Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News, First Agenda

PETER STEFANOVIC: Let’s go to Canberra now and we’ll try to find out what’s going on. Joining us is the Leader of the National Party and the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. Barnaby, good to see you. So what’s your take on this backflip? The Queensland Premier taking tests, then going for certificates, now going back to tests, possibly saving 150 bucks per traveller? How have you made sense of this?

BARNABY JOYCE: Chaotic, scatter-brained politics of the Queensland Premier. I mean, what on Earth is going on? For 24 hours she goes out there and all of a sudden everybody would have to go to a pathologist, get a written certificate to go back to their home state. I don’t get this. And then all of a sudden she tries to pull this swifty, this sneaky little swifty of, “Oh, well, we want the Federal Government to pay for it.” She put outs a tweet welcoming that the Federal Government is paying for it, based on what? Based on – I don’t know – whatever was floating through her head at that time. And now it’s back to where we’ve always been – that you get a test, it’s 50-50 between the state and the Federal Government. For the person who gets the test, it’s free. And we’re back to where we started. I don’t know – for 24 hours – I don’t know, she was moved by the spirits, I think. I don’t know what was going on. But what worries me is she’s running the state and that is a bit of a concern.

PETER STEFANOVIC: I mean, I’m confused. I’m going up to Queensland, hopefully, at Christmas, and I’ve got no idea now what to. So as far as you can tell, Barnaby, what does a traveller who wants to go to Queensland now need to do?

BARNABY JOYCE: Worry about what the next iteration coming out of the Premier’s mouth is going to be. I don’t know. Just stay glued to the radio and decide whether in the Empire of Ana things are going to change before you get to the border to go home. A lot of these things, it’s kind of crazy. It’s dark side of the moon stuff. If you break your leg in Queensland and it’s not life threatening and you’re not from Queensland, you have to go to a hospital in New South Wales. Who’s running the show? I mean, this is really dippy stuff. And then you’ve got their inability to go and talk to their own people about their own policies in regards to vaccination. They hide down in the bunker in Brisbane, in George Street in Brisbane, when they should be up in Yeppoon talking to the people and explaining their government’s policies to their people. But that’s Queensland. Beautiful one day and unfortunately run by Ana the next.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Meanwhile the vaccination rates continue to lag. Meanwhile, Barnaby, on to matters out of Canberra, disunity is death goes the saying. So how do you win the election next year with rebel MPs crossing the floor and either abstaining or voting against the Government?

BARNABY JOYCE: Anybody who’s been around politics for a fair while realises that the last two weeks of any sitting year are always tetchy, and this one is no different. I firmly believe that the views of the people who have concerns on certain issues, they have one greater concern and that is that you’ll end up with a Labor-Green government, because that’s the alternative. The alternative to the Nationals and the Liberals is a Labor-Green government. Just go listen to the policies of Adam Bandt. All the industries would shut down, all the mining industries should shut down. What would happen to the value of our dollar if that was to happen? By reason of our dollar going down the price of goods going up, inflation going up, interest rates having to track inflation up. It would be a complete and utter economic disaster for Australia if the Green policies which would be part of a Labor-Green government were to come into play.

PETER STEFANOVIC: So have you had to, you know, bring some of your members into line, such as George Christensen?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t walk around with a mallet. That won’t work. George is a very competent, very intelligent person, as are they all. And, therefore, you’ll have discussions no doubt. I’ll continue those discussions, but I’m not going to go around and start ordering people. The Nationals pride themselves on being the most democratic party in the parliament. We’ll remain that way and we’ll have discussions. But I know for one thing that George does not want a Labor-Green government. None of these people – Gerard Rennick, I imagine, does not want – he’s in the Liberal Party – does not want a Labor-Green government. I mean, that’s ultimately the question that they go before the people. You have a Labor-Green government or you have a Nationals-Liberal government. And I think that the Labor-Green government is a pretty dangerous alternative.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Right. So, I mean it’s vaccines that is at the heart of this. What’s your response to George’s claim that the Government should end vaccine discrimination?

BARNABY JOYCE: Overwhelmingly – overwhelmingly – in fact, the things that people are protesting about in Queensland and other places, you can’t go to the shops, or there’s restrictions going to the shops – they’re state laws. You can’t go to a church – state laws. You can’t go to a pub – state laws. You can’t go to a sports stadium – state laws. How you congregate in public – state laws. These are state laws. What the state is doing back in the Empire of Ana is they’re just – the states are wanting to make it look like this is a federal issue. It’s not. The states make the laws, so the problem is with the states. The Federal Government has not passed one law saying everybody must be mandatorily vaccinated. We don’t. In certain very small niche areas where there’s high risk such as aged care –

PETER STEFANOVIC: International arrivals.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, sure. Niche areas. The Federal Government does not believe and does not propose to have across-the-board mandatory vaccinations. In fact, we’re completely against it. So what the states do and the problems the states cause, the states must answer for. I keep saying why, why, why give the states cover for the problems the states created?

PETER STEFANOVIC: So do you think those mandates should end when it comes to the states? Do you in that sense agree with George?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think there’ll come a time where the states can make up their own mind, but if the states get to a point where they believe enough people are vaccinated then I think life should go on. Once more, I’m not going to buy into the states having to do the states’ jobs. If the states aren’t capable of doing their job, then just get out of the way. These problems that people have, that people are demonstrating about, are problems created by states. I’m not going to get myself on the hook trying to answer for Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk and whatever idea is floating through her head today or Miles and his sort of edicts and orations from George Street in the middle of Brisbane when she should be in the middle of Queensland, or Mr Andrews or Mr McGowan. They’re the ones who put themselves on these soapboxes so they can get themselves off them.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Barnaby, just a quick one before we go on the religious discrimination bill, some of those details out today. Have you got any concerns with what you’ve been able to see so far?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that it’s been negotiated to the nth degree. There are people on both sides. Some people want it to be stronger and other people say, you know, they’ve still got concerns. I tell you one thing– we told the Australian people that we were going to bring this into the Parliament. We told the Australian people – and we won an election – that we would have this bill to our best endeavours through, and I think that’s precisely what we should do. Obviously, on our side, there’s a large part of the constituency of the Nationals and Liberals who have strong faith convictions and they need to be respected and they need to be supported and they need to be protected. This is a part of how we go about that, but a lot of people in those communities who wish it would have actually gone further. I think we’ve met in the middle. Let’s get on with it and get it through and move on.

PETER STEFANOVIC: So is there a danger of – just a final one here – is there a danger that because you’ve got to satisfy so many different parties that it just gets watered down so much and many might ask, “Do you even need to do it?”.

BARNABY JOYCE: No, it’s a good bill. It’s a good bill and it needs to go through. It’s supported. But what I do say is that people have come to the table and everybody’s given something up to arrive at that table. And we know what we want – we want to make sure that a person who has a faith does not have to hide it under a blanket, as long as it’s not out there to hurt people, physically maim people. But you don’t have to hide your faith under a blanket in Australia. You have your faith, you can state your faith and that’s a big part of so many people’s lives. In so many other nations it’s protected and it should be protected in the same vein in Australia.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, Barnaby Joyce, good to have you with us this morning, as always. Thanks for your time. Talk to you soon.

BARNABY JOYCE: You’re welcome, Pete.