Doorstop Press Conference – Parliament House, Canberra

BARNABY JOYCE: This is a major decision, a decision that affects our nation for the next three decades, and I think a decision that affects our nation for the next three decades at the very minimum deserves a week of sort of prudent deliberation and investigation and also giving people in regional Australia the capacity – and they are – to contact their local members an senators and also to have those members and senators relay those concerns to the party room and then give them the capacity to go back to the people who really are their boss – we are merely the servants down here – so that we can explain the position, whichever we come to, back to them. I juxtapose that to the Labor Party position who said they’re going to buy this and, of course, the question you can ask of them is: “What exactly are you buying?, and they would say, “I don’t know.” “So what’s the price?” And they’d say, “I don’t know.” That worries me a bit. We’re going to make sure that we know what we’re buying and we know what the price is, because that is a price that’s really not for us, but that is a price or a benefit to the people of regional Australia. I’ve said clearly on behalf of our party – and this is the party that makes this decision – I think as Minister Littleproud has said, there is a committee and it’s basically at arm’s length from me, and that is Minister Littleproud, Minister McKenzie, Minister Pitt and Kevin Hogan, who are being used by the party to collate the concerns, to bring them into some sort of cogent document which we can then discuss and I can have oversight over, and that’s where the discussions with the Prime Minister will be. I think that’s just being as open and transparent with the Australian people as I can. This is not a pantomime. We’re not grandstanding. We’re not trying to prevaricate. We are going to be diligent. A decision that affects our nation for three decades deserves from the National Party proper oversight, and that’s what we’re doing.

JOURNALIST: When will that go to the party room? Will that be, like, next Monday, next Tuesday?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t want to lock in that, but as quickly as possible. But it turns into a bit of a circus of course, when you say exactly when it is, but I imagine [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: So you’re thinking about calling a special party room meeting?

BARNABY JOYCE: Of course, we definitely would.

JOURNALIST: Could you get it done this week?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m not going to start going through. I’ve said we’ll do it within the week. I’ve said I’ll be discussing it with the Prime Minister by the end of this week. I think that’s being as honest and straightforward with the Australian people in the most public form which is the chamber.

JOURNALIST: So have you asked your party room colleagues to stay back over the weekend?

BARNABY JOYCE: It makes sense that generally between sitting weeks and with quarantine measures that you don’t have to ask people to stay back – they’re sort of ordered to.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the [indistinct] you said on Sunday that it was your job as an impartial chair to look at the mood of the room. You’ve had four days now. What would be your top line assessment? Is it still everyone had a hard no? Are we at half-half, maybes? What’s the view of the room?

BARNABY JOYCE: At this point in time I’d say that people can’t say it’s a yes or a no. That would be me prompting the party room away from their right – as the most democratic party in the nation – their right to make their call because it’s their seats and it’s their people that have to live with the decision whichever way it goes. It’s their members and senators who have to be responsible for that decision as well, so their members and senators have to be part of that process. That’s what the Nationals are going through. We’re doing it on behalf of regional Australia. Other people have had other forums I’d imagine, but that’s how we’re doing ours because this is the place to do it. This is the Parliament of Australia and if I go down the other path I’m just repeating myself ad nauseam.

JOURNALIST: Would you say – would it be your view that we’re closer now four days in to reaching –

BARNABY JOYCE: We’re closer than we were at the start of the week, obviously.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any movement on the initial plan that was put forward by the Energy Minister on Sunday? Has there been any movement on that front?

BARNABY JOYCE: Obviously if there was a straight-up acceptance of what was presented then we wouldn’t need these discussions. We’d just say yes and move on. Obviously there are concerns and I think some of them have been ventilated and those discussions go on with the Nationals party room.

JOURNALIST: George Christensen’s time is about to come to an end. Do you think before he goes do you think he should explain to the taxpayers why he spent almost 300 days in the Philippines over four years?

BARNABY JOYCE: Look, in parliament there are bookends of philosophies and there are bookends of personalities. I think the Australian people expect that. George has been obviously on the conservative side of politics. He’s now married and he’s got a partner and she came from the Philippines. I mean, I don’t think…

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised at him being married [indistinct] more than annual leave allows?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t think he put his trips to the Philippines on the taxpayers’ account. Okay. Thanks, guys.