Interview with Patricia Karvelas, ABC News

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Nationals MPs have finalised their list of demands for their support of a net‑zero emissions target by 2050, but not everyone in the party room is convinced. The junior Coalition party will meet again on Sunday, the fifth time in just over a week, once the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has considered their list of demands. Barnaby Joyce is the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Nationals, and he’s also my guest. Welcome.

BARNABY JOYCE: Patricia, it’s always a pleasure to be on your show, I think.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: What’s on the wish list, Barnaby Joyce?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m not going to cut and dice it. Quite obviously, you can’t litigate these things through the TV and that’s an unsurprising statement. Let’s talk about the thematics of it. The thematics is making sure we look after the people in regional areas, making sure that we put some ring‑roading around exactly how the extent of where this could go, make sure that people clearly understand that we were done over last time with the Kyoto protocols. The only reason we need new targets is because of the theft of a private asset of landholders, which was the vegetation rights, otherwise you would have been meeting your target. So, every time you crack open the champers and say, “What a clever fellow am I? We’ve met all our targets”, just thank the farmer who gave you the asset to pay for it. What we’ve also got to do is understand that this is a process that can go for decades, and we want to set in place the mechanisms so that there’s a clear observation of this. The deal is not done by a long shot, but we are making sure we are not grandstanding, it is not pantomime. We are being constructive, that we want to make the situation better for people in regional Australia, and acknowledge the fact that – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. You don’t want to grandstand it. I get what you’ve been saying, but what does it ask for in terms of the future of coalmines?

BARNABY JOYCE: If we don’t have coalmines continuing on, Patricia, we don’t have the money for such things as the ABC. We don’t have money for such things as hospitals, roads. People mightn’t see coalmines, but by gosh they see the royalties from them, and they see the tax revenues from the companies that operates them. Remember, it’s the second biggest export of this nation. We don’t export watches or cars or telephones or –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. So, I know you’re a fan of them. What are your demands? That there should be more? Is that what you’ve asked for?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think the issue, Patricia, is not whether I’m a fan of them or not. You’re a fan of the money that comes from, though, and so are all your listeners. Every time they get an NDIS supplement or a drug on the PBS or a pension, you are going to be a fan of the resource industry, because without that, we’d all be very poor people in the South Pacific without a shadow of a doubt. Any sort of noble raging against the minerals industry is really screaming to be poorer. There is no other export to take its place, not by a long shot, and if you take away one of the main income earners from your house, the house is poorer. It’s as simple as that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Is that a key demand, then, in your wish list?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s a statement of the economic reality of our nation. Our biggest export is iron ore. It is not education. Our second biggest export is coal. It is not people working in the insurance industry or the banking industry. The next biggest export is gas. It is far bigger than anything we get from the hospital industry or from the services we provide. To close them down is idiocy. When you think about, Patricia, think about it like this. I’ll tell you some coal towns –Here’s Singleton, Muswellbrook, Gunnedah, Emerald, Nowra, Gladstone, big sections of Rockhampton, big sections of so many. Now, where are the big renewables town?

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I want to ask you this. It’s been reported that one trade‑off for your support is changes to land clearing laws to allow farmers to keep clearing and use other means to offset. Is that included, and isn’t that a step back for the environment?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m not going to start cutting and dicing what’s in the agreement. You’ll give me lots of questions and I’ll give you the same answer and it’ll become quite monotonous.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: No, no, no, please don’t bore my viewers. They deserve better. So, let me ask this. Why has it taken so long – 

BARNABY JOYCE: Let’s be honest, we rarely bore your viewers.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: No, they’re not bored. Absolutely. Why has it taken so long? Your party saw the plan almost a week ago. Was there more opposition than you expected?

BARNABY JOYCE: This is a plan that takes us to 2050 if adopted – 2050, decades. This is a plan which if you get it wrong, remember all the modelling and everything will be A‑OK, right in the UK, well now they’ve got an energy crisis, sixfold increase in energy prices, inability for people to keep themselves warm as they go into winter, permeating effects of inflation as the energy crisis ripples all the way through to China. Now, you can jump into this and get every sort of wise spirit telling you everything’s A‑OK, and then you can pick up the pieces later on when it becomes unstuck. Remember, at this Glasgow conference, China is not going, India is not going. Iran has more emissions than us and they’re not going. Russia is not going. We understand our obligations and that we must be a good global citizen, but just be really careful because if you get it wrong, then the UK crisis will be our crisis. I’m happy to go back to the thing about vegetation because that’s contentious and I thought you’d want to nail me down on that one. I’m happy to go to go there if you want.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: All right. Well, how do you want to be nailed down exactly? Are you going to push for it? Is that what you’re going to do?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think what has to be really seen here is the actual science. Patricia, if this is an issue about carbon abatement, about reducing carbon emissions and sequestrating more carbon to make up for those emissions because it’s net, not zero, to make up for those carbons, that places such as Sydney – remember your carbon emissions are going up, regional’s are going down. Let’s remember that. So, you sequestrate more carbon through perennial grasses than you do through dry sclerophyll forest. So, if someone says you can’t pull down those trees because of the carbon emission effect, that is wrong. Because you’ve said if those trees came down and I planted pasture - the summer grasses, I’m going to sequestrate more carbon. That is just a fact.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, so you are pushing then, because I’m interested in the detail. You do think – 

BARNABY JOYCE: No, no, I’ll tell you what I’m pushing for, Patricia. The facts. People say, “Oh, don’t you agree with the science?” Well, the science has a myriad of factors to it – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, let me ask this question really bluntly. Do you believe that we’re facing catastrophic climate change?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that anthropomorphic climate change is a factor. When people say catastrophic, I don’t think it’s in the interests of anybody to sort of make statements so grand that they terrify everybody – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Why not though? Don’t you need to sort of not terrify people in a sort of offensive way, but let people know that there’s a sense of urgency, there is a window of opportunity and if you don’t take it, you miss the chance?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s a completely different statement to catastrophic. And also, if you make an incredibly grand statement, people will start asking these questions: well, okay, so how do we judge this? Do we get to a point and if this hasn’t happened, it’s not that important? Look, I understand the issues that are happening around the globe and the discussions people are having about weather and the frequency of storms and everything like that. But I just live in the real world talking to people on the streets. Maybe we all do. They get a sense of cynicism when they hear these grandiose sorts of large statements. They start thinking that someone’s pushing a barrow that is primed by fear.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But I could put that about you, Deputy Prime Minister, because you’ve been making these grand statements about mass job losses in the regions as well. That’s rather alarmist as well.

BARNABY JOYCE: If you shut down the coal industry – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But you’ve also been alarmist. You can’t say that’s alarmist when actually some of the language that you use is alarmist.

BARNABY JOYCE: As I said, I’m just pointing out a fact. Singleton is a coal town. Muswellbrook is a coal town. Gunnedah, a large portion of its wealth comes from coal. Boggabri is another one. Nowra is another one. Emerald is another one. Gladstone is another one. Newcastle, the biggest coal exporting centre in the world has a large section of its wealth come from it. And if you start equating that to the wealth of country renewables, name me one town in Australia which you would call the renewable town? One. Because if you – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Let’s go to your deputy this morning – 

BARNABY JOYCE: Even a small one. Can you name me one?

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well, you know how I hate it when you ask me questions because I ask you the questions. Your deputy this morning confirmed not everyone will be on board. So, what scale is the opposition in the Nationals?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s another thing that stays within the party room. I’ve stated from the start that you’re going to have people who are for, more inclined for and you’re going to have people more inclined against, and you’re going to have people who are adamantly for and you’re going to have people who are adamantly against.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I’m just wondering are most on board? I understand you have a range of views in your party. We all know that. But are most on board?

BARNABY JOYCE: If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t need to deliberate for over a week. We would have just come straight out and said yes or straight out and said no. So, there’s a range of views and the reason we have this process is to discern those views in such a way as to come to what we see as the best representation in the room and to negotiate a process so as not to be unreasonably obstructive if that’s required to facilitate a bipartisan position with the Liberal Party. But the Nationals are their own party and they follow their own process. And I say once more at this point in time, if you are saying is it a yes or a no, it’s a neither.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You’re saying it’s far away actually, that actually a deal is very far away.

BARNABY JOYCE: I didn’t – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well, I think you said it’s a long shot.

BARNABY JOYCE: I didn’t say that either. I think you’re putting words in my mouth.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Oh, God. I’ll have to go through the transcript. All right. Is the Nationals’ support for the target dependent on all demands being met or is there some middle ground?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’ve been through a process of accepting things and rejecting things as we go. We didn’t come up with a document where every combination and permutation of ideas was included in it. We tried to put them in a logical, reasonable form, and that’s what we have done, and I believe that we’re going forward with a logical reasonable document.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Yes, but in terms of its demands, whatever they are, ideas, however you want to frame it, are there some that are non‑negotiable and others that are?

BARNABY JOYCE: Once more, and as soon as I say yes or no to that, you’re going to say, “Well, what are they?” Of course, there are some, let’s call them, very strong requests that are held dearly by the room.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. You know the modelling. I know Matt Canavan has been on this show. He keeps saying, “Show me the modelling”. Do you think it should be released, like, immediately?

BARNABY JOYCE: As I’ve said in the chamber, I’m not an expert. I don’t have competencies in non-lineal regression analysis or lineal regression analysis or Raphson–Newton theory. Other people do and Matt Canavan, oddly enough, is one of those people. Matt Canavan has every reason, as he’s more expert in this field than most, to want to see the modelling. I, for one, even if I saw it and thought “I’ll go down and check the calculations of that”, I don’t know whether I could. What I can say is this – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You’re the Deputy Prime Minister. You have seen the modelling, haven’t you?

BARNABY JOYCE: Hang on, hang on, hang on. What I can say is this. Let me finish, please.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay.

BARNABY JOYCE: What I can say, Patricia, is they did the modelling in the UK as well and everyone said it was A‑OK and schmick, except it was wrong. That’s the problem and that’s why you’ve got to be cautious. That’s why they’ve got an energy crisis, we don’t have one. If we got it wrong, we might get one. So, don’t you want us to be prudent or do you just want us to say hurray for anything?

PATRICIA KARVELAS: How optimistic are you that there will be a deal by the end of Monday?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m one person in the party room – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You’re the leader.

BARNABY JOYCE: This will never be a decision of the leader – yes, I know. Thank you very much. It is a great honour. But I’m also a collegiate person within my party room. This is a party room decision, and the party will reign supreme. We’ve said that all the way along. This is not new. All the way along, we said the party room will make this decision because it’s so fundamentally important for the people we represent, and we are responsible for them. And it won’t be –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: If you can’t come to an agreement by Monday – you’re being very polite and letting me talk. If you can’t get an agreement by Monday and the PM’s getting very close to this meeting and he doesn’t want to be humiliated at this national – international meeting, which you can understand, will it be ugly, as your deputy says?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ll tell you what, whatever agreement comes up in Glasgow it’s going to affect the people next to Ultimo the at least and the people out in the regions the most. Our view on this – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Yeah, but that’s not the question I asked. Is it going to get ugly if it goes ahead?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s the answer I like and that’s generally how I operate with you and me. I don’t know whether it’s going to get ugly or not. That’s a decision for others and how they act. What I do know is the decision that – what happens if we get it wrong is going to have effects on Muswellbrook which will never, ever have on Balmain or Chippendale. They’ve got members who represent them and no doubt they would go in to bat if we decided we’re going to close down the Sydney Harbour Bridge and shut off the air‑conditioners and close off the lifts. I’m absolutely certain those members would go straightaway berko and go into bat.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Hang on, none of those things are going to happen.

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s the point.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: No‑one’s turning off air‑conditioners.

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s the point. They won’t have them because they affect other people. They always come up with decisions that affect us, and that is one. When we go into bat to protect our people, we’re called rednecks and bigots and climate deniers and all that other garbage. We’re just trying to look after our people.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But your people, the National Farmers Federation, for instance, who represent your people – 

BARNABY JOYCE: Hang on. Stop right there. The National Farmers Federation also have caveats, number one. Number two, we’ve met every target that this nation has signed up for because your people stole a private asset off farmers. That’s how you’ve met your targets. And number three, this is really important, most important. Even in my electorate – and I’m a farmer, I’ve got cattle, I’ve got sheep, we grow a bit of grain, do the whole lot and also look after family businesses. But I’m only 12 per cent of the seat of New England. There’s probably about another 10 per cent who are solely reliant, contract musterers, solely reliant on the people on the land. Patricia, that means 70 per cent have got nothing to do with it. And guess what? I represent them and they live in streets. And if you walk around saying what the NFF is going to do is my guiding principle, they’ll say, “You don’t represent me in Petra Avenue, South Tamworth”.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: All right. That’s interesting. I’m always interested in what your political party represents. So, let’s zoom out. Are you telling me that the Nationals don’t represent farmers to the extent that perhaps we think of them as? Because you are synonymous with farmers. That’s the Nationals in the nation’s – 

BARNABY JOYCE: I know that. I am a farmer.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And you’re saying that it is different.

BARNABY JOYCE: I am a farmer and what you’re saying is a statement of obvious. You look at our constituency, yes, we have vastly more farmers than urban constituencies who have none. They are the rootstock which we grew from. We still have farmers in our party, but what we represent now is vastly wider than it represents in the past because we have regional cities. Tamworth has 67,000 people. That’s not 67,000 farmers. Armidale has got 26,000 people and predominantly a lot of them are involved in the university. If you walk around saying you only represent farmers, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen: you’re not going to stay in your seat for long. But they’re incredibly important, they’re the rootstock of our party, but we have to be just as relevant for the people in Calala for the people in Kootingal, for the people, basically, in the suburbs who have garbage trucks that pick up their garbage on Tuesday, who have kerb and guttering and live in housing of various types and the weatherboard and iron out in the little villages – 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Yeah, yeah. Don’t try and sell your book on our show! So just – 

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, as you say, it’s a book. Very well done. You sold it, not me. You did.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I did. But it’s the same name. So, ultimately – 

BARNABY JOYCE: You shouldn’t have said it.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I heard it. So, ultimately, you’re the leader. You say you’re all equals but you’re the leader. Are you going to press upon your party that a deal should be delivered by Sunday so that the Prime Minister can go into this with some authority?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think the role in this instance, as it is the decision of the party, is to make sure that we come to an answer. I’m not going to press on anybody which way that answer goes, but I think it is respectful of the process if you come to an answer, yes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. Just finally, I want to change the topic and just ask you about Qantas. They’ve announced they’ll restart international flights earlier than expected with flights between Sydney and London to start from next month. What does this mean for the Federal Government $183 million extension of aviation support until March and has Qantas been given preferential treatment? They seem to be ahead of the game.

BARNABY JOYCE: Great question, and it means that if they start picking up their flights and their turnover to a reasonable form, to something comparable to where they were before, that support stops. It’s not just support with no conditions whatsoever, it’s support on the premise that, you know, they require the support. I’m really glad they’re starting their flights and it shows the place is opening up and it shows the management that Government has been instrumental in has had an effect that we’re getting the economy going again, as we should. I tell you, there wouldn’t be the airline industry we’ve got now if it wasn’t for the Government and the taxpayer, your listeners, supported that industry and now we’ve got to get the show moving again. I say to the states, if you want also to have your citizens of your states flying in and out as they very soon will be from New South Wales, then you have to open up as quickly as possible.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. But have they been given preferential treatment because they’re ahead of the game now?

BARNABY JOYCE: The packages that we came out with covered all airlines and the most recent one certainly covered all airlines. I want to make sure that all airlines are going. Obviously, international airlines are incredibly important because if we hadn’t got it right, they would have parked their planes in the desert and then we would have had a real problem that lingered long after the vaccination rates have got as high as they are now.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Barnaby Joyce, we’re out of time. We will be looking very closely on Sunday to see what you do. Thank you.

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank you very much, Patricia. Always a pleasure.