Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News, Sunday Agenda

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me live from Danglemah this morning is the Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Thanks so much for your time, Barnaby Joyce. My understanding, if we can go through the deal, some of the detail of it, my understanding is that the National Party secured the exclusion of scope 3 emissions from the calculation of the net zero target by 2050. Scope 3 emissions, for those that aren’t aware, are basically the emissions of our exports overseas. Once it’s exported they’re emissions overseas have potentially been factored into our net zero. You’ve secured the exclusion of that. Is that right? And why did you do that?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, obviously we did a lot more than that. I don’t think that would have swung the room around if that’s all we did. Scope 3 emissions is like accounting for your carbon emissions from coal mining in Australia and then accounting for them again when they burn it in China. It’s basically double counting. We could do the same thing, I suppose, in a variant form in cattle. You account for what they do here and if there was any further emissions on utilisation of beef or wheat or something overseas, you account for them again. So it’s most pronounced, obviously, in coal and we had to make sure that we maintained what is a vital part of regional Australia, Kieran. Where it’s Gladstone, whether it’s Emerald, Biloela, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Newcastle, a large section of Newcastle. These towns, there are no renewable towns, there are coal mining towns and people get so-called renewable towns better look after the coal mining jobs otherwise people are just going to be unemployed and poor and that’s not for us.

KIERAN GILBERT: So if we go through some other elements. Scope 3 emission excluded. Now I’m also told that carbon credits are going to be counted as farm income. Why is that important? You’re an accountant yourself, but I know that under the Emissions Reduction Fund a lot of farmers do get already credits and funds. Why is it important that it’s counted as farm income? Why did the Nationals want that included in the deal?

BARNABY JOYCE: Because you can average it over five years. That’s – primary production income can be averaged over five years as opposed to normal income which is as you get it. There’s probably three types of income. Obviously there’s income as you get it, your salaries and wages, a business profit, there’s primary production income which is averaged over five years. It’s the same for writers and authors. And then there’s capital which is taking the difference between your purchase price and your sale price and comes with a lot of capital gains tax exemptions. There was a strong view in the room that they want it averaged over five years so that was done and we also want credibility in these units. You have units coming in from, you know, former Eastern bloc countries or Kazakhstan, you have to ask the question of the legitimacy of those units. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. But the units from Australia will be absolutely bona fide schmick and people who want to buy those units can buy them with the clear thought that they stand for something. Behind me, in grassy, the more you put carbon into the soil, the difference between your baseline and what you go up to, you can get a unit and we also make sure that there was no – there was no downside for farmers. If they want to participate there’s upside, not downside. All you see around here, all vegetation – this is dead from the drought a lot of it – but a lot of this vegetation we were dispossessed of it. It was stolen without payment during the Kyoto process and we’re not going to let that happen again. Obviously we fought for a farmers fund in there. And a heap of things.

KIERAN GILBERT: Just on funds, can you elaborate on that because I’m told it’s effectively a Regional Future Fund, isn’t it?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s correct.

KIERAN GILBERT: I’m sold that serious dollars, can you give our viewers, and many of them watching around the regions this morning, just give us a bit more detail on that. What can we expect as part of that Regional Future Fund?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, even though we’re selling more thermal coal at a higher price than we’ve ever sold before in Australia, if people say these global trends which they tell us are going to happen, they tell us from Glasgow that’s going to happen, well, of course, you’re going to need a parallel income that is growing at the same time as the other one is toning down or fading off. You’ve got to make sure that people, especially in the mining industry, can go from one mining job to another mining job, if that is what’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t, we’re going to make sure that people can still export coal and we don’t have a methane mandate and all of that other sort of stuff that would completely pull the rug out of regional Australia. But we need a fund that actually moves things towards that. A lot of these people don’t need another art gallery or river walks which are incredibly nice and good for social infrastructure. They need a fund that actually inspires the new businesses that are going to employ people to start up if what the is globe is saying is going to happen. I suppose one looks at China now with China, India, Russia and other countries not participating, maybe that won’t happen, I don’t know.

KIERAN GILBERT: Just give us a bit more detail on how that fund is going to work, though? Is it about building infrastructure, is it about building roads? Just flesh that out for us, please.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, well we’re also making sure that we will have a substantial infrastructure budget nonetheless. But it’s whatever inspires the growth of that. If you go to a regional area, it might be the fundamental infrastructure of connecting it to gas or making sure your water infrastructure is there or making sure your roads are there or supporting the process of other businesses there.

We talk through the agreement of consideration of the expansion of the regional investment corporation to not just farmers but to regional businesses and the same with the NAIF – Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. To make sure if we want to set up a hydrogen industry we can stand beside it and set it up, critical minerals downstream, if we want to stand beside it and set it up we can set it up. You know, these are the things – we’re not going to dig the mine or build the plant, that’s private enterprise, but we’re going to do the things that sit beside it, Kieran, that help that industry grow.

It is a substantial fund and it’s incredibly important that regional people see the Nationals as going into bat and making sure that first of all we don’t pull the rug out from underneath their income stream, like such things as methane emissions, and what we did through the process, because it’s negotiated, it’s between two parties, main thing is, to turn things that were implicit, maybe not mentioned, to explicit, that is definitely mentioned and definitely ruled out.

KIERAN GILBERT: Hence you have that methane exclusion, I guess that’s what you’re referring to there. But with the fund, is it going to – is it going to be operating like the other Future Fund? Is that how you see it? That there will be an amount committed by the Government and then invested on an annual basis?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I mean, that will be determined by Cabinet as it comes through, but there’s definitely a fund and we’ll have to see if you build it up like the Future Fund you’ve probably got a long lag before you can start getting money from it to do things. As I said, Kieran, if the predictions about a transition away from coal happens quickly, well, it will probably happen before the Future Fund has time to pay a dividend. So you’d have to consider those things as they come along. But as I say now, luckily this nation, underpinning all your health and your education, your defence is exporting more coal at a higher price than it ever has before.

KIERAN GILBERT: Are you vulnerable to political attack from the Hansons of the world, and Palmer, Newman, they’re going to be coming at you from the right flank at this election?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, well, that’s politics, it’s quite clear. We had two choices. We could have not negotiated, we could have demonstrated. The Prime Minister, and this is another good reason that we sort of delayed for a while, has said quite clearly he was going to Glasgow whether he had our agreement or not. There would have been an agreement, it just would have happened without us and all the negotiations that we did would have been left out and would have been much worse off. On top of that, of course, we have a Cabinet decision which a number of our Cabinet ministers would have had a different position, would have had to resign. I think that was pretty much clear. We would have gotten to an election and we would have lost. Now, that was the alternative, which one do you think is better?

KIERAN GILBERT: Indeed. Well, Mathias Cormann has had a bit of a change of heart as well. He wants all nations to adopt the carbon price.

BARNABY JOYCE: He certainly has, Kieran. He certainly has. He’s not seeing that anymore, he’s seeing the Colosseum and the Louvre, you know, he’s seeing the Louvre and he’s changed his mind. Cow for the country, hey.

KIERAN GILBERT: Road to Damascus. Now the reopening, I’ve got to ask you about that. Reopening tomorrow across the nation – well, across large parts of the nation, not all of it, of course, but in your part of New South Wales, are you confident the regions are equipped to deal with whatever comes now at this part of the pandemic?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I’m very confident that people have had enough – they’re sick of this. They want to move on. They want our economy to operate like an economy and a nation to operate like a nation. The only feedback I’m getting now, or maybe it was different from half a year ago, a year ago, is that people are over this, over being locked in their houses. It’s alright for me because when I get locked up I get locked up here, it’s not too bad. In fact, you can hardly notice the difference. But for people locked up in a flat, with screaming kids, people locked up in a house, I mean they’re just over this. They want to get on with their lives and I’m fully supportive of that. So I say to the States, let’s just get on with it. Let’s get going. Let’s move and get this nation going back again.

I will tell you something, I know little about lots but I know lots about politics. If you hang onto this idea that locking people down is a great idea, you’re going to lose the election, whichever State or wherever you are.

KIERAN GILBERT: Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce joining me live from Danglemah, I appreciate it. Thanks for chatting to us this Sunday.

BARNABY JOYCE: You’re welcome, Kieran. Obviously to Patti Newton, it’s sad she’s lost Bert and all the very best to her family.