Doorstop – Tamworth

BARNABY JOYCE: Today Mr Bowen, who used to be a former Treasurer of Australia, said that my reference to a gas crisis in the UK was fearmongering. Well, Mr Bowen, this is not fearmongering, this is the price and it’s happening right now. And Mr Bowen this is why we have to be very careful in our [indistinct] that we don’t get it wrong, otherwise that won’t be the UK’s gas crisis, that won’t be UK’s energy crisis, that will be Australia’s energy crisis. And, now, the reason they’re doing that, Mr Bowen, is because renewables were not able to fill the void left by the removal of other power providers such as coal.

So, Mr Bowen, what they’re doing is they’re firing up old coal-fired power plants and it’s costing an absolute bucket. Planning has to be part of this. That is not just the case for Europe, that will be the case for Australia if we get it wrong. We’re not making that up, that’s happening in Europe right now. We mightn’t be talking about it in Australia. Mr Bowen, you’re probably not aware of it in your job, but it is something that the Coalition and the Nationals want to make sure doesn’t happen to our country.

In the same path, Mr Bowen, we want to make sure that we keep people in Central Queensland in a job. It’s very important to those in the blue-collar jobs in Central Queensland that they’re able to pay for their house, pay for their car, keep themselves in the life that they’ve worked very hard for. The same, Mr Bowen, as would be happening in the Hunter Valley.

Now, if you’re not going to do it in the Labor Party, if the Labor Party has moved on from them, if the Labor Party does not have the political smarts to even know exactly what’s going on in the globe right now, then of course we have to do it for you and make you aware of it and then maybe you can come back and respond to it. Maybe, Mr Bowen, you’ll say that that was all just scaremongering and mythology and it’s not really happening and there’s no gas crisis in the UK and The Guardian got it wrong and the BBC have got it wrong and The Financial Times have got it wrong and Mr Bowen has got it right. But I doubt it. Questions?

JOURNALIST: Wouldn’t it be wise to invest in renewables in order to avoid ending up in that situation like the UK?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, the UK did invest in renewables and we’re investing in renewables. But you can’t just have sort of an arbitrary – so the Labor Party said no matter what they’re just locked in. They’re going to legislate towards 2050 and so what they’re saying is they’ll lock you into that crisis. They’ll lock you into that crisis because they haven’t actually showed us in their plan of exactly how they’re going to do it.

But when you don’t plan, crisis is what you get. And that’s what we get with the Labor Party. The Labor Party basically are a party that it’s all about the vim of the day. It’s not about the experience of being in business, and when they want to dispense with something they say, “Oh, you’re fear mongering” But what we are is cautious, making sure we go about things in a prudent way, making sure we clearly inform people of the risks and making sure we keep people in a job.

JOURNALIST: So do you support a net-zero emissions target by 2050?

BARNABY JOYCE: What we do is we make sure that we understand all the issues that are pertinent to it. We make sure that we avoid things such as the UK-European gas crisis. We make sure we keep people in a job because, as The Guardian says, what the UK has now is, and I quote, chaos.

JOURNALIST: So would you support the target?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve got to be really careful that we don’t have the 1.5 million people in the UK who recently have lost their provider. I’m not going to support a process that leads to 850,000 people two nights ago losing their energy provider. I’m not going to support a process that in the last year has brought about the collapse of 13 energy providers in the UK. This is something that we have to make sure we manage.

Now, when people say do you support it and they don’t tell you how they’re going to do it, they’re opening themselves wide open to a crisis like they’re experiencing in Europe, like they’re experiencing in the UK. And I believe that’s a discussion and that’s something the Australian people have to be aware of. Because that’s how you prudently examine an issue rather than this sort of rhetorical one -line flourish that seems to be the remit of the Labor Party and Mr Bowen.

JOURNALIST: So Australia has the world’s highest gas prices more or less, eastern Australia does, despite being the world’s biggest gas exporter. What are you going to do to solve that problem?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, Australia’s making a lot of money out of other people’s stupidity, and that’s why the gas price is so high. Australia’s making money and we’re managing to pay for the services that are incredibly important. I tell you who else is making money out of other people’s stupidity and the fact that they haven’t clearly had a proper plan to plumb things up and be able to provide the alternate power is Gazprom, which is the Russian provider of gas.

Now we want to make sure – and the Coalition is a prudent organisation – and we want to make sure that any process forward doesn’t just follow rhetorical flourish, one-line headlines but makes sure that we have a clear plan because I have to show the Australian people what happens, what it looks like, when you get it wrong. The UK energy crisis, the European energy crisis, will be our energy crisis and at the end of that graph resides coldness and unemployment, and we don’t want either of those.

JOURNALIST: So the state government is looking at a gas future policy that only a couple of months ago they announced that it includes potentially development in the Liverpool Plains, among other places, in your electorate. You haven’t supported coal in Liverpool Plains?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s correct.

JOURNALIST: Is that – I mean, would you be in favour of gas?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, Matt, look at the pressure that’s going to come on it because of this. Look at the pressure, the money that can be made and the commercial pressure that’s going to come on for the development of further gas fields. This is part of the process. This is why you’ve got to prudently look at it. And, no, I don’t support the destruction of aquifers, and I don’t support things on prime agricultural land. But if you were going to move away, all the way from the coal-fired power stations, you’re going to have to find another form of base load. Now, we’re building Snowy Hydro 2.0, but that in itself – you’ve got environmental studies, geotech studies, and that in itself is incredibly expensive to get that capacity for deliverable power. And so everyone says, “Oh, well, the way we’ll do it is with gas.” Well, if you’re going to do it with gas you’re going to have to find new gas reserves and you’re going to have to tap those gas reserves and utilise those gas reserves.

JOURNALIST: Obviously there are gas reserves here and there are – you know, potentially they could be developed, exploited. Would you be supportive of that?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I am certainly very supportive of opening up new gas reserves in Australia, but not in the middle of the Breeza Plains, quite obviously.

JOURNALIST: Josh Frydenberg has said that borrowing costs for governments, businesses and households could increase if international finance markets think Australia isn’t doing enough on climate change. Is this a good reason to take a stronger action on climate change?

BARNABY JOYCE: And the Treasurer’s completely right. People make decisions that restrict the flow of capital. But part of our sovereignty should be [indistinct] restrict the capacity of Australia to act within rules and within the process that is legitimate. Remember, the people who are the head of banks or the head of superannuation funds, they don’t actually own the money. They only administer the money. The reason they have the job is they presented very well at an interview. Yet sometimes these people talk as if it was their money, and it’s not their money. Australia has to be absolutely certain that our future and our prosperity is not determined by a third party who presented very well at an interview and then is making a determination that affects our whole economic future.

JOURNALIST: But you have said that you would agree to a plan to zero emissions to 2050 so long as regional areas weren’t hurt. What do you mean by that, and what do the Nationals want?

BARNABY JOYCE: We want to make sure, first and foremost, that the crisis we just showed you with, what’s happening in the UK and what’s happening in Europe does not happen in Australia. We want to make sure that people in Muswellbrook, in Gladstone, in Townsville, in Emerald, in Singleton, we want to make sure that they keep their job and their standard of living – not just any job, a job that maintains the income that they’re concerning at the current time. We want to make sure that the shops that these people spend their money in are not sent out the back door because we completely turn their economies upside down.

JOURNALIST: Is there no way to plan to make sure that renewable industries can be built in certain places?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve got no problems with sections of renewables, we support sections of renewables. We want to make sure that we don’t get stuck in a crisis lock you’re seeing in Europe and the UK. We want to make sure that we’re diligent. We want to make sure that we’re prudent. We want to make sure that anything that we suggest to the Australian people we back up with a sober view of how our economy goes. Remember, the largest export in our economy is fossil fuels. Second biggest is iron ore. If you take away the biggest export, the biggest income earner for your household, then the only thing that’s going to happen to that household is it’s going to have a lower standard of living unless you can, not at some wish in the future, but right at the same time as one is transitioning out, transition into another export that earns just as much money as the income earner for the Australian household that we lost. So that is something unless you can do it, you’ve got to protect the economy of this nation.

JOURNALIST: So for months the Prime Minister and now Josh Frydenberg have been sort of signalling moving in the direction of net zero by 2050 – sorry – commitment, and you’ve been signalling an opposition to that. When is this going to come to a head? How is it going to be negotiated as an agreement?

BARNABY JOYCE: As always, we are in discussions. Of course we are always in discussions. But our discussions are going to be one of prudence. They’re going to be one of that is based on making sure that we keep harm away from the Australian economy and from Australian jobs and from the shops that need the money that comes from an economy that works because we don’t want to be quoted in The Guardian in the future as the chaos of the Australian energy market, as is happening in Europe, by reason of us following a Labor Party plan which is blindness. A statement they’re going to arrive at a position without actually ever telling us how they’re going to get there. And when we talk about a crisis that is so apparent leading the news in places such as England, they call it scaremongering. Why? Because they don’t even know it exists.

JOURNALIST: What about Australia’s international reputation? Do we think that internal political negotiations over the targets are affecting this?

BARNABY JOYCE: Australia is such an honourable country, we make agreement and we stick to them. Other countries around the world make agreements and forget all about them. We want to make sure that any agreement we make we stick to, that any promise we make we keep, as we do. Because Australia has made commitments and promises and not only have we kept them, we’ve exceeded them. So the difference with Australia is we earnestly stand behind our statements.

JOURNALIST: Except on the submarines.

BARNABY JOYCE: I can take that one up. With the submarines, that was a contractual process. In that contractual process were a whole range of steps and gateways that said if this is not happening on time, on budget, that we have rights, because that is a contract. That’s how contracts work. And they work whether you’re constructing submarines or constructing a house. There are responsibilities, there are time lines, there are gateways that have to be met. It’s the right of any contractual party in contractual negotiations to say, “Well, this is not working,” and also, very importantly, the circumstances that Australia now finds itself in are entirely different. Our greatest contract is to the Australian people and to keep them safe, to keep them secure and give them a deterrent because it’s not just the submarines, it’s also our new stronger relationship with the United Kingdom and the United States so that our children, our grandchildren can be safe, secure and have the liberties and freedoms that we just take as a birth right.

JOURNALIST: So in terms of the contract, you said that the contract was either out of time or was over budget. Did the French know that it was –

BARNABY JOYCE: Those issues were brought up directly with the President of France in one-on-one discussions with the Prime Minister of Australia. He clearly brought to their attention the concerns Australia had about how the contract was going. Without a shadow of a doubt.

JOURNALIST: Okay. And in terms of those submarines, British and American SSN nuclear –

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah.

JOURNALIST: You know what I’m talking about.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah.

JOURNALIST: Those submarines, they sail around the ocean, often on nuclear – essentially nuclear war tasking, so following missile – you know, missile-armed submarines from Russia or China. Are Australian submarines going to do the same thing?

BARNABY JOYCE: Australian submarines will not have nuclear weapons.

JOURNALIST: No, but will they be following British – will they be following Chinese and Russian submarines that do?

BARNABY JOYCE: There’s things about that: (a), number one, I don’t know. And, number two, if I did know, there’s no way I’d sit on a press conference here in Tamworth and just go, “Oh, now, keep this to yourself, fellas, but”.

JOURNALIST: Sure, fair enough. Can I ask you about another thing? Is that all right?

SPEAKER: Yeah, probably one more.

JOURNALIST: How did last night go, the –

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, 270 people we had online for the town hall, tele town hall, and we had hundreds more who were listening but not actually participating in it. So it’s really essential in a time of Covid to make sure we give people a venue to ask questions, hear what we say and we hope that the questions that are asked are probably in the same format as what a lot of other questions that are provided to us are. We did it in the north of the electorate. We’re trying to show people we’re getting around, but we’re trying to open it so that as many people as possible have the capacity to talk to us. And they understand the restrictions that so many of us are under.

JOURNALIST: Sure. What were the big issues that were brought up?

BARNABY JOYCE: A lot of the issues is about obviously Covid. Covid is a huge one and how we deal with that. There were some questions about telecommunications as well and obviously also questions to do with also defence, submarines. I’d say the biggest issue is Covid and the economic effects of Covid. Today at a small business forum in Armidale, once more, it was about how we get the economy moving because they want to make a buck again. They appreciate government support. In some instances they want more, but they understand that there’s a limit to that. And the only solution to this in the long term is to get the economy working again and we get the economy working again by opening it up again and we open it up again by people getting inoculated twice. We hope that around about the end of October we’re going to have more vaccine doses, vastly more than people who want to get vaccinated, and then we’re in a position to say, “Okay, from now on the risk is yours because we’re opening the economy up and we’re moving on.” Because each one of those shops, that’s precisely what they need.

JOURNALIST: And will you do another one or another part of the electorate –

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve done one before and so that was not the first. And I look forward to doing more. And, you know, obviously one-on-one meetings in person is the best outcome. That’s what we did in Armidale. But if you can’t do that then tele town halls are – how do you speak to hundreds of people in one venue through a phone? Okay, done? Thanks guys.

ENDS