Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News Australia, AM Agenda

LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. The Nationals have signed off on the Prime Minister’s plan for a net‑zero emissions target by 2050. The details of the deal, though, remain under wraps with Federal Cabinet set to sign-off on safeguards for regional Australians. Joining me live now is the Leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been a while. The Nationals have given a green light to this. So, can you explain exactly what it is? Is it giving the Prime Minister permission to commit to a binding net-zero target by 2050 and he’ll take that to Glasgow?

BARNABY JOYCE: The Nationals set the process to determine how we negotiated our way to a better deal for regional Australia, and that process right from the start said that the view would be the view of the party room, not the view of the executive or any individual within that. The Nationals party room has come to that view and we support the process of the Prime Minister going to Glasgow to pursue the goal of net-zero by 2050.

LAURA JAYES: So, not a binding target then, just a goal?

BARNABY JOYCE: Ultimately, 2050 requires people who will be here long after we’re gone. I will be 84 by 2050, so I think that it’s incredibly important that we set the goal because that is the decision of the party room, and as that process goes forward people will determine the actions. The Prime Minister’s clearly said it’s going to be with technology and with that technology, as it develops, as it gets proved up, as it becomes more efficient – and remembering, Laura, that right now we had and set down a process to get to the targets that we have today, and we’ve not only arrived there, we’ve beaten them. It’s not a case that there is implausibility or some form of mischief in our words, because we stand behind what we said we’d do in previous targets at Paris. We’ve achieved them and we’ve surpassed them.

LAURA JAYES: So what has the Nationals party room actually agreed to, because the Prime Minister wants to take a binding target to Glasgow, and you’re talking about a goal?

BARNABY JOYCE: The Nationals party room in the first iteration when we were presented with the plan to a person no one said they agreed to it without changes. Therefore, we went into a process of negotiation. In that process of negotiation, we attained further changes because we had two choices. We were either going to be the negotiator inside the room or the demonstrator on the lawn, and we decided the negotiator in the room was a vastly better outcome for the people we represent. We understand that there are concerns out there, but we say to people: look at the position that we had. We could either be the negotiator or the demonstrator. We chose to be the negotiator. We have got you a better deal. We got you further protections. We are making sure that we are standing behind farmers and miners and the towns that that wealth supports so that it can be maintained into the future. I think of the two alternatives, that is obviously the better one.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. So, does the Prime Minister go to Glasgow with your blessing for a binding target or are you just saying the Nationals’ position is that you’ve extracted a price and carved out – I know there’s a vague reference –

BARNABY JOYCE: The –

LAURA JAYES: Sorry, you go.

BARNABY JOYCE: Sorry. I shouldn’t interrupt. Sorry, you finish.

LAURA JAYES: I think my question is clear. Is it your blessing – does the National Party give the Prime Minister your blessing –

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, the blessing. Yeah, we do.

LAURA JAYES: – to have a binding target, though, not a goal.

BARNABY JOYCE: We’re sort of being cute with the words. I really don’t know what the difference is between the two words, to be honest.

LAURA JAYES: Well, because the Glasgow summit is all about countries committing to a binding target. I mean, this is not going to be legislated.

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s not going to be legislated, and that’s the whole point. What I can say is where we are right now is ahead. Whether you call it a goal, a target, whatever word you want to use, we’re ahead of that. But what I can say, we’ve managed to get ahead of that by not putting people out of a job, by not putting in a carbon tax, by not shutting down coalmines. Now, the Labor Party is going to go forward and they’re going to legislate it and that’s – well, I suppose that’s a rhetorical flourish by people such as Shadow Minister Chris Bowen, Member for McMahon, or Anthony Albanese that made the statement. It’s now incumbent upon the Labor Party to come forward and if they’re going to legislate it, to say: What exactly are you legislating? What exactly are the consequences of that?

LAURA JAYES: But you now have the same target with the Labor Party, don’t you, so what’s the problem?

BARNABY JOYCE: The difference is the Labor Party are going to legislate it. The Labor Party are actually going to make a process and put in place a process unless they can tell us otherwise that’s going to put at risk the mining jobs that the Nationals went into bat to support. That will put at risk the farmers and wander down, I don’t know, nefarious processes of methane emissions from cattle and such things like that which the National Party went in to protect. The Labor Party is going to, basically, try and make sure that they keep the people of the seat of Grayndler happy and somehow be relevant to the people of the Hunter Valley, and that’s not going to work. We will be able to go to those areas and clearly say that we went into bat for your incomes, for your industry, for your towns of Muswellbrook or Gladstone or Emerald or Biloela. That is the process. We’re very aware of it. They’re our people and we made sure we did our very best on their behalf, because that is our job. Our alternative was to join an incredibly entertaining chorus outside the room which had zero effect, net-zero effect, on what was happening with regards to the negotiated settlements that the Nationals and the Prime Minister came to.

LAURA JAYES: What you said, and I know that has been tortured process, and fair enough, because the livelihoods of many of these small towns that rely on these industries, that live off these industries, do rely on it, but it seems you’ve come to this point for base political reasons, rather than any personal conviction. And you say the only difference between you and the Labor Party now is that they’re going to legislate it. Well, you’ve just given the green light to this 2050 target. The Labor Party is going to put in steps to reach that. Isn’t you giving this green light, you don’t actually have any control over the next 30 years and how you get there?

BARNABY JOYCE: No one does. No one has control over the next government.

LAURA JAYES: Well, why agree to it then?

BARNABY JOYCE: Because that is a process that was decided by the Nationals party room. It is a process, obviously, that globally that is the world is going down. It is a process that our major allies, such as the United States and England, are part of it. It is a process that’s evolved in recent years and now that the party room, the Coalition has, as you said, given the blessing to the Prime Minister of Australia to go to Glasgow and to see the plan that will come to Cabinet, and we’ll see that obviously very imminently.

LAURA JAYES: What price have you asked the regions to pay and what are those carve-outs that you’ve extracted?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’ve asked the regions to pay no price, and that is the crucial issue here. We’ve made sure that in our discussions the regions will be in the same place or better. We’ve made sure that there is no inflection or caveat that will affect coalmining to supply the global demand. Currently there are record prices, record amounts, and by so doing underpin the wealth of this nation. Fossil fuels are the wealth of this nation – to support the social security, your NDIS, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, your pensions, your health, all those things that are so vitally important to keep our terms of trade positive. We’ve made sure that that process is not impugned by any caveat which the Labor Party, because they’re going to legislate, has now got to prove to you and to your listeners what is actually in this legislation and what that means –

LAURA JAYES: But so do you. Just because it’s not in legislation, you still need to – you’ve got the same goals, so by you saying it’s not legislated you’re saying, well, maybe you’re hoping that you can get out of it in some way because it’s not binding by the Parliament.

BARNABY JOYCE: No, once we make a deal, we make a deal and we stick to that deal.

LAURA JAYES: With respect, you might not be Deputy Prime Minister in 10 years.

BARNABY JOYCE: I know, that’s hardly surprising. It’s a little bit kind of a record. But what I can say is we’ve said technology. Now, technology has the capacity as it advances to gain greater efficiencies. People say you can’t stand by that. Yes, we can. Because we’ve achieved all our goals and that’s incredibly important to get through to the Australian people. We’ve achieved all the goals that have been set out. We’ve said technology. The Labor Party has said legislation. So, there is your difference in the path. We say technology. The Labor says legislation, and legislation can include such things as carbon taxes, include such things as a direct impost immediately on the farming sector on the mining sector, and if that is not the case, the Labor Party must tell us what is in their legislation. They’ve said the word “legislation”, not us. We’ve said technologies. They’ve said legislation.

LAURA JAYES: Okay.

BARNABY JOYCE: So to the Australian people, there is a vast difference between the two processes going forward.

LAURA JAYES: You’ve come a long way. I mean, a couple of years ago you were warning of $100 lamb roasts. Last election, some within your party were warning about electric cars cancelling the weekend. It’s been quite a journey for you. Is this kind of the position that you thought you’d end up in?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t know. When you say “come a long way” starts sounding like a Fatboy Slim song, but anyway. I think that things involve in politics. As I said, it’s quite simple. The Prime Minister of Australia is going to Glasgow. He didn’t need the National Party approval. He made a statement he was going. Therefore, there was no vote or process where the Nationals could stop him going, and that’s absolutely and utterly his right, and the remit and the desires are a reflection of his party. We’ve said, “Well, in looking at that, if that’s the case we have two choices: We can negotiate or we can demonstrate. There are no other choices.” You can have a Pyrrhic statement and scream and yell out on the lawns or you can actually negotiate for better protections of the people of regional Australia, Central Queensland, the Hunter Valley, the Northern Territory, for farmers all the way down to Tasmania and the choice was quite obvious. It was to make sure we negotiated a better settlement, and we did.

LAURA JAYES: Barnaby Joyce, appreciate your time as always.

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank you very much, Laura.