Interview with Paul Culliver – ABC Capricornia

PAUL CULLIVER: What would be the benefit of extending the Inland Rail project from the south east corner up to Gladstone? Well, that’s what $10 million is going to be spent on to find out, the Federal Government committing to that on Friday. Interestingly, that was a recommendation that came out of the Senate inquiry into the Inland Rail project. The recommendation was that the Inland Rail business case be updated to include an assessment of all proposed routes from Toowoomba to the ports of Brisbane and Gladstone. That recommendation was dissented on by Coalition senators. Gerard Rennick and Senator Susan McDonald, two senators that sat on the inquiry, did not agree with that recommendation. However, the Federal Government have decided they’re going to spend some money on it.

Barnaby Joyce is the Deputy Prime Minister. He is also the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Deputy Prime Minister, good morning to you.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, how are you? Good morning to Capricornia.

PAUL CULLIVER: I’m very good. Why are you spending money on this despite your colleagues disagreeing with the approach?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I believe that we have an Inland Rail that will be able to take bulk commodities into Gladstone. I think it’s vitally important. And, you know, as I got the money, to be quite frank, to start the Inland Rail, then Michael McCormack continued on with it, and now I’m going to push it through. And all the time people – you’ve always had cynics, and I know Colin Boyce is a big supporter of Inland Rail. You’ve had the cynics saying, “You can’t do it.” You’ve had the cynics for ages saying, “You’d never get it from out of Melbourne to Brisbane.” And you just push through. You’ve got a vision and we’ve got a vision for this nation, and we’ve got to make the industrial city of Gladstone grow, and we do that by making it stronger in its connection to both the coal and also the bulk commodities in grain, which is in northern New South Wales and the south west corner of Queensland. And this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to push it through, make it happen, and watch this space.

PAUL CULLIVER: Senator Susan McDonald and Senator Gerard Rennick were sitting on that Senate inquiry, they don’t agree with it. Does that make them a cynic?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I don’t think so. People are entitled to different opinions. I know that it’s well supported in Gladstone. It’s well supported by Colin Boyce. It’s going to be a great attribute to that part of the world. The people of Gladstone are so proud of their industrial city, and this gives it another string to the bow. It’s not a case of either/or, it’s and – and going to go to Brisbane and going to go to Gladstone. And that’s the whole point. We start with business case. We’ve got a lot of people around there, a lot of people who are highly supportive of it going to Gladstone, and I’m sure we’re going to confirm what they already know.

PAUL CULLIVER: Obviously the local RDA have a lot to be credited on pushing this idea. It then got taken up by the Labor senators who obviously pushed this through on the Senate inquiry. So what’s to be made of the Federal Government funding what was a Labor idea in parliament?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, if Labor believed in the Inland Rail they would have built it, wouldn’t they? But they didn’t. When Mr Albanese as the infrastructure minister back in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd time, they hadn’t started it. Nothing happened. So you’ve got to judge people – you’ve got to judge a horse by its form work on the track, don’t you? And if they never actually started building the Inland Rail, it’s all very well being late to the party saying you’ll build the Toowoomba to Gladstone link, well, why didn’t you build the rest of it? I mean, we said we were going to do it. We’re doing it. It’s happening right now. And we’re going to continue building on. We’ll start the business case so that people can say it’s not – you know, it stands up. And I’m absolutely certain it will. The time they did the initial business case – which I also got the money for – well, things have changed and moved on since then. We’re now exporting record volumes of coal at record prices, making sure our nation keeps its books in order. And I say to the Labor Party, well, if you were going to build it, you would have, but you didn’t. We did.

PAUL CULLIVER: Are you spending this money so Labor can’t wedge you on this issue in the seat of Flynn?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, in fact, I’ve had this vision right from the start. And the Nationals and the Coalition were as part of that vision from the start. You’ve got to remember, right from the very start the first iteration of a business plan, we put that money on the table. And that was years and years ago. And I suppose at that time the Labor Party didn’t support it. I can’t even see – I don’t think they built one inch of the Inland Rail to be quite frank. Not an inch of it. So it’s – you know, I’m happy that they’re now supporting what we’re building and happy that they’re supporting our vision to go to the Gladstone, but it’s our vision and we’re doing it. And this, by reason of people such as Colin Boyce, who drive these agendas through, and I’ll be working with Colin as closely as I can to see it happen.

PAUL CULLIVER: Given the project’s been around for something like a decade now, why is it that it’s taken so long for Gladstone to get into the mix?

BARNABY JOYCE: Ask others. You can’t blame me for that because I’m doing it. And if other people don’t want to do it, I mean, we’ve got cynics all the way through. People have said that we shouldn’t build it, you shouldn’t build dams, they shouldn’t have built Rookwood. We got the money for that. You shouldn’t build Inland Rail. We got the money for that. You know, we shouldn’t build Urannah, we’re getting the money for that. We’re starting on that. Shouldn’t build Emu Swamp Dam, but we’ve got the money for that. Our whole life is dealing with cynics and driving through and making it happen. And when it’s in regional Australia – when it’s in regional Australia – you’ve got to stand behind the party that stands behind your jobs, whether it’s coal jobs, whether it’s jobs that require affordable power. You know, if you’ve got this sort of, you know, unquestioning attachment to 2050 zero emissions, well, what does that mean for the city of Gladstone? How do they work into that? Have they explained that to them?

PAUL CULLIVER: Just staying on the Inland Rail issue, so obviously the project is well advanced. How quickly does this study have to get done into extending it up to Gladstone so that it can be included?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I want to start it straight away. And just the other day I put another $20 million on the table to start the process of the billion-dollar leg that takes it from basically the New South Wales border to Toowoomba. There’s been so many inquiries, but we’re driving through with that. And I have to say, if you – what the Labor Party are very good at is coming up with new inquiries and new suggestions and new possible studies for this, that and the other which ultimately at the end only creates inertia and slows it down.

Now, we’re driving forward with the route from the New South Wales border to Queensland. We’re building the route from Narrabri – it’s under actually construction, you can see it – from Narrabri up to the New South Wales border. We’ve built it from Parkes up to Narromine. We’re going to make sure that we see this thing complete. We’ve got links from Narromine to Narrabri, and that’s underway. As I just said, we’ve started on the billion-dollar link from the Queensland border up. And we’ve got the business case on the table to take it from Toowoomba through to Gladstone because we want to build that as well.

PAUL CULLIVER: Yeah, when do you want that business case delivered to you?

BARNABY JOYCE: As soon as possible. And, you know, the money’s there. It’s been announced. Get on with it and get started.

PAUL CULLIVER: Well, what are we talking like? Six months, a year, a couple of years?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I would hope – I would definitely hope that it’s back within a year. I’d like to see it in six months, but the money’s there. I’m not here to – I don’t do the business case. I provide on behalf of the taxpayer the money for the business case. That’s done. We can start it now.