Interview with Hamish Macdonald, ABC Radio National

HAMISH MACDONALD: Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals leader and the Acting Prime Minister, a very good morning to you.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, Hamish, how are you? And good morning listeners.

HAMISH MACDONALD: I'm very well, thank you. Do you agree with everything Josh Frydenberg is saying, do you support Australia moving to net‑zero by 2030 ‑ 2050 rather?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think we are already wishing to be there, even earlier. I think that's the statement of the Prime Minister. We have to be very mindful, especially of what's happening in England, a six‑fold increase in the last year. I think we've had 250 per cent increase in gas prices in the last 12 months. We've had 13 energy companies collapse since 2020. And to quote The Guardian, so people know where my sources are, they say that they're now having to switch on coal fired power stations at a great cost to cover the energy shortfall. This was after a long winter in England last year, in the United Kingdom, and it goes to show that the consequences now are on jobs, are on agriculture, even the capacity to feed themselves, and this is not just in England, it's across Europe. It's something we should be aware of. Now why should we be aware of it? Because we've got to make sure in any decision we make that we don't replicate the mistakes of England, of the United Kingdom, suffer the consequences of what's happening in Europe or the consequences will be ours. We've got to make sure we maintain sovereignty in our capacity to finance the issues, which are our largest export in our nation, largest export in our nation are fossil fuels. If you don't want them you must, to be responsible, go through and decide which issues, which services, which pensions, that you also acknowledge you don't have the capacity to finance as you once did. Now –

HAMISH MACDONALD: I do want to get to the finance thing because that's what Josh Frydenberg is talking about today. But just to be clear for our listeners, you do support net‑zero by 2050?

BARNABY JOYCE: I've got no problems with any plan that does not leave regional areas hurt. I have to explain, as do my colleagues have to explain, that we make sure we don't have net‑zero losses in regional areas, that we don’t have net‑zero losses in Muswellbrook, in Central Queensland, and that we don't put our economy at threat, we don't tip our capacity to pay for the substantive service such as the ABC by putting ourselves in the position, which is not fanciful. It is where England is right – it's where the United Kingdom is right now.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Sure.

BARNABY JOYCE: And that should be also a section for one of your programs to investigate exactly what happened there, because the investigation into renewables is not only –

HAMISH MACDONALD: I think there's a separation between the Government and what the ABC does in terms of its investigations, Deputy Prime Minister.

BARNABY JOYCE: Not really, we have to pay for you and that's a substantive part of the budget.

HAMISH MACDONALD: I think we all know there's editorial independence. Australia's interests lie in our markets functioning effectively the Treasurer is saying today, so that the financial system remains stable, investors are able to make informed and timely decisions and capital can be accessed at the lowest possible cost. Regional areas need that too, don't they?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well capital should be also accessible without the imposed views of certain people within that organisation. Remember the heads of superannuation funds are not there because they own the money, they administer other people's money by reason of being a very good applicant of the job interviews, as is the case ‑‑

HAMISH MACDONALD: But we're not just talking about super funds, we're talking about the imported capital that Australia relies on for our economy to function.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, and that's precisely right, Hamish, for our economy to function. You have hit the nail right on the head. We have to make sure our economy can function. We have to make sure that we earn the money. I know people have very strong views, I understand that, and we've got to make sure that we do what we can to deal with those views and to placate those views and to deliver on those views. But we also have to make people very aware, very aware of the consequences of getting it wrong. Now what happened in the United Kingdom was renewables were not able to fill the void and now, as I said, reading The Guardian this morning, they're having to fill the void by opening up formerly closed coal fired power stations.

HAMISH MACDONALD: What do you want in order to agree to this target? Are you saying that unless we commit to more coal fired power stations, unless we keep the ones that we have open long‑term, you're not going to agree to this? Is that the sum total of what your argument is?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, no, no, not at all. I mean that's a simplistic analogy of something for a rhetorical point.

HAMISH MACDONALD: No, I'm trying to unpick the riddle.

BARNABY JOYCE: It's not unpicking the riddle at all. What I'm saying on that issue is we've got to have a holistic understanding of the experience overseas of what happens if you get this wrong. We have to clearly understand the economics of our nation. We don't make money from pharmaceuticals. We don't make money from selling planes or computers. We don't make money from selling motor cars. We make money, our biggest export earner is the sale of fossil fuels, and for coal, we're selling more at a higher price than before. I imagine that's because Europe is terrified of exactly what happens as they go into a European winter. First and foremost, they need to keep their people employed, keep their people fed and keep their people warm. Any plan we have, it's got to look at the holistic economic, industrial, the capacity of people to be left in the same standard of living as what you had before. That's one of the things I'll be looking at. Of course I'll also be conveying, which is incredibly important, with my colleagues in the party because they may have views, they may have views that are slightly different to my own, but they are certainly entitled to the discussion and that's what we'll be doing as well.

HAMISH MACDONALD: On the submarine deal that has been announced, the Prime Minister's obviously overseas at the moment, there's a lot of talk of charm offences, we're dispatching military chiefs to calm some of our allies. We can't get a phone call with the French President Emmanuel Macron. One would have thought this could have been done better. Why has Australia bungled this announcement and upset so many friends in doing it?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well we haven't bungled the announcement, first and foremost, and with the Prime Minister's lead made sure we can defend our nation with the most competent deterrent, which is this platform. Things have changed in the last short period of time, short years, and we have to change to reflect that. We have to get ourselves, it's not just submarines, the AUKUS arrangement goes across multiple platforms and brings into play a stronger working relationship in the defence of our nation with partners who have the same views as us.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Sure, but –

BARNABY JOYCE: And the same views as France and the same libertarian, egalitarian, fraternity, the views of France as well. I'm sure that the French, as it sits at the core of what that nation believes in, understands that of course Australia is going to look to the issue of the defence of their people first and foremost. That was an issue and I hope it remains bipartisan with the Labor Party, it's a decision that had to be made.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Deputy Prime Minister, this should have been a good news story for countries like Indonesia and Malaysia who similarly feel some concern about the rise of China and its increasing military presence in the region, but instead of them seeing this as a positive thing that might lead to benefits for them, they're very upset. Was that really necessary?

BARNABY JOYCE: I know that yes, they do have concerns about exactly where our region, it's no longer Europe, it's not the turmoils of Europe, it's now the issues of our region, and we'll be working incredibly closely with the Indonesians and the Malaysians. Obviously, we see the Quad in work with the Indians and the Japanese and the United States of America again, not to pick a fight. The last thing we want is a war. We want peace. Now that is our primary motivation. To do that you must have the capacity of a formidable deterrent, an interoperability with Australia and the United States and the UK and the closer mechanism is a huge asset to that deterrent. Providing peace and be underpinning peace in our region is the best win for the economies of our region. It is the best win, to be honest, for China. It is the best win that takes us all ahead economically with the incredible economic gains that's been experienced in our region over the last couple of decades, lifting millions, hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. That is success, but it's underpinned by peace, and to have peace, and this has been the issue right back to Roman times, I think about 384 when Vegetius said, you know, si vis pacem para bellum. On the decline of the Roman Empire, he clearly understood that one of the reasons for that was their incapacity to formidably defend themselves.

HAMISH MACDONALD: All right. I think the conversation's gone a bit further back in history than I'd anticipated, Barnaby Joyce, thank you very much indeed.

BARNABY JOYCE: Always a pleasure, Hamish. Good morning listeners.

HAMISH MACDONALD: That's the Deputy Prime Minister there.