Interview – 4RO

MICHAEL BAILEY: We’ve got the Deputy Prime Minister online, talking about the Inland Rail. This is a project that’s been hanging around for 110 years. It’s gathering steam, except it stopped. It stopped. It should be going to Gladstone. Looks like Barnaby Joyce is on-board with this one.

Good morning to you, Barnaby. How are you?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m very well, obviously doing the COVID stuff.

MICHAEL J BAILEY: I want to get to the nitty-gritty. The Inland Rail – this has been talked about for – ever since I was a kid. At long last, it’s gathering steam, but it’s just not going far enough. It should be going into Gladstone, should it not?

BARNABY JOYCE: Absolutely, and I’ve put $10 million or you, the taxpayer, put $10 million on the table to get the business case going, just so people know. It was just them, everybody talked about, never happened. Then in negotiations with Malcolm Turnbull when I was a leader in the first iteration as Deputy Prime Minister…

MICHAEL J BAILEY: Yeah.

BARNABY JOYCE: …I said, well if you want Badgerys Creek in Sydney, I want the Inland Rail for Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. Now it’s 1,716 kilometres to Brisbane, but we need it to go the further 660 kilometres down to Gladstone, so it goes to both Brisbane and Gladstone. We’ve got it built from Parkes to Narromine. We’ve got it just about built for Moree to Narrabri. We’re starting on it to North Star. I’ve put the first tranche of just $20 million down for the $1 billion leg on the New South Wales border up to Toowoomba and put $10 million down to get the business case ready to go from Gladstone through to Toowoomba.

Now I believe it’s going to work because it’s different from the business case in the past. We’ve got bulk commodities, got record, no matter what they say, we’ve got record volumes of coal being sold at record prices, and you’ve got coal precincts along that way. And we’ve got to make sure this nation makes a buck.

And I want to connect the industrial city of Gladstone up to the metropolis of Melbourne, put us all on that corridor of commerce so Parkes can make a buck, Narrabri can make a buck, Goondiwindi can make a buck, Toowoomba can make a buck, and Gladstone can make a buck as well as Brisbane and Melbourne.

MICHAEL J BAILEY: Barnaby, it worries me when you say $10 million for a business plan. I mean, everyone’s been looking at this for ages. There must be plans already in the pipework. What’s the time span? Is this just another, “Oh yeah, okay, we’ll look at it”, or is there a dead set thing?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that people used to say that, to be quite frank, to me about Inland Rail – “Yeah, he’s never going to get anywhere”. Well, you do. It will happen. I’m going to make sure it happens. But the only thing that’s going to stop me is obviously if we’re not in office.

MICHAEL J BAILEY: With the business plan, what’s the time frame in your mind that we can actually see shovels in the ground?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I’d say three to four years to be frank. To be quite frank, if the business plan stacks up, you mightn’t even need the Government to do it. You might find a private enterprise who’ll go “we’ll build it”.

What they want from the Government, though, is the corridor and the approvals as quickly as possible to make it happen. To give you an example of how crazy some of this stuff is – just the environmental approval to go from the New South Wales border to Toowoomba, 13,600 pages in it, 71 scientists worked on it over 90 degrees, university degrees, and over a thousand years combined experience.

And now I don’t know how – that’s done it within an inch of its life and we’ve got to move on a bit from all these studies and just get into doing it. But the business plan is important because it shows it makes money. And if you do sort of a half attempt, the easiest answer to say is no, and that’s not the answer I want. I want the answer yes. The ARTC that’s building it is – you, the shareholder, own it. But you own it as a company. Those shareholders, the Australian taxpayer owns his company, and the value of it is vastly greater than any debt it has. You know, it’s a multi, multi-billion-dollar organisation, obviously, and it’s got incredibly good assets, such as supplying the Port of Newcastle, which is just a money train.

It has a capacity as a Government-owned organisation to basically do it as if the Government didn’t exist. It’s got its own balance sheet. So, we’re going about this in a cleverer way than what we were, and this is going to be a great outcome for Gladstone, a great outcome for Toowoomba and a great outcome for our nation.

MICHAEL J BAILEY: This is a nation-building exercise that must be completed if we want to step forward into the 20th century in style. So you’re saying watch this space.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, I am.

MICHAEL J BAILEY: Okay. Hand on heart. This is the Deputy Prime Minister. This will be built within three to four years. I want to hear it from your lips.

BARNABY JOYCE: To be started within three to four years. It won’t be built – started within three to four years, and that’s my plan.

MICHAEL J BAILEY: I’m getting excited just thinking about it. I can hardly wait. Bring along the business plan. Let’s make sure that all the ticks are there. Make sure all the greenies are satisfied. Let’s just get it done. Talking with the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, thank you very much.

BARNABY JOYCE: Always an absolute pleasure, and hello to all the people in Central Queensland. Can’t wait to get back up there.

ENDS