current trade minister, has been tipped for a promotion, as has health minister, Greg Hunt.
Cormann said he would spend the next six months working with the prime minister and the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, on finalising the July economic statement, the budget in October and the half-yearly budget update in December.
“There is six months of hard work ahead of us,” he said.
“There is an economic statement on the 23 July, a budget on the 6 October, there is a half-yearly budget update in December. That will have my 100% focus over the next six months and once that is all done, at the appropriate time we will consider what is next for me and for us.”
The budget is usually delivered in May, but has been delayed until October because of the coronavirus.
The government will also give an economic update on 23 July when the future of jobkeeper wage subsidies, the boosted dole and other support measures will be revealed.
Cormann, 49, was born in Belgium and decided to migrate to Australia permanently after first visiting Perth in 1994.
He is married to Hayley and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Charlotte.
Thank you very much Penny. That means a lot. We have been engaged in political battles for a very long time. I truly value the genuine trust and friendship we have developed over those years engaged in at times very hard fought political combat. https://t.co/XOzSH2LGyy
— Mathias Cormann (@MathiasCormann) July 5, 2020
There has been speculation he could take a job with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or other positions in his home town of Perth.
Cormann said he was yet to make any decisions about his future beyond 2020.
“I’m looking forward to working with the prime minister and the treasurer and the whole team to ensure that we continue to make the decision to put Australia on the best and strongest possible path for the future,” he said.
“And after that, I’ll look forward to getting back home and exploring future opportunities as part of a new chapter.”
With Australian Associated Press