Interview with Patricia Karvelas, ABC Radio National

PATRICIA KARVELAS: It’s just over three weeks until world leaders gather at Glasgow for the next round of climate talks aimed at cutting the world’s carbon emissions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison still hasn’t said if he’ll attend and he’s still trying to get the Nationals to agree to a net‑zero target by 2050. But the Nationals are now demanding that the Federal Government financially back the mining sector with a $250 billion loan facility. Barnaby Joyce is the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the National Party and my guest. Barnaby Joyce, welcome.

BARNABY JOYCE: Patricia, absolute pleasure to be on your show.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Where are talks in the Coalition party room at on Glasgow? Will Australia commit to a net‑zero target before the summit begins at the end of October?

BARNABY JOYCE: As we’ve said all the way along, this decision is not a unilateral one of myself, it’s one of the National Party room. I’ve been having discussions with my leadership group, with Bridget and David this morning, David and Bridget, and we will have a Nationals meeting not to discuss our position but to discuss the process going forward. I know that the Prime Minister will be no doubt bringing forward what he sees as the process and we have to then take that back to the Nationals room and let them have their deliberations and considerations over it. I’ve seen also the report this morning from Keith Pitt and Matt Canavan. What they say is a very fair comment that you can’t have the sovereignty of your nation determined by what a board decides that they’ll invest in or not. The economy of Australia, as you listen on a radio that’s imported, drive a car that’s imported, have fuel that’s imported, your clothes are imported, somebody has got to put something a boat and send it in the other direction and that’s the mining industry.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Is that $250 billion price tag that they’ve suggested, is that what it’s going to cost to get the Nationals to sign up ahead of Glasgow?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s not the position of the Nationals room, that is the position of members within the Nationals room.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And what’s your view on that proposal?

BARNABY JOYCE: And like everybody else, they’re entitled to bring that to the discussions.

BARNABY JOYCE: What’s your view as the Deputy Prime Minister on that?

BARNABY JOYCE: My view as the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals, more importantly, is to make sure that the Nationals go through the process which we have promised them, which is a consideration of anything that is put before us. I have no doubt that’s going to happen imminently and I’m going to make sure that our party room, the party room that I’m a member of, has the capacity to discuss those issues. What we’ve been doing as early as 6.30am this morning, 5.30am in Queensland with David Littleproud, is working out the process of how the party will, once something is delivered, how we go back and discuss that with the party so that they can vent the sort of views that you’ve seen relayed by Keith Pitt

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Yes.

BARNABY JOYCE: I have sympathy for what they say because I don’t like the idea that our sovereignty of our nation is determined by a financing arm of another country or a board member who is just really the administrator of other people’s money, not the owner of it.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Barnaby Joyce, let me put this to you. We heard from Sydney Liberal MP Jason Falinski earlier on RN Breakfast. He said your plan or this plan that’s been suggested to back the mining sector would be a disaster. Here he is.

JASON FALINSKI: We tried this in the 1980s in Victoria, it was called the Pyramid Building Society. It blew up the Victorian and almost blew up the Australian economy. It made Victorians some of the most indebted people in the world. Governments getting involved in lending money through private sector firms has never worked anywhere in the world. It’s not something that we should try and do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do agree this plan is economically irresponsible?

BARNABY JOYCE: What I’d also say as another part of that discussion is just by reason that someone ends up as a CEO of a bank or on a board doesn’t mean they own the money of that bank. It means they were a very good applicant at an interview and got themselves a very good position. If they then say, “From this position that I’ve got I’m going to make decisions that affect a nation, that affect an industry and basically put at risk thousands of jobs and our nation’s major export…”, that is also –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I understand your critique of the way that financing works.

BARNABY JOYCE: That is also something that will send our – if nation wants to close down our major exports, we will be broke.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Listen to my question because it’s really specific. Do you think the taxpayer should be doing this? Do you think there is an economic risk to doing this?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that the taxpayer doesn’t have to do it if banks decide that they’re actually going to be impartial. If something’s legal then they should be, if the credit paper stacks up, financing it. They shouldn’t just be making boardroom decisions on views about a legal product which underpins the wealth of our nation. We will be a very poor nation very, very quickly if we shut down our nation’s major exports.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I understand you’re critiquing what they’re currently doing, but do you think the taxpayer should step in?

BARNABY JOYCE: I just said the taxpayer shouldn’t have to step in if banks did what they’re supposed to do

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay.

BARNABY JOYCE: For our nation to prevail, it must have export dollars otherwise everything in your life that you look around and say, “That came in on a boat from overseas”, if we do not put product on the boat and send it in the other direction, you will not have that car, you will not have that fuel, you will not have that phone, you will not have that shirt. You will be a very, very poor person. You won’t have the pensions and you won’t have the MBS and all the other things you expect that represents the Australian standard of living.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: All right. Let’s move on. Facebook is facing more pressure after whistle-blower testimony in the US today that the company’s policies harm children and spread misinformation.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yep.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Your family’s been subject to vicious online rumours in recent days. Is your government going to push tech companies harder to crackdown on misinformation?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think it’s absolutely essential that we do. I think that we now have companies that make billions of dollars and people who profess to be multiple billionaires, but they don’t own responsibility for what’s happening on their platform. You can’t say that, “My platform is a vessel of free speech”, but the people who speak on that vessel don’t actually give their names, don’t actually identify who they are, that you allow the people there to stand on that platform and throw bricks at passing motorists and believe that is somehow a just or a moral position. They all of a sudden can’t monitor it but they can collect the money from it, and on the way through basically destroy the advertising process that basically underpins the fourth estate in Australia. From my own personal experience of recent times, you have got to get to a point where you say enough is enough. I know there’s a congressional inquiry in the United States. I intend to discuss issues with the pertinent people there and this has to be an issue that’s not just an Australian issue but a global issue. I’m happy that the United States is taking the impetus to start dealing with this. I think it’s something our nation has to deal with. I think it’s something that every parent who’s having to – we put all these billions of dollars into mental health and one of the greatest mechanisms of the destruction of young people’s mental health is sitting on the kitchen table or in the corner of the room.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Tell me about these rumours. You’ve obviously been pretty upset by them, right?

BARNABY JOYCE: When you hear a rumour that’s been promulgated online and it’s just completely and utterly fictitious and rubbish. My daughter is a strong person, and she had a completely malicious rumour, basically people saying that she had been in a relationship with John Barilaro and that’s why he left, which is just total and utter rubbish. But when you have local media outlets actually approaching you asking you for comment on this, and you say, “What is your source?”, and their source is Facebook or their source is Twitter, and you say well, it’s no good that these platforms just say “Sorry, it’s too hard to”. It’s not too hard for you to collect your billions of dollars from it. Apparently it’s not too hard for you to set up vessels to avoid tax in Australia by setting up your entities in Singapore.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Yeah.

BARNABY JOYCE: All these things are apparently not too hard, but we have got to in this nation, and it’s not – my daughter’s got broad shoulders, she knows how to deal with this.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Absolutely, but she shouldn’t have to endure that.

BARNABY JOYCE: But a lot of other parents can’t.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But I do want to put this to you, right. During the last Federal election campaign, there were rumours again about you and your current partner and then they ended up being, I’m just going to be frank because you and I always are, okay?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: They ended up being true. Now in this case you’re saying your daughter, it’s not true and I think absolutely your daughter should not be smeared like this, but in the other case it was true. Doesn’t that make it a really complex issue, Barnaby Joyce?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think the issue is that I’m a public figure. I’ve always said I’m a public figure and as a public figure I get what I get, I cop what I cop. But I’ve always drawn the line for people who are not public figures and what happens to them. This is an issue of people who are not public figures, and it’s not just my daughter. This is an issue, if you go to any school and talk to any parent, this is one of the greatest fears, the destruction of their children by innuendo, by slur on a macro level and on a micro level. The people who are billionaires, and the Morgan Stanleys and the Dorseys and the Pages, they just sit back and go, “It’s not too hard for us to collect the money but apparently it’s too hard for us to do anything about it”. I just don’t think that’s going to fly any more. I see that there’s congressional inquiry in the US that’s looking into this. I think Australia should be looking into this. I think the idea that someone can have this sort of pseudonym on Twitter and say the most outrageous things, and we in 2021 just sit back and say, “Oh that’s fair enough”, now that’s got to stop.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Barnaby Joyce, thank you for joining me this morning.

BARNABY JOYCE: You’re welcome, Patricia.

ENDS