Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News, Afternoon Agenda

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go live now to the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, who joins me live from Sydney. Barnaby Joyce, thanks for your time, as always. As Georgia mentioned there and Steven Miles told the Queensland parliament earlier, the Deputy Premier, he says the planned venue mandate in Queensland has boosted the vaccine coverage in Queensland. Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what we want to see?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, what Steven Miles said today, Minister Steven Miles, is that all the people in Yeppoon who turned up to that meeting in the hall, 400 people, they’re somehow a fringe group, that all the other meetings that are going through the length and breadth of Queensland are somehow fringe groups. No, these are not fringe groups, Mr Miles, these are concerned people who don’t believe they should live in a society that’s divided down the middle by the edicts of a government. What we’ve got to clearly understand – these are the edicts of the Queensland government. The Federal Government does not tell you that you can’t go to a restaurant. It’s not a law of the Federal Government. We have a guidance that we want to get 80 per cent vaccines, of course. But we don’t believe in mandatory vaccines. It’s not an edict of the Federal Government whether you can go to an entertainment venue. It’s not an edict of the Federal Government as to whether you can go to a museum in Queensland or whether you go to a sports stadium in Queensland. These issues that are the concerns of the people in Central Queensland and elsewhere are issues that Minister Miles should have been at that those community meetings, and rather than explaining it to his colleagues in the parliament in the middle of Brisbane, he should be talking to the middle of Queensland about why he is on the 17th of December apparently going to bring a sort of a two-state solution into Queensland. It is something that he is trying to avoid answering to the people that he’s supposed to represent. And, by default –

KIERAN GILBERT: But in the areas of your responsibility – you know, I understand you’re talking about the various state responsibilities and mandates, you know, whether it be those various venues. The Federal Government has its own responsibility – i.e. the international borders. Those same people in Yeppoon, wherever else, they can’t go on a holiday to Bali or Fiji unless they’re vaccinated. You’ve got your own mandates, don’t you?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, obviously what we are seeing is basically we are creating the capacity for people to fly back into New South Wales. The reason they don’t want to go to Queensland after that is they get locked up. Now, that’s an issue with the inefficiency and the ineptness and incapabilities of the Queensland State Government. Ultimately, people will be flying into New South Wales or flying out of New South Wales and ultimately, they’ll be basically as we have progressed and dealt with the issue and got people vaccinated they’ll be landing on a plane and walking out on the street, and that’s what we want. We want the nation to get back to the way it was.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you have to be vaccinated, that’s the point.

BARNABY JOYCE: Now, yes –

KIERAN GILBERT: For international travel.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, they do. Yes, that’s correct. We are not promoting – at a federal level we have never, ever said it’s going to be compulsory for everybody to be vaccinated and we have been very successful in making sure most people are.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, it is if you want to travel.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, if you want to travel because you’re going on the airlines. I suppose that’s an issue for Qantas. Qantas are making their rules and regulations about what they have when they go on their aircraft. But what Queensland is doing in Queensland, what the Labor Government, what Mr Miles is doing is he’s making George Street in Parliament in Queensland the reason someone cannot go into a coffee shop at Yeppoon. That is not a Federal Government edict. That is a state government edict. That is a state government law. That is a law that Mr Miles, the Labor minister, the Labor Health Minister, should be going not to the centre of Brisbane but to the centre of Queensland and explaining his laws and his restrictions and his caveats to his people.

KIERAN GILBERT: Sure. But I guess the Federal Government as well has its own requirements for vaccines on occasion, like, entering the country, like working in the aged care sector. I mean, you have adopted that approach yourself.

BARNABY JOYCE: We do. We do have in very certain areas, very incredibly limited areas such as health care, aged workers. Why? Because of comorbidities and the health aspects of those who are most vulnerable – most vulnerable. It’s like saying, “Well, you know, we don’t care if you wear thongs to a restaurant. It makes no difference. We do care if you wear thongs to a building site because there quite obviously is an inherent danger that needs to be dealt with.” Now the inherent danger, the excessive danger is on the building site, not in the restaurant. What Mr Miles is doing is saying, “Well, we’re going to go up and down the Gold Coast, up and down the Sunshine Coast and basically make it so that their businesses are truly and properly under threat by an edict, by a law of a state government.”

KIERAN GILBERT: Now, Mr Miles has also said Queenslanders don’t deserve to be undermined by a Prime Minister currying favour with coffee barren donors and lunatic backbenchers. Is this about trying to placate the likes of Gerard Rennick, your LNP senator?

BARNABY JOYCE: No. No, no, this is about Mr Miles basically sitting in Parliament House and not being prepared to actually go up and he’s the one who’s deriding the people of Central Queensland. Mr Miles is, the Labor government is, the state Labor government is. The Annastacia Palaszczuk-Miles government is the people who do not respect the people of Central Queensland or the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast. He is basically in this form of arrogance making a statement in the parliament rather than standing behind a podium in Rockhampton or a podium in the Sunshine Coast explaining the laws that he is responsible for, which Ms Palaszczuk and Mr Miles are responsible for, that they are the ones that brought them in – the Queensland Labor government. Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mr Miles are the ones who should be standing up at these meetings and explaining their position. I make one very humble suggestion: don’t start the meeting by calling everybody in front of you fringe dwellers.

KIERAN GILBERT: But the PM and you as well now are saying that those – if we quote the Prime Minister today – and obviously you’re supporting him on this – he says people in Brisbane should be allowed to go and get a cup of coffee when you’re over 80 per cent, regardless of whether you’ve had the vaccines or not. Now, in New South Wales you can’t go and get a beer or a coffee or buy a book or do anything until it gets to 95 per cent. Why 95 per cent okay in New South Wales but it’s 80 per cent for Queensland?

BARNABY JOYCE: Once more, if New South Wales is making those decisions, they are decisions of the New South Wales government. And they are answerable in Macquarie Street.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you and the PM are having a crack a Queensland, not New South Wales.

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ll say it either way. They’re decisions of state governments. The Federal Government does not make laws that restrict you from having a cup of coffee. It does not make laws that restrict you from going to the pub. It does not make laws that restrict you going to entertainment venues. It does not make laws that restrict you from going to the football or to a museum. They are state government laws. They are the state government’s laws. And in Queensland we have – why we talk about Queensland is there’s sort of this innuendo, this sort of perverse belief that somehow the Federal Government is responsible for the immense frustrations that have been caused by the Queensland Labor Palaszczuk-Miles state government.

KIERAN GILBERT: But, again, I guess the point is, you’re focusing on Queensland. In New South Wales where you are, you still can’t go and get a beer or coffee or, you know, do the normal day-to-day things until you get to 95 per cent if you’re unvaccinated.

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m not avoiding the fact that they’re state government laws. What I’m clearly stating is there’s a pronounced demonstration that we’re seeing in Queensland. And there is the belief that it’s quite apparent. We see it. Even get correspondence at my office in Tamworth about issues in Queensland where they belief that somehow it’s a Federal Government law. They’re asking us to change the law so that people can go to a café on the Sunshine Coast, or a café in Yeppoon, or a café in Mackay.

KIERAN GILBERT: Sure, but are you and the Prime Minister –

BARNABY JOYCE: It seems insane that we have to say it’s not – it’s not – it’s not a Federal Government law; it’s a state law.

KIERAN GILBERT: But are you talking up –

BARNABY JOYCE: Go talk to the Labor Health Minister, Mr Miles.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you and the Prime Minister talk up the high vaccination rates, it’s a great success and all that sort of stuff but on the other hand, criticise the state governments for doing and making the calls necessary to get those high rates.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, no, I don’t know whether the issue is precisely that. The issue is that what is happening is that we are seeing overwhelmingly that the state government is not explaining state laws to their state’s people. They’re not. They are not at these forums – they’re not demonstrations –they’re not at these forums in so many towns and so many regional cities explaining their state laws. And they have responsibility to explain their state laws to their people.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now, on a couple of other issues, the Government’s projections have emissions reduction down to 35 – by 35 to 38 per cent at 2030. If Labor and Anthony Albanese set that as their target, it’s a bit hard to run a scare campaign against them, isn’t it, given they’re basically just formalising the target that you say you’re going to get to anyway?

BARNABY JOYCE: Are they going to legislate it? Did they say they’re legislating it? The answer’s yes. What’s in the legislation? Let’s have a look. Dr Jim Chalmers, Charmingly Sneaky Jim. Charmingly Sneaky Jim obviously knows what the legislation is. Charmingly Sneaky Jim, Mr Albanese obviously know what they’re going to say. Why are they waiting till parliament rises? We’ve given our plan, why don’t they give us theirs? Why don’t we have a proper debate with their plan and our plan while parliament’s sitting? That’s why we have a parliament. But they’re not doing it because they’re sneaky.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, the Prime Minister –

BARNABY JOYCE: They’re very sneaky. They’re very sneaky people and very sneaky people don’t want you to know about what’s in their plan until we all go home for Christmas.

KIERAN GILBERT: Heaven forbid, sneaky politicians. Who would have thought? But was the Prime Minister amenable to a higher 2030 target, but you had to intervene to stop that from happening?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m very happy with the work of the National Party in making sure we secure the jobs of people in Central Queensland and the Hunter Valley and stand behind our dairy producers and stand behind our cattle producers and make sure that methane is excluded and make sure that we earn the export dollars from these incredible exports that support everything from the ABC to the NDIS, to your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme –

KIERAN GILBERT: So that’s a yes?

BARNABY JOYCE: You mightn’t like coal mining, you mightn’t like a hole in the ground, but, by God, you like the fact that you can get a pension and you like the fact that you can get subsidised health, you like the fact you have a police force. This money has to come from somewhere, and here’s the big one –

KIERAN GILBERT: So that’s a yes?

BARNABY JOYCE: The big one that no one talks about is this: if we didn’t earn export dollars and that polymer note in your pocket, the red polymer note with 20 on it, the $20 note would not be demanded by people overseas because they’d say, “Why would I want your currency because there’s very little now I can buy with it because you keep shutting down your exports in Australia.” So, if you want to buy something from overseas, we’re going to need a lot more of those polymer notes.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay.

BARNABY JOYCE: And, of course, that’s inflation. When inflation goes up, interest rates go up. We’re making sure that we keep product going on the boat so that we can take goods off the boat. See, they won’t send you your phone, your suit, your tie, your fridge, your lights, whatever you like unless you’re sending something on a boat in the other direction. And guess what we send on a boat in the other direction? Iron ore, coal, gas, daylight, daylight, daylight, education, agricultural products. You start shutting those down, the people overseas say, “Well, hang on, what are you going to put on your boat? An accountant or an insurance salesman?” How does that work?

KIERAN GILBERT: That sounded like a yes. It did sound like a yes to me. But you’re not going to confirm that obviously. Just one last one before you go, the integrity commission –

BARNABY JOYCE: No, no, I shouldn’t dance around it. The National Party were absolutely affirmed that it wasn’t going to be 2030 targets, okay? Now the Prime Minister as Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Coalition, he can talk for his party’s views.

KIERAN GILBERT: Sure, okay.

BARNABY JOYCE: As you knew, the National Party was negotiating with the Liberal Party, so I’ll tell you what the National Party’s position was – the National Party was absolutely affirmed that we weren’t going to have 2030 targets.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, just quickly – almost out of time – but the integrity commission legislation, is that going to be introduced in the final two weeks of parliament?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’ve been working on that, making sure that we get this right. I’ll leave that up to the minister. What we want is to make sure we have issues to deal with integrity and not issues just to shut down the capacity of the minister to run his portfolio or her portfolio. Remember, you elect ministers, you elect politicians, you don’t elect bureaucrats. We’ve got to make sure the capacity of the minister to have his executive, or her executive power go forward. That remains a fundamental part of our democracy and can’t be intruded on. Otherwise, every time someone disagrees with the department or the bureaucracy they’ll say, “Oh, you’re possibly corrupt,” and the next thing you know we’ve got a show trial on somebody who’s done nothing more than what they were allowed to do by reason of being elected to parliament by the constituents of their electorate.

KIERAN GILBERT: Barnaby Joyce, talk to you soon. Appreciate it.

BARNABY JOYCE: Always a pleasure, Kieran.