Senator Matt Canavan at his Yeppoon home with son Edward, 4. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Senator Matt Canavan at his Yeppoon home with son Edward, 4. Picture: Mark Cranitch

Conservative warrior a Canavan of love

CONSERVATIVE warrior and federal cabinet minister Matt Canavan has called for an increase to the dole and help for asylum seekers left on Nauru, in a soul-baring interview about life, love and politics.

The Queensland senator, who grew up in Logan but became a champion of the bush, opens up in depth in this week's QWeekend magazine about his dad Bryan going to jail, the Italian citizenship fiasco and Barnaby Joyce's scandalous extramarital affair with former staff member Vikki Campion.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN TODAY'S QWEEKEND MAGAZINE OR ONLINE AT 4PM ON QWEEKEND.COM.AU

The married father of five, 37, reveals how his strong Catholic values have shaped his life and politics, and given him the strength to forge ahead through some of his most trying tests.

He admits he would not have the mettle to be the country's immigration minister, and believes when the Budget is in a better position, the Government needs to consider raising the rate of the dole, which is $550.20 a fortnight for singles with no dependent children and $595.10 for singles with dependent children.

Senator Matt Canavan at Yeppoon. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Senator Matt Canavan at Yeppoon. Picture: Mark Cranitch

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already revealed there will be a "Budget surplus" in May.

"I strongly support having a strong safety net in place," Senator Canavan said.

"I'm happy to go a bit broader and beyond my portfolio area. I think there is a need at some point to look at the unemployment benefits. They haven't kept pace with living costs.

"I think that's got to be managed within the Budget context. At some point we should look at that to make sure that those most disadvantaged in our community don't completely go without."

Senator Canavan says he "does not know how you'd live on the dole".

"More than 90 per cent of people on the dole are also eligible for (other financial assistance)," he said.

"And some of those who don't have eligibility for those other aspects are often in households where someone else is working.

"(Former prime minister) John Howard said the same thing (about raising the rate of Newstart).

"That's always a challenge for us on the conservative side of politics. I think everybody in Australian politics is out there trying to help and assist all Australians as much as possible.

"We have disagreements on how best to do that and I'm very mindful of the risks.

Senator Matt Canavan and wife Andrea at their Yeppoon home with (clockwise from left) Jack, 12, Edward, 4, Beth, 12 months, Henry, 9, and William, 13. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Senator Matt Canavan and wife Andrea at their Yeppoon home with (clockwise from left) Jack, 12, Edward, 4, Beth, 12 months, Henry, 9, and William, 13. Picture: Mark Cranitch

"We've got to have a balance between ensuring that unemployment insurance is not simply a safety net but is a trampoline which helps bring people back up into the workforce and have real dignity."

Senator Canavan also extends his honesty about the raging debate about asylum seeker policy in Australia.

The Resources and Northern Australia Minister is bound by Cabinet when voting on Bills and motions in the Senate.

The Greens and Labor on Thursday tried to push through laws in the Senate that would removed asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island.

Law-enforcement authorities has continually warned that a dramatic shift in Australia's immigration policy, such as getting rid of offshore processing, would restart the people smuggling trade.

Labor and the Greens' Bill was defeated after filibustering from Government Senators, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and Australian Conservatives' Cory Bernardi.

Senator Canavan says he would struggle to be Australia's immigration minister (now David Coleman but previously Peter Dutton).

"I think I'd find it difficult to make the tough, individual decisions you need to contribute to the broader policy settings,'' he says.

"I completely accept you've got to have a system of control and order because the system we had a few years ago will eventually spiral out of control and lead to a lot worse outcomes.

Matt Canavan has become a champion of the bush.
Matt Canavan has become a champion of the bush.

"However, I've still got great sympathy for individual circumstances and I think we are, and should remain, a compassionate country that does provide support and assistance to those less fortunate to us.

"We do have a strong humanitarian program that helps when we can.

"I don't think (Prime Minister) Scott (Morrison) would have a different view to me, (with) his Christian background, and would have similar thoughts on these issues.

"We should look to what we can to help those remaining on Nauru but again keeping in mind nothing we do should imperil the protection of our borders but most importantly the ending of the people smuggling trade."

He reveals he cannot stand the hypocrisy of New Zealand, which he accuses of resettling a "deplorable" number of refugees - about 600-700 a year.

"Yes, they are a smaller society than us, but they are not that small compared to our intake; we take in a lot," he says.

"I don't like that wearing a heart of the sleeve, trying to sell your virtues.

"I've rarely spoken about these issues because I'm not seeking to make myself to be any kind of better person than anyone else."



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