Interview with Leigh Sales, ABC 7.30

LEIGH SALES: Protesters have gathered for the third day in a row in Melbourne, this time targeting vaccination and community health clinics. Ninety-two people were arrested but the rally was smaller than the previous one. Earlier, I spoke to the Nationals’ leader and acting Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. Barnaby Joyce, thank you for your time. You’re one of the most prominent right-wing politicians in the country. Are you prepared to show leadership and call out and condemn the violent nationalists, racists, anti-vaxxers and far-right extremists who've been part of the protests in Melbourne this week?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, absolutely, especially in their actions around the Shrine of Remembrance. It's not about being left or right, it's about doing the proper thing. This is sacred ground, as noted by Sir John Monash, and to have people lounging around there no matter what they think their issue is, swearing, littering, drinking, this is to represent tens of thousands of Australians. I've been vaccinated twice and if you're not doing it for yourself, if you've got a view to it, then do it for the person sitting next to you. But there is some logic behind this, this pandemic will break out into a smaller form once we open the doors and the doors have to be opened again. We have to be able to have as small a group as possible who need the intensive care units that will obviously be filled by people who have not been vaccinated. That's just a fact of epidemiology, that is going to happen and people protesting to make it worse is not a logical thing. I understand the frustrations, we've all got those frustrations. We want this over. The best way to get back to normal life as quickly as possible is get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

LEIGH SALES: ASIO says that 40 per cent now of its domestic terrorism investigations involve nationalists and racist extremists. How important do you think firm leadership is in denouncing those ideologies to prevent the rise of them in Australia?

BARNABY JOYCE: I come from a family where they served to fight against fascism. I was brought up very much educated about the evils of the far right. And what-

LEIGH SALES: And are you concerned about the rise of it in Australia? Do you think it is a problem here in Australia?

BARNABY JOYCE: I believe temperance is an incredibly important thing in everything you do, that the human condition is crushed by the evils of the far right and crushed by the evils on the far left. And they're both extremism. It's a horse shoe with the crazy left and the crazy right on a bent horse shoe are really not that far away from one another.

LEIGH SALES: What do you think of colleagues such as George Christensen cheering on the freedom protesters in Melbourne?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don't believe he was cheering them on, but any sort of any sense of support for people who are breaking the law, who are assaulting police officers, who are desecrating war memorials, is something that's abhorrent to me. That is my view and George knows my view. What your next question is I can predict is, well, why don't you stop him? I can talk to him and that's a logical thing to do. But if you said, you know, go up to Dawson and tackle him in the street on and tie him up, it's just illogical. One of the things we love about this nation is you have the freedom to say what you like, even if what you say is wrong. That's one of the things we protect in this nation and it's up to the discernment of the fourth estate, yourself, of other people to say they disagree with it and most importantly, the logic of every person watching your show to say that is your view, but it's a view I don't agree with.

LEIGH SALES: On another subject, climate change, the Glasgow meeting's drawing closer. If the Prime Minister proposes that Australia go to Glasgow with a commitment to net zero by 2050, will the National Party sign up to that?

BARNABY JOYCE: When you say sign up, sign up to what? We'll look at that issue in a collegiate with my party –

LEIGH SALES: I just mean sign up exactly to that – net zero by 2050.

BARNABY JOYCE: We acknowledge the caution that we have to have. We have to have a form of caution that understands that right now, in England, this year six-fold increase in gas prices. Since the start of the year, 250 per cent. I think last night, 800,000 households have to find a new energy provider. This is what happens if you get the mix wrong. It's putting pressure on their capacity during winter to keep themselves warm. Now I realise that this is because they are coming out of COVID, but also it's the incapacity of renewables to fill the void.

LEIGH SALES: Your predecessor, Michael McCormack, said this week that if Australia doesn't sign up to net zero, it could threaten Australia's trade relationships and export income.

BARNABY JOYCE: These things are all things that have to be taken into account and we must make sure that we understand the circumstances overseas, we understand the circumstances of what's happening in our nation here.

LEIGH SALES: Can I ask, where are negotiations up to between the National Party and the Minister for Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor?

BARNABY JOYCE: You can ask, but I can't answer, because otherwise you're having a sort of general discussion, I'm –

LEIGH SALES: Do you think you're near the end? Got a long way to go? Or?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don't deliberate on the 7.30 Report, as much as I respect you as a reporter. That's not the way we're going to do business. And I have to respect the Party room I'm a part of and have the great honour of leading and give them the capacity to also have their views and their views are as far and as wide ranging as yours and mine.

LEIGH SALES: Before we run out of time, New South Wales and Victoria will be coming out of COVID restrictions shortly. As a regional politician, can I ask are regional hospitals sufficiently resourced to deal with the inevitable increase in admissions they'll be seeing?

BARNABY JOYCE: There are concerns. I've been speaking to people of Urbenville just this afternoon. And in Urbenville, they're saying, "the issue we have is we're serviced from Queensland". And the top of my electorate is higher, is further north, or about the same latitude north, as Warwick. And they're saying, "Well this is, this creates confusions". And they're unnecessary confusions and they're things we have to manage. But at this point in time, we're doing a good job. About three-quarters of Australia has been vaccinated once, about half of Australia has been vaccinated twice. In Aboriginal Australia, we call them Aboriginals in my part of the world, we've got a lot more work to do in that community and we have to bring that issue forward. We've been very lucky and blessed there have been very few deaths from COVID in the Aboriginal community. We're very mindful of this and the work of the flying doctors are doing. We've got millions of vaccines turning up now. I believe around the end of October, you'll have far more vaccines than people wanting to get vaccinated. Let's hope we cap out over 80 per cent. but that's up to your listeners and your viewers.

LEIGH SALES: Barnaby Joyce, thank you.

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank you very much, Leigh.