Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to step down at year end

Mathias Cormann is also leader of the nation's Liberal-National Party government in Australia's Senate. PHOTO: MATHIASCORMANN/FACEBOOK

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia's Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will step down at the end of the year, he announced in a statement Sunday (July 5).

Mr Cormann, who is also leader of the nation's Liberal-National Party government in Australia's Senate, told Prime Minister Scott Morrison that he will seek an "orderly transition" of his portfolio by the end of 2020, the Western Australian representative said. He will not contest in the next election.

Mr Cormann's departure could prompt a shake-up of the federal government's front bench halfway through the new conservative government's term. It comes at an uncertain time for Australia's economy, which entered its first recession in 29 years last month, ending the developed world's longest uninterrupted economic growth streak.

"I can honestly say I have left nothing on the field," Mr Cormann said in the statement.

"Before handing over the baton, there is another six months or so of hard work to be done in this job, to help manage a responsible transition out of this coronavirus-induced crisis and to help finalise and set in train our five-year plan to maximise the strength of our economic and jobs recovery."

The 49-year-old has served as finance minister since 2013, holding on to the role despite leadership turmoil in the Liberals that saw former prime ministers Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull ousted by their own party before Mr Morrison became the country's new leader.

The federal government abandoned plans to deliver a budget surplus this year, instead unveiling a A$17.6 billion (S$17.06 billion) stimulus to turn around the recession.

Before ceding his duties, Mr Cormann must still finalise the government's July Economic Statement, the Budget in October followed by a half-yearly budget update in December, he said.

Mr Cormann first became a senator in 2007 and was previously the minister for public service between 2018 and 2019. He thanked the two former prime ministers in the statement.

The possible retirement comes as voters for the federal regional seat of Eden-Monaro await the result of a close special election battle on Saturday after the sitting Labor lawmaker retired due to ill health.

Recent polls show that while Mr Morrison's personal popularity has risen due to voters' approval of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, they also have his Liberal-National coalition close to deadlocked with the Labor opposition for the marginal seat.

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