Interview with David Koch, Natalie Barr and Joel Fitzgibbon, Channel 7 Sunrise

NATALIE BARR: For more we're joined by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning gents.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, at the end of the day the states are in control of those borders, why is the PM still trying to tell the premiers what to do?

BARNABY JOYCE: Because just as you saw, if you want a whole heap of businesses on the Gold Coast, just for one to go broke, well this is the way to do it. If the Premier just believes that she's going to live in economic isolation, if she's going to give no hope to those businesses, if she says to the people financing those businesses, “Well it's looking pretty dire, I don't know whether you're a secure risk anymore”, then this is how she should do it. Obviously, the Premier has decided that she knows better than the Doherty Institute. That's a pretty remarkable thing. I didn't know she was an immunologist, I didn't know she was so expert in virology, I didn't know her epidemiology was so up to speed that she's prepared to put her views ahead of the Doherty Institute and send businesses broke. Queensland is not locking people out anymore, they're locking their own people in. They're locking in the opportunities so that businesses do not have the capacity to stand up over Christmas, make a buck and recoup the losses that they've suffered through this pandemic.

DAVID KOCH: And keep employing staff as well, they're the big casualty. Joel, Queensland and WA, both Labor states, have taken the harder stance on this issue. How much of this disagreement is all about politics and popularity?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I too would like to see the states stick to the national plan, Kochie, and I feel for all those doing it tough in Queensland in particular, and there are a few people doing it tough in Western Australia as well who aren't able to get hold of the labour force that they need. But these aren't irrational decisions by the premiers. I mean, one held an AFL Grand Final on the weekend and in Queensland of course they will host the NRL Grand Final this coming weekend. Their communities are free to roam. They're in the pubs, they're in the clubs, they're doing normal things. You can understand the position of the premiers. I think the best thing Scott Morrison could do is help those states who are very low in relative terms on their vaccination numbers, so let's help these states lift those numbers and you might get these states opening up to the rest of the country earlier.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, a lot of people in those states still support their premiers, don't they? On another topic, the Prime Minister says Australia needs to get to net‑zero emissions by 2050. Barnaby, what still needs to happen before you'll commit to that target and how are those talks with Scott Morrison going?

BARNABY JOYCE: The nature of the economy in regional areas is different to the cities. There are no coal mining industries in, I don't know, in Woolwich, so we have to make sure that we're protecting the jobs. We have to in the same breath understand that we are actually protecting the economy. Our largest export in this nation is fossil fuels. If people move away from it then you have to move away from some of the support that comes in the way of pensions or health care or NDIS because the money just won't be there. We acknowledge that basically if the world moves on from such things as fossil fuel, you'll tell it by the lack of boats in Gladstone Harbour and off Newcastle and off Hay Point, but the world is not. We're selling coal at record amounts at a record price, and this is bringing in billions of dollars of revenue to support so much of the social infrastructure in this nation. Likewise, we've got to make sure that people who always talk about the National Party is the party of farmers, and we are, but about 12 per cent of our constituency in this electorate are farmers so 78 per cent are not. We've got to make sure the businesses, just like what's happening there in the Gold Coast, that we don't crucify those businesses, that they stay vibrant, that they keep going. This is one where we want prudence and logic and not sort of arbitrary glossy terms that people can say, and the unfortunate thing about Australia is we're so honourable we stick to them. Other countries are going to say yes and then forget about it by the time they get on the plane, it's an irrelevance to them, they just say yes to get you out of their hair. For us, we have to deal with the consequences, and we've been bitten once before with the Kyoto protocol, and we don't intend for it to happen again. First and foremost, the Nationals party room is crucial to this, more than the views of just myself.

DAVID KOCH: But Joel, last week the Treasurer warned our economy will suffer if the rest of the world sees we don't have a net‑zero commitment. How damaging has this debate around climate change action been for Australia?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, Kochie, the Government is at war with itself. Scott Morrison relies on the National Party to form a government and he's now at war with the party. In fact, the National Party is at war with itself. One former minister has already left the party room and I'm sure plenty on the right of the debate are threatening to do otherwise. And why? Because the Government hasn't been able to or willing to do what most have done around the world and what most big companies have done, and that is to commit to net‑zero emissions by 2050. It's not such a hard thing to do. When we can build a consensus on that issue here in Australia, we can all move forward and get an orderly path to that objective without doing any harm to our local economies.

DAVID KOCH: Yes.

NATALIE BARR: And the race is on to get some –

BARNABY JOYCE: I disagree with that. If you want to see what happens when you get it wrong and other countries who thought they'd follow an orderly path, look at the energy crisis in the UK and Europe. Six‑fold increase in gas prices in 12 months in England, 250 per cent by the start of the year, 850,000 people at night –

DAVID KOCH: Yep, okay.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Barnaby, Barnaby, setting an objective is not going to –

DAVID KOCH: We're going to have to leave it there because we're running out of time. You've both put your point. News is next. You're watching Sunrise right across Australia.