Mathias Hubert Paul Cormann[2] (/məˈtəs ˈkɔːrmən/; German: [maˈtiːas ˈkɔʁman]; born 20 September 1970) is a Belgian-born Australian politician and diplomat who currently serves as Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), having assumed the office on 1 June 2021.[3]

Mathias Cormann
Cormann in 2018
6th Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Assumed office
1 June 2021
Preceded byJosé Ángel Gurría
Minister for Finance
In office
18 September 2013 – 30 October 2020
Serving with Scott Morrison (2020)
Prime MinisterTony Abbott
Malcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byPenny Wong
Succeeded bySimon Birmingham
Leader of the Government in the Senate
In office
20 December 2017 – 30 October 2020
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byGeorge Brandis
Succeeded bySimon Birmingham
Vice-President of the Executive Council
In office
20 December 2017 – 30 October 2020
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byGeorge Brandis
Succeeded bySimon Birmingham
Special Minister of State
In office
29 May 2019 – 30 October 2020
Prime MinisterScott Morrison
Preceded byAlex Hawke
Succeeded bySimon Birmingham
In office
13 November 2017 – 23 August 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byScott Ryan
Succeeded byAlex Hawke
In office
29 December 2015 – 19 July 2016
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byMal Brough
Succeeded byScott Ryan
Senator for Western Australia
In office
19 June 2007 – 6 November 2020
Preceded byIan Campbell
Succeeded byBen Small
Personal details
Mathias Hubert Paul Cormann

(1970-09-20) 20 September 1970 (age 53)
Eupen, Liège, Belgium[1]
CitizenshipAustralian (2000–present)
Belgian (1970–2000)
Political partyLiberal Party of Australia
Other political
Christian Social Party (Belgium)
Alma materUniversité de Namur
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Previously, he was Australian Minister for Finance from 2013 to 2020 and a Senator from Western Australia for the Liberal Party from 2007 to 2020. His tenure of more than seven years as Minister for Finance was the longest in Australian history, spanning the Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison governments. On 20 December 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promoted Cormann to be Leader of the Government in the Senate.[2] He also served as Special Minister of State from 2015 to 2016, 2017 to 2018 and 2019 to 2020, and as Minister for the Public Service from 2018 to 2019.[4][5][6] As Leader of the Government in the Senate, Cormann was also the Vice-President of the Executive Council.[7]

Cormann retired from politics in October 2020 in order to be nominated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as Australia's candidate for Secretary-General of the OECD.[8][9][10][2] On 12 March 2021, he was elected as the next OECD Secretary-General, winning support from a majority of OECD Member States. He is the first Australian elected to this position.[11]

Early life edit

Cormann was born on 20 September 1970 in Eupen, Belgium, within the country's German-speaking Community.[2] He is the oldest of four children and only son born to Hildegard and Herbert Cormann.[12] Cormann grew up in the village of Raeren, around 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the Belgian-German border. At the time of his birth, his father worked as a turner at a factory in Germany. When he was ten years old, his father spent six months in hospital with a severe illness that left him unable to work; he subsequently became an alcoholic but recovered.[12][13] The family relied on a disability pension and assistance from the local Catholic church, where Cormann served as an altar boy.[14]

After beginning his education locally, Cormann completed his secondary schooling in Liège, where he learnt French as a second language.[12] He went on to the University of Namur, where he attained the degree of candidate in law.[2] In 1989, he and some university friends drove to Berlin to witness the Fall of the Berlin Wall. He has cited his experiences of the systems used in East and West Germany as influential in his political development.[14] Cormann later undertook law graduate studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, attaining the degree of licentiate and learning Dutch.[2][15] He learned English as a fourth language in 1993 while on an Erasmus Programme exchange to the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.[12]

Early career and move to Australia edit

Cormann's parents were not politically active.[14] He nonetheless joined the German-speaking Christian Social Party (CSP) at a young age and was elected to Raeren's municipal council at the age of 21.[12] He later worked in Brussels as an assistant to Mathieu Grosch, who represented Belgium's German-speaking electoral college in the European Parliament.[14][16] In 1995, he was associated with Joëlle Milquet's campaign for the presidency of the French-speaking Christian Social Party (PSC).[17]

During his time studying in England, Cormann began a relationship with an Australian woman. He first came to Australia in June 1994 to visit her family in Perth. Their relationship did not continue, but after returning to Belgium to complete his studies he decided to move to Australia permanently.[14] He settled in Perth in July 1996, aged 25, initially working as a gardener at Presbyterian Ladies' College as his Belgian law degrees were not recognised.[18] Cormann then cold-called Senator Chris Ellison, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on treaties, and asked to work in his office as a volunteer. After two weeks he secured a paid position as a staffer.[14]

Through Ellison, Cormann began to develop connections in the Liberal Party of Australia (Western Australian Division).[14] From 1997 to 2000 he worked as chief of staff to Rhonda Parker, the state minister for family and children's services. He later worked as senior adviser to Premier Richard Court (2000–2001) before returning to work for Ellison after his appointment as federal justice minister. Cormann was elected to the Liberal Party's state council in 2000. He served as a vice-president of the party from 2003 to 2004 and as senior vice-president from 2004 to 2008.[2]

In 2003, Cormann joined HBF as health services manager in its health insurance division. He was general manager of its Healthguard division from 2004 to 2006 before rejoining the health insurance division as acting general manager from 2006 to 2007.[2]

Federal politics edit

Cormann in 2007

Opposition (2007–2013) edit

Cormann's preselection for the coveted third position on the Liberal Senate ticket for the 2007 election was all but assured, at the expense of controversial Senator Ross Lightfoot, who withdrew from the preselection race and resigned from politics when he realised the numbers were against him. On the ABC's Stateline program on 27 April 2007, Lightfoot stated that he considered Cormann (although he stopped short of naming him) an "inappropriate person" to replace him. Lightfoot's main complaint was that there were "more appropriate people" to succeed him "who have served the party longer" and "who have been in the country longer".[19]

When Senator Ian Campbell unexpectedly announced his planned resignation on 4 May 2007, Cormann was quickly preselected by the party to fill the resulting casual vacancy.[18] Campbell formally resigned on 31 May 2007. Cormann was sworn in on 20 June 2007 and served the remaining four years of Ian Campbell's term until 2011. On 21 August 2010 Cormann was re-elected for a further six-year term as Senator for Western Australia and again on 2 July 2016.[2]

In Opposition, Cormann served as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Administration (2008–09), Shadow Minister for Employment Participation, Apprenticeships and Training (2009–2010) and as Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation (2010–2013). In the Senate he chaired the Fuel and Energy Select Committee (2008–2010)[20] and the Scrutiny of New Taxes Committee (2010–2011).

Government (2013–2020) edit

Cormann in 2016

When the Coalition won government in 2013, Cormann became the Finance Minister, a role which he held under Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. Although he publicly supported Abbott in the 2015 leadership spill,[21] Cormann was promoted by Turnbull to take on the additional roles of Special Minister of State in 2016, and Leader of the Government in the Senate in 2017.

As government leader in the upper house, Cormann became third in line to serve as acting prime minister when necessary. He fulfilled this role for several days in February 2018, during a unique set of circumstances in which Prime Minister Turnbull made a state visit to the United States, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce took personal leave amid scandal surrounding an affair with a staffer, and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop made official visits to Europe in her role as Foreign Minister.[22]

Cormann with Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires summit

Cormann played a key role during the Liberal Party leadership spills in August 2018.[23] He voted for Turnbull against Peter Dutton in the first spill on 21 August, and the following day publicly pledged his support for him to remain as prime minister, stating "I will continue to serve him loyally into the future" at a press conference alongside Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison.[24] However, on 23 August Cormann issued a joint statement with Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash withdrawing their support, stating that "we went to see the PM yesterday afternoon to advise him that in our judgement, he no longer enjoyed the majority of support of Liberal members". They also announced that they had offered their resignations from cabinet.[25] In the second spill on 24 August, he supported Peter Dutton against Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop.[26]

During the leadership conflict, Cormann offered his resignation as Minister for Finance and Leader of the Government in the Senate, but resumed both roles in the first Morrison Ministry.[26][2]

In October 2019, Cormann became the longest-serving Finance Minister, having surpassed the record previously held by Nick Minchin.[27]

Cormann meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in Paris in June 2021.

In July 2020, Cormann announced that he would step down from politics by the end of the year, but would remain as minister to finalise the government's July budget update, the 2020–21 federal budget in October and the half-yearly budget update in December. In early October 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Cormann would be nominated as a candidate for the next Secretary-General of the OECD.[28] On 30 October 2020, he stepped down from his roles as Finance Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, which were taken over by Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.[29][30]

On 2 November 2020, Cormann was officially nominated as a candidate for the next Secretary-General of the OECD.[31] He formally resigned from the Senate a week later on 6 November 2020, with his resignation triggering a casual vacancy in the Senate.[9] His nomination was supported both by the Liberal government and federal Labor, while the Labor Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan provided a reference for Cormann's nomination.[32]

In August 2021, it was revealed that Cormann was a member of the Clan, a WhatsApp group which was used to stack branches in Western Australia.[33]

Secretary-General of OECD edit

On 12 March 2021, Cormann was elected as the next Secretary-General of the OECD, and he assumed office on 1 June 2021.[11] On 25 June Cormann welcomed United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Among the issues discussed were "techno-democracy" and COVID-19.[34] On 28 February 2023, Cormann visited Ukraine and met with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. During their meeting, they discussed Ukraine's possible accession to the OECD.[35]

Political views edit

Cormann is a free market economic and fiscal conservative. As a Senator, in Opposition and in Government, he has been a consistent advocate for lower taxes, smaller government, open markets and free trade.[36][37] Within the Liberal Party he is associated with the economic dries.[38]

While Cormann personally opposed same-sex marriage and in 2017 argued "for a postal vote plebiscite to be held before a parliamentary vote on the issue", after that survey went ahead and found most Australians support same-sex marriage, Cormann chose to vote in favour of the bill legalising same-sex marriage.[39][40]

Cormann is a constitutional monarchist.[41]

Personal life edit

Cormann, a Roman Catholic,[42] is married to Hayley, a lawyer. They have two daughters.[43]

Cormann became an Australian citizen on Australia Day in 2000, which resulted in the automatic loss of his Belgian citizenship as per Belgian nationality law at the time. This was re-confirmed prior to nominating for preselection as a candidate for the Senate.[44]

Cormann obtained a private pilot's licence in 2001.[45]

Honours edit

Cormann with Angela Merkel (front row) and the Australia-Germany Advisory Group in 2015

In January 2018, Cormann was awarded with the rank of Grand Cross with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by Ambassador Anna Prinz on behalf of the Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier for his work "in advancing German-Australian relations".[46]

Criticisms edit

During his candidacy for the position of Secretary General of the OECD, Cormann has been criticised over his record on climate change, specifically for trying to abolish Australia's Clean Energy Finance Corporation as well as Australia's renewable energy target, as well as trying to abolish Australia's Renewable Energy Agency.[47] In March 2021, 29 Australian and global humanitarian and environmental organisations wrote to the OECD, citing "grave concerns"[48] and asking that Cormann be disqualified due to his record of "thwarting effective climate action".[49][50]

Cormann has also been criticised by trade union leaders in Australia and the UK.[47]

References edit

  1. ^ Shields, Bevan (13 January 2021). "Mathias Cormann confirmed as a frontrunner for OECD post following candidate cull". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 September 2022. Cormann, who was born in Belgium
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Former Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann". Senators and Members of the Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  3. ^ "The 37 Member Countries of OECD appoint Mr. Mathias Cormann of Australia to be next Secretary General starting 1 June 2021". Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 15 March 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021. The Council of the OECD composed of Ambassadors representing the 37 Member Countries, took the formal decision to appoint Mr. Mathias Cormann of Australia to become the sixth Secretary-General of the Organisation, for a 5-year term beginning on 1 June 2021.
  4. ^ "Tony Abbott's cabinet and outer ministry". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  5. ^ Massola, James (13 February 2016). "Cabinet reshuffle: Malcolm Turnbull announces new frontbench as Mal Brough resigns". The Age. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Ministerial Swearing-in Ceremony". Events. Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. 18 February 2016. Archived from the original on 1 March 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  7. ^ Turnbull, Malcolm (19 December 2017). "Ministerial Arrangements" (Press release). Government of Australia. Archived from the original on 13 March 2018. Retrieved 3 February 2018. Mathias Cormann will take on the additional role Special Minister of State. Mathias's expanded portfolio is testament to his outstanding performance as a Cabinet Minister. Senator Brandis' position as Leader of the Senate will be filled by Senator Cormann, who has been integral in steering the Government's agenda through the Senate. His determination and his counsel are invaluable.
  8. ^ "Statement | Finance Minister".
  9. ^ a b "Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to quit federal politics by end of year". ABC News. 4 July 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  10. ^ Wright, Shane (7 October 2020). "Mathias Cormann to resign to take top job at OECD". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Mathias Cormann elected next secretary-general of the OECD". The Age. 12 March 2021. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d e Chadwick, Vince (20 October 2013). "It takes a Belgian village to raise an antipodean finance minister". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  13. ^ Patrick, Aaron (23 March 2018). "Mathias Cormann talks God, politics and mayonnaise - but some topics are taboo". The Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Kitney, Geoff (2 May 2014). "Mathias Cormann: A tale of two lives". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Alumnus Mathias Cormann tapped for ministerial post 'down under'". KU Leuven. 2 October 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Van de Hoge Venen naar de Australische top" in De Standaard, 18 September 2013
  17. ^ Georis, Vincent (17 February 2018). "Le Belge Mathias Cormann à la tête de l'Australie". L'Echo (in French). Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  18. ^ a b O'Brien, Amanda (7 May 2007). "Ex-gardener lands Senate spot". The Australian. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  19. ^ Carmody, Rebecca (27 April 2007). "Controversial Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot calls it a day". Stateline (TV program)-Western Australia. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  20. ^ Senate Select Committee on Fuel and Energy: Committee membership Archived 22 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine,
  21. ^ Michelle Grattan (14 September 2015). "Malcolm Turnbull ousts Tony Abbott in dramatic party coup". The Conversation.
  22. ^ Farr, Malcolm (20 February 2018). "Senator Mathias Cormann named Acting PM as top ranks head out of the country".
  23. ^ Probyn, Andrew (22 August 2018). "Kingmaker Mathias Cormann caught between loyalty to Malcolm Turnbull and friendship with Peter Dutton". ABC News. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  24. ^ "Peter Dutton poised to launch second challenge to kill off Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership". ABC News. 22 August 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  25. ^ "Malcolm Turnbull should resign, Mathias Cormann says; Scott Morrison set to run against Peter Dutton". ABC News. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  26. ^ a b Probyn, Andrew (27 August 2018). "Mathias Cormann could have made one phone call to change the course of history". ABC News. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  27. ^ Creighton, Adam (3 October 2019). "Cormann 'the rock' becomes longest-serving finance minister". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  28. ^ Morrison, Scott (8 October 2020). "Nomination of Senator Mathias Cormann for the position of OECD Secretary-General". Prime Minister of Australia. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Appointment as Minister for Finance". Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. 30 October 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  30. ^ "Minister for Finance and Senate leadership". Prime Minister of Australia. 8 October 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  31. ^ "OECD announces candidates for next Secretary-General". OECD. 2 November 2020. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  32. ^ Hennessy, Annabel (15 January 2021). "Then there were three". The West Australian. p. 3.
  33. ^ Zimmerman, Josh; Law, Peter (20 August 2021). "Leaked WhatsApp texts between WA Liberals group 'The Clan' expose Mathias Cormann, Peter Collier, Nick Goiran". The West Australian. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  34. ^ "Secretary Antony J. Blinken and OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann Before Their Meeting".
  35. ^ "Head of State discussed prospects of Ukraine's accession to the OECD with OECD Secretary-General". President of Ukraine.
  36. ^ "ParlInfo - Search Results".
  37. ^ "Speech to the Sydney Institute | Finance Minister".
  38. ^ "Mathias Cormann: A tale of two lives". 2 May 2014.
  39. ^ Koziol, Michael (29 November 2017). "Coalition to test Labor again over same-sex marriage as bill heads to lower house". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  40. ^ Matthew Knott (22 March 2017). "Peter Dutton working behind the scenes to legislate same-sex marriage before CEO spray". The Sydny Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  41. ^ "Monarchists downplay Turnbull's support for republic movement". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 December 2016.
  42. ^ "Coalition celebrates a religious Easter: Eight of 19 cabinet members are Catholic". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 20 April 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  43. ^ "Biography". Minister for Finance. Archived from the original on 25 September 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  44. ^ "Senator Cormann's citizenship". 18 July 2017. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  45. ^ Bourke, Latika (16 September 2013). "Tony Abbott to unveil ministry: Mathias Cormann to be promoted, Bronwyn Bishop nominated for Speaker". ABC News. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  46. ^ AAP (31 January 2018). "Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has been presented with Germany's Grand Cross of the Order of Merit". Special Broadcasting Service. SBS News. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  47. ^ a b Hurst, Daniel. "Mathias Cormann: the Australian OECD candidate trying to airbrush his climate record". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  48. ^ Readfearn, Graham (5 March 2021). "'Not a suitable candidate': climate groups urge OECD not to appoint Mathias Cormann as next head". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  49. ^ Galey, Patrick (10 March 2021). "Mathias Cormann insists he 'always' supported global climate action". The New Daily. AAP. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  50. ^ "Mathias Cormann should be rejected for OECD job over climate change failures, world leaders told". SBS. AAP. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021.

External links edit

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by Senator for Western Australia
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Government in the Senate
Preceded by Special Minister of State
Preceded by Special Minister of State
Succeeded by
Preceded by Special Minister of State
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development