Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Prime Minister may now be heading to the global summit in Glasgow, but the exact policy he takes to those talks is far from certain, with the Coalition's junior partner still undecided on a 2050 net zero emissions target. The Nationals MPs and senators met in Canberra yesterday but failed to come to a decision after four hours of negotiations. I'm pleased to say I'm joined now by the Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, Michael. Good morning, ABC viewers.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are you close?

BARNABY JOYCE: This is probably, Michael, one of the biggest decisions for the future economy of Australia and where we go, and we will make sure, in the Nationals that represent regional Australia – which is the home of basically almost 90 per cent of our export dollars, the product that goes on a boat – to sustain your standard of living, sustain your health, your education, your police, all your services. We have got a duty not only to the people in our electorates but also to the economy of this nation. We fulfil that duty by listening very clearly to the members and senators who represent those regional areas, and they bring their views and their concerns to the Nationals party room. In making sure we go through a cogent process, it allows us to do the best of what we believe is an analysis of this massive statement. Our economy is not like Europe's, it is not like France's or England, or might I say the United States. It's entirely different in that it's so heavily weighted to the export of iron ore, coal, gas, gold, agricultural products. And so in this Parliament we have to be diligent. Now, the Labor Party say that they will just accept it, no questions asked. I don't know where their regional forum is going through the issues, but I don't think it exists. But we will do our job because the mail, even on my behalf which I get back in New England, is they say, "We want really stringent oversight over this. We want you to do your job." You're not going to do that on four hours on a Sunday night.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, so you're the leader, you can read the room fairly well. What's your assessment? Is the National Party room more likely than not to accept a 2050 target, based on those discussions yesterday?

BARNABY JOYCE: What I would say is that, as of last night, people have further to go, and that's self-evident in the fact that we are continuing on our discussions. People can read from that, that obviously there is a concern, there's a diligence. I will not, for one second, suggest the outcome of the room, because that is for the room to decide. And it's for myself and the leadership group to take those views back and to have them placated, have them managed, have them resolved, or alternatively we're not even tying them to their agreement. That is entirely up for them.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Right. But the clock is ticking. As you know, the Prime Minister jets off to Glasgow effectively at the end of next week. He cannot go there, can he, feasibly, without having Australia sign up to a 2050 target?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, neither can I script what the Prime Minister does. The Prime Minister of Australia is obviously the master of the actions of the Prime Minister of Australia. The Nationals are part of a coalition because we believe that's the best form of government. And we'll try and always make sure that that works, but we're not chained to a script. We have our own party and our own party room for a distinct purpose - that at times we have variance of views, we have divergent views and we have different views. And that is our right. We've absolutely, absolutely, we're fervent about the exercise of that right. If we ever believed that we were being sort of threatened or pushed or stood over, I know what the outcome of that position is – the people just say, "No”.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: On that basis, for argument's sake, if the Government, through the Nats, does decide to sign up to a 2050 target and some of your colleagues, Nationals Cabinet ministers, disagree with that, they'd have to quit Cabinet, wouldn't they?

BARNABY JOYCE: The process is quite clear: everybody is in Cabinet at the behest of the Prime Minister. That includes me.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: If you disagree with government, the executive decisions, you leave Cabinet. That’s the process.

BARNABY JOYCE: That's a statement of the bleeding obvious, of course. You're there at the Prime Minister himself. Everything comes with rights and comes with consequences, and everybody is aware of that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, you said before the meeting that it was very unlikely for the Nationals to agree to increasing the medium-term target for 2030...

BARNABY JOYCE: We don't, so there you go.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: That's unlikely to happen?

BARNABY JOYCE: We just don't agree with it.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, so how can the New South Wales Nationals enthusiastically embrace a 50 per cent cut by 2030 when your mob can't?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, hang on, I don't like the pejorative "mob". It's not your "mob" at the ABC and what your mob are doing down there at Ultimo. We'll call it a party and I’ll call you a broadcaster. That is a question that you should direct towards the New South Wales Nats. See, we're a party which we affiliate at state levels. We affiliate at a federal level. We don't have a federal party that binds all the states. So, the states can make their decision. And the LNP in Queensland, which also is a large part of the National Party, have passed unanimous resolutions not supporting 2050. So, there you have a dilemma, Michael. You have two decidedly different positions for which people will come into the room with decidedly different outcomes. And Victoria have another view of their outcomes. So, that's politics and that's the cryptic art of trying to come to a consensus position, and you don't do that in four hours on a Sunday night.

 

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Will there be some resolution, do you reckon, by the end of this week, one way or the other, on 2050?

BARNABY JOYCE: Once more, Michael, that is an outcome that the Nationals party room decides. If I start truncating the actions of the party room and saying, “You’ll have a decision by this point in time,” they'll give me a decision and it will be no.”

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Could this split the Coalition?

BARNABY JOYCE: I hope not. We don't suggest that. I have been through them all - the single desk debate, the ETS debate, the Telstra debate, I wasn't here for the guns debate but we all remember that. These are trying times and for what my view is, the single desk debate would be pretty close, there would be a lot of people with strong ideas about regional Australia who didn't live there. I think a reflection on that is probably the closest to what is happening now. And because the Labor Party say they're all in, no questions asked, well, hello, regional Australia, they've just said it, they really don't give a toss what happens to you. They're just going to go forward completely blind, legislate it, good luck and goodnight, Irene. We'll make sure that we don't do that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We'll see what the week brings us. Barnaby Joyce, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.