Interview with Fran Kelly, ABC Radio National, RN Breakfast

FRAN KELLY: The Morrison Government is facing a renewed push from inside to do more to cut carbon emissions following its blunt refusal to consider increasing its 2030 target in line with the UN climate communique it agreed to in Glasgow. But the PM has rebuffed Liberal backbenchers who want a higher 2035 emissions target, saying the Australian coal industry will remain strong for decades to come. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the Government’s walked away from the climate deal it agreed to just hours earlier.

[EXCERPT] ANTHONY ALBANESE: This government don’t have plans for the future, and I find it completely extraordinary that 24 hours after the Federal Government signed up to having a higher 2030 target in 2022 they’ve walked away from that commitment that they voluntarily signed up to in Glasgow.

FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese, who says a Labor Government would join the world in tackling climate change rather than being sent to “the naughty corner”. For his part, Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce has distanced the Nats from the Glasgow pact. Barnaby Joyce, welcome again to Breakfast.

BARNABY JOYCE: Fran, it’s an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me on your show. A beautiful day.

FRAN KELLY: You seem to have no commitment to the communique signed in Glasgow. Your repost last night was, “Well, the Nationals didn’t sign it.” When did the Nationals stop being part of the Coalition Government?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, it’s technically correct – we were not actually in Glasgow. I mean –

FRAN KELLY: Oh, come on. You’re the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

BARNABY JOYCE: I know I am, Fran. I know. You don’t have to tell me that. The target that we have agreed to makes quite clear that we were not going to be changing our 2030 target. The process that we are on in Australia, we have met and beat every target. Now, Mr Albanese has a different plan. We know they’ve got a plan. We know that they are going to bring forward legislation. They just don’t intend to tell you about it. I think that’s the difference between us and them. Dr Chalmers, very charming, charmingly sneaky, he was on Insiders the other day. He says that they’re going to somehow devise this in the next couple of weeks. Well, they obviously know it now, and they should be telling us now exactly what they intend to do.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. Let’s stick with you. I mean, given there was never any intention to implement the requests on coal and targets that were written into the UN communique, was it a mistake by the Australian Government to sign on? Why all the pretence in Glasgow and to the rest of the world that Australia was prepared to do more on climate change if we’re not going to change? Why sign that?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, we’ve done more. Fran, we’re an honourable country. Every target that we have agreed to meet we have met, unlike other countries. And every year –

FRAN KELLY: Yes, and I’m not disputing that, and I’ve heard that many times. But what’s honourable about signing on to a pledge and then saying, “Well, no, we’re not going to do that bit, we’re going to do that bit”?

BARNABY JOYCE: In Australia, we had our discussions. Our discussions were quite clear. We went to Glasgow with those discussions in mind. The whole of the Australian people knew about what we were taking to Glasgow. We went over to Glasgow. We’ve had those discussions. They say they’re going to have another one of those conferences next year and for my part, I want to make sure Australians don’t make themselves poorer. If we kick out the door our second biggest export in this nation, then quite obviously you are not bringing into this nation the money you need to support all the services that you take as a birth right from the ABC to your NDIS, to your pensions, to your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, to your hospitals, you police services, the whole bang lot. We have got to understand that our economy is different to the French economy or the American economy or the UK economy – which, surprisingly enough, as they asked us to close down our coal – our coal basically section of our economy, our second biggest export, they didn’t dare talk about their North Sea oil. Oh, no, that’s sacrosanct. So they’re allowed to look after their economy but we’ve got to absolutely boot ours to pieces. And that of course means that that we have to be super cautious.

FRAN KELLY: This is a global conversation, a global summit, a global effort to reduce carbon emissions for the sake of the planet. Yesterday you openly were mocking the COP26 president, Alok Sharma, for getting emotional and apologetic over the way the communique had been watered down. I just want you to listen to this so everyone can hear it.

[EXCERPT] BARNABY JOYCE: It annoys me, PK – what’s the guy’s name? Mr – the Chairman Sharma in Glasgow. And he was with his gavel, like, “Oh, I’m almost crying. I can’t do this.” He wants to shut down our coal industry, but he never talked about shutting down the oil fields in the North Sea, Brent oil. No, he doesn’t want to shut that down. He wants to shut down industries in other people’s countries, not in his country.

FRAN KELLY: Openly mocking the President of COP26. Doesn’t this deserve more respect?

BARNABY JOYCE: I am cynical about it. Why didn’t he mention his North Sea oil? What about the carbon emissions that come from that. Why is it that they can keep one of their biggest exports, which is North Sea oil, and apparently that they get so perplexed that we don’t want to shut down our second biggest export, coal.

FRAN KELLY: Yeah, but that’s even a misrepresentation. I mean, the UK has very significant emissions reductions targets, so it’s going to have to deal with the emissions from its North Sea oil.

BARNABY JOYCE: Fran, they’re putting in more oil wells. They’re actually putting in more. I mean, this is where I get so cynical about it. They’re putting in more oil fields in the North Sea, which is one of their biggest exports, and the reason everybody was so perplexed and torn apart is because we didn’t sign up to shutting down the coal industry, which would have been absolutely economically devastating for our nation because it’s our second biggest export. You mightn’t see it, you mightn’t live in a coal field, but it is your second biggest export. In where you are – I think you’re in Sydney – it’s your state’s biggest export. It’s your state’s biggest royalty earner. It’s just crazy to think that we can remove from our economy one of the biggest income earners for our economy, one of the biggest reasons that people demand the currency that we have – the Australian dollar – one of the biggest reasons they demand that currency is so they can buy that product. But if they can’t buy that product, they don’t need your currency and if they don’t need your currency, then the things that you need to buy with that, such as your fuel, your Toyotas, your watches, your clothes, basically everything because basically everything around you right now is imported, well, the price of those have to go up because they’ll say, “Well, why do we need your currency? You don’t have anything we really need?”

FRAN KELLY: Boris Johnson said the Glasgow deal sounded the death knell for coal worldwide.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, it doesn’t.

FRAN KELLY: Your colleague Matt Canavan says it’s a big green light for us to build more coal mines. That’s what he said the communique was. Who’s right? The British Prime Minister or the senator from Queensland?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think Matt’s pretty smart. What he’s clearly saying is if I look out into Newcastle Harbour, Fran, and there are coal ships there taking away coal – and there are – if I go to Gladstone and there are coal ships there taking away coal – and there are – if I go to Hay Point and there are coal ships there taking away coal – and there are – then the world is still demanding coal. In fact, they’re demanding more of it at a higher price as thermal coal because of coal-fired power stations. So –

FRAN KELLY: And that’s going to change, though, isn’t it? The Government’s own modelling to net zero indicates that changes. Demand for coal cuts, I think it’s by 50 per cent within two or three decades, so it’s changing.

BARNABY JOYCE: That will be determined by global markets. If people don’t want to buy it, they don’t want to buy it. But they’re there now buying it, and we’re lucky that they are because the money that we get from that is how we pay for your hospitals, your schools, your police force, your NDIS, your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the ABC and on and on and on it goes. You can’t say, “I’m going to reduce the money I get but I still want all the services that it pays for.” It is just patently child-like.

FRAN KELLY: Can we go back to the notion of the 2030 target. The Nats blocked any increase by Australia of the 2030 target. Some Liberal MPs, including Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, and others, want the Government to adopt instead a 2035 target, perhaps as high as 45 per cent. Will you – will the Nationals allow Scott Morrison to do that? Will you allow a medium target on the road to net zero by 2050?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well you know we’ve clearly said that we’re not – the Nationals clearly have stated that they’re not changing the 2030 target. We clearly stated that.

FRAN KELLY: That’s right. So what about a 2035 target?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’ve been honest and upfront about that, haven’t we? We’ve told you the truth about what our position is.

FRAN KELLY: So I’m asking you about a 2035 target.

BARNABY JOYCE: So what I want to know is what’s Dr Chalmers – Dr Jim Chalmers, charmingly sneaky – what’s his target?

FRAN KELLY: Well, I want to know whether you'll go with the 2035 target?

BARNABY JOYCE: Why can’t he be as straight as the National Party about what his views are, or do we honestly believe he doesn’t have them?

FRAN KELLY: Well, let me ask you this: what’s your –

BARNABY JOYCE: Give me a break.

FRAN KELLY: What’s your answer to Jason Falinski and Dave Sharma on 2035?

BARNABY JOYCE: Jason Falinski and Dave Sharma are great people and they represent a constituency, and I’m down in Sydney at the moment. I think I’m probably looking out the window, it’s a beautiful view of the harbour, and I’m probably looking at some of their seats. I’m staying in a pub down here, but this is not the view you get from Singleton or Muswellbrook. It’s not the view you get from Gladstone. I mean, it might be what people like to see in Glasgow, but it’s certainly not the views of Gladstone. We have to represent our constituencies, and we’ve been upfront and honest. We’re waiting for the Labor Party – which say they are going to legislate, we know that. They are going to legislate. So tell us what the legislation is, Dr Jim Chalmers.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. On another issue, the Prime Minister’s claiming yesterday it’s not just interest rates that would rise under Labor – petrol and electricity prices will also go up. This is the Prime Minister very clearly in election mode now. How so? What Labor policy would he be basing that on – that petrol prices will go up?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, the Labor Party has – they’re clearly stating they have to work with Green preferences and with Green preferences they’re going to be moving away from our major exports. If they rely on Green preferences they only get about, you know, 32 or 33 per cent of the primary vote. They’re going to need Green preferences to get across the line. The Greens do not believe in coal mining. If you start shutting down our coal mines –

FRAN KELLY: Hang on, how are they going to force up petrol prices? That’s what I’m asking you.

BARNABY JOYCE: If you’re relying on Green preferences you’re going to have to be relying on Green policy. It is a very simple equation, so if you’re relying on Green preferences and Green policies and they move away from the export of our fossil fuels – which is clear policy of the Greens – then with the reduction in what you sell becomes basically a reduction in the value of your currency. A reduction in the value of your currency means everything you import obviously goes up because why would someone want Australian dollars when Australia has decided one of their main exports they don’t want to sell to them anymore.

FRAN KELLY: Well, the Government’s also claiming interest rates will go up under Labor, they’ll go up under Labor but they won’t go up under the Government. I mean, the Reserve Bank controls interest rates, not governments. It’s signalling they are going to go up under whoever’s in government next time.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, to be quite frank, I wish I could predict interest rates, otherwise I wouldn’t need to be in politics – I’d be the richest man in Babylon.

FRAN KELLY: But my point is it’s just not true to say that – that interest rates won’t go up – will go up under Labor but won’t go up under this government. I mean, they are going to go up.

BARNABY JOYCE: If there’s a mismanagement of the economy, they most certainly will go up. I mean, if you have a mismanagement of the economy, you can have an excessive draw and an excessive mismanagement of debt, then of course they will go up. It’s a reflection of basically your capacity for us to turn export dollars to control so you have a value to you currency which controls inflation or your internal fiscal capacity. If you lose sight of basically how much you owe the world or you lose sight of your capacity to repay it, then the only way to try and draw that money back into the Government coffers is to jack up interest rates.

FRAN KELLY: Barnaby Joyce, thanks for joining us.

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s always a pleasure, Fran. Thank you very much.

FRAN KELLY: Barnaby Joyce is the Leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. You’re listening to RN Breakfast.