Interview with Johnny Mac, 88.9 FM Tamworth

JOHNNY MAC: Now, joining me on the program Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Good morning.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, Johnny Mac. Good morning, Tamworth and Kootingal and all surrounds.

JOHNNY MAC: You’ve had a very busy week, a few sleepless nights, I guess. Are we getting somewhere with the climate decision?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, it’s been five o’clock to 10 o’clock days. I’ve now sent a letter and requested an analysis of the Prime Minister. This is a decision that could affect us for decades, and I’m surprised how the other people just said, “Oh, okay we’ll do this.” So, we went through it with a fine‑tooth comb. We’re trying not to hang the Prime Minister out to dry. We don’t want to do that, that’s not our job. But we’re trying to make sure we protect the jobs of Taminda and ask how does it work and put some ring roads around this. And then it’s up to the Liberals as to how they deal with it. I suppose they can say, “Yep, we’ll meet you on the deal” or they can say “No”, and that is a pretty serious statement, and we’ll work out what we do next. We won’t put the Labor Party in. Forget all about that. We might just say, “Well, how do we manage? We’ve got two different positions – Liberal position and the Nats position.”

JOHNNY MAC: So, as I understand it, now the Nats are pretty unanimous on what they want to take to the Prime Minister?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, we are 100 per cent. So, it’s accounting and it’s very, very reasonable so we’re just going to wait – I think the Prime Minister will get back to me in the next day or so. In fact, I’m sure he will. And this is what we’re there for. We’ve got to make sure that we stand up at times. You don’t just roll over. You don’t just go, “Nup.” “I hear what you’re trying to do and leave it with us.” Now, I set up a committee of National Party ministers. You go and talk to all those members. Find out what the issues are with them. Find out what’s going on in their electorates. They’re going to report back to you. You report back to me. I’ll refine it and make sure it works. Then I’ll sign it  and send it off to the PM. Because he can make this decision, Johnny, without actually a vote. You know how they say “cross the floor” – there’s nothing to cross the floor on. The words he utters, basically, becomes the decision and then he takes it to cabinet, right? And cabinet is a room that endorses his position, or otherwise; and if we don’t get the changes, you’ll have some of the cabinet saying “Yes, we endorse it”, which will be the Liberal Party, and you’ll have the Nats saying, “Well, we don’t.” And we don’t want that because then he has to ask the question of whether we can be in cabinet or not. But we’re happy. We’re prepared either way it goes, and we’re trying to be constructive. Not hanging anybody out to dry, not being grandstanding ransom merchants, but we want our people looked after and that is what we are going to do.

JOHNNY MAC: So, as I understand it now Barnaby, the Prime Minister has your decision on what’s happening. It’s up to him now to release it.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, that is correct and now they’ll go through the process. And I’m trying to be open with the Australian people. In Question Time they’ve been asking the questions. I’ve been really straight telling them exactly where it’s up to and exactly what we’re doing because the nation deserves to know. They don’t want some sort of process that they’ve never heard about. They have the right to know. And we’re getting a lot of traffic in our office about this, predominantly people who don’t like it, to be quite frank. So, we’re going to do our bit.

JOHNNY MAC: Moving on now, Dungowan Dam seems to be stalled. What is happening with that? When is it going to start?

BARNABY JOYCE: This is my greatest frustration, Johnny and Tamworth. Back in 2013, I got the first lot of money for that, $75 million, quite a bit. Then they wanted more. So, we got them over $100 million. Then they wanted more. So, we got them a quarter of a billion dollars worth of money – quarter of a billion dollars. But the Commonwealth can’t build it. It’s only the state that can build this because the state has the rights and the responsibilities. If we turned up there, we would literally be arrested because they’d say you’ve got no right to be here. I just want the thing started. I want it contracted because I know that if we lost the election, it ain’t happening. All that work that so many people in the city of Tamworth and the Peel Valley have fought for would be done, dusted and gone. And don’t think that they wouldn’t come up with other caveats. I’ve already seen these alternate ideas. They’re going to have you drinking recycled water. And, please, God, don’t go down that path. That’s what they do in Saudi Arabia. That’s not what we need to do here. That’s what they do in Singapore because they haven’t got any dams. It’s not what we need to do here. We’ve got the water and let’s use the water that comes from God, rather than the water that comes from your neighbour.

JOHNNY MAC: Absolutely. I sense a huge degree of frustration in your voice. As you say, it’s been going on since 2013. What can – well, the feds can’t do much now to speed it up, can they?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, there’s nothing we can do. We just keep ringing them up saying please. We need to get this thing moving. I’ve spoken to Paul Toole. I’ve spoken to Perrottet. But I can only kind of plead. I can’t – there’s nothing else I can do. It’s their decision as to when they start, not mine. And I just need to get this thing started because I have a sense that we’ll get to a point where you can’t build any more dams. All the greenies and the bureaucracy will stop you. Unless we get them built now, it’s not going to happen. You know we only just got across the line with Chaffey Dam when we got back in. They were going to stop that one because of the Booroolong frogs. So, you know what I’m up against.

JOHNNY MAC: I do. Just do you think that they actually understand how critical water security is both for this area, for downstream and also for the industrial situation that we have here in Tamworth and the rest of the region?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, just so your listeners know, we usually in Tamworth sell about six or seven industrial blocks. Once we announced that dam, we sold 63. That’s 63 places where your sons and daughters can work. That’s 63 places that grows the city and builds its wealth. We had Baiada, the Camilleri boys, they were going to come in and spend $600 million, over half a billion dollars, 1,100 jobs for the city of Tamworth – because of the dam. Now, if we don’t have the dam, we don’t have the jobs. Because it’s a security. So, people say, “Get your water from somewhere else.” You can only get your water – let’s say you bought water licences, they only work if there’s water in the river. If there’s no water in the river, there’s no water licences, but a dam secures it and says there will always be water to back that up. The reason when you go down to the middle of Tamworth and you can say, “Isn’t that amazing? The Peel River is flowing; it’s been really dry” – it’s because they’re releasing water from Chaffey Dam to regulate flow and it actually means that the river flows vastly more than it ever would if the dam wasn’t there. Isn’t that a good thing?

JOHNNY MAC: It is a good thing. Barnaby, thank you so much for your time this morning. I share your frustration. Just with the Dungowan dam, what can the citizens of Tamworth do now to try to get that process underway?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m sure Kevin Anderson’s working hard to try to get it started as well, but we’ve just got to convey to the people who have the authority to start it, which is the state government, “Please get this thing started.” Even just the jobs that are going to come into our local area because they’re building it. I remember the Singhs made their start with the construction of Chaffey Dam, came across an old blitz truck from Kempsey – they were from Kempsey, I think, it was. Or Lismore. I think it might have been Lismore. And there’s a lot of wealth that comes into our city just for the construction of it, let alone the wealth that comes in because the water is there. So, lobby the state government.

JOHNNY MAC: All right, mate. I appreciate your time this morning. I know you’re a busy man. Good luck with your dealings with Scomo and I guess we’ll hear all about it very soon.

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ll report back to you Johnny Mac. Anyway, good morning, Tamworth; good morning, Peel Valley.

JOHNNY MAC: Thanks, Barnaby.