Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News/First Agenda


PETER STEFANOVIC: Joining us live is the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Barnaby, good morning. What is a realistic timeframe in your view that we could be working towards by acquiring these hypersonic missiles? Because critics have said that they are experimental and prone to delays.

BARNABY JOYCE: They’re not experimental. The Chinese have managed to fly them around the world, launch them with a missile then have them in a hypersonic glide process in a low orbit around the world and they’ve hit within miles of their target, which if you’ve got a nuclear warhead on it, it’s good enough as bang on. What we see with hypersonics is they have the capacity in reports to go to Mach 8 – eight times the speed of sound. They go in a lower trajectory and by reason of hypersonic glide, they have the capacity to not follow the parabolic arc of a ballistic missile as they hypersonic glide they can change path, which makes them very hard to detect and even harder to hit. This gives an existential threat to Australia, probably about 14 minutes after they are launched, they would be able to reach here. Think about that – this place, Sydney, have a think about that. And so we have to make sure that we are right at the top of our game. Now, America are developing hypersonics and we have to make sure that we’re part of this. It shows you the strength of AUKUS and also it gives big, clear flashing lights that we have to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. I’m going to keep saying that till people are so sick of hearing it, but this is the issue that is before our nation. Working within that AUKUS arrangement so that we can keep this place safe is incredibly important for the whole of Australia and other cities likewise.

PETER STEFANOVIC: So can we have them in your view within five years? Is that the information that you’re getting?

BARNABY JOYCE: China’s got them now. Russia’s developed them. America’s developed them. I’m not going to pretend to be privy to exactly what stage of development they are in the United States, but we will be, like with so many things from the AUKUS arrangement, making sure that we do everything to show that we understand that the circumstances of a liberal democratic rules-based system in the world has changed. We’ve seen that in Ukraine. We can see what’s happening with the Chinese pushing their way into the Solomon Islands and trying to set up a naval base there. We know what this means. Australia has to become as strong possible as quickly as possible. I want to be part of a government that does precisely that and tells you how we’re going to pay for it. That’s why we want to expand the Pilbara, Darwin port, Bundaberg, Townsville, Gladstone and the Hunter Valley and Newcastle, so we can earn the dollars that pay for our requirements, rather than just say, yeah, this is an issue and not say how you’re going to pay for it, actually show that you have the capacity and the will to make every section of our economy strong. Because just saying I want a strong Defence Force is not enough. You’ve got to have a strong nation in every facet that it’s part of to be able to stand behind it and support it.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Peter Dutton mentioned yesterday that conflict could happen in our region within the next couple of years. Is that the timeframe that you’re working towards as well? Could we face war in our region within – by 2025?

BARNABY JOYCE: The big word there is could, and the ultimate outcome is we don’t want that to happen, but one of the greatest ways to protect your freedom and to deter any conflict is to be strong. The biggest deterrent to any bully is another person who is strong enough and says, “Well, I won’t take a step back and I will protect the liberties and freedoms of Australia and we won’t be made a supplicant state. We won’t have someone put their foot on our throat. That’s not going to happen.” But you can’t just say that if you don’t actually have the capacity to back it up. That’s why within this Budget, the Pilbara, why are we expanding the Pilbara, making it stronger? So that our nation can earn more money. Why do we want the Hunter Valley to expand? Because that’s our biggest coal exporting port, so our nation can make more money. Why do we want Bundaberg to expand as a port? So we can export more sugar and make more money. Why do we want to build those dams? To expand our agricultural capacity and make our nation stronger so that we can defend ourselves. Why do we want to build the Inland Rail? To build the economy of our nation from Brisbane through to Melbourne and all the towns – Parkes, Goondiwindi, Narrabri – in between to make our nation stronger. It’s not just a glib statement, “Oh, we want to be strong and I love my Defence Force and, you know, we all go to Anzac Day,” as we should. But it’s actually saying that’s not enough. You’ve actually got to do the things that make that happen. That means hard decisions, some of which a lot of people are not going to like, but your nation comes first. And you make the hard decisions, drive forward and the let the Australian people be the judge. They’ve got to make the decision as to which side they think is most competent to be able to do that. I genuinely believe it is our side. If you’ve got a choice between Peter Dutton and Brendan O’Connor, who not even Mr Albanese wants him as his Defence Minister, I know which way I’m going.

PETER STEFANOVIC: A couple of other points before we go: the Prime Minister says he was standing up for women by intervening in the New South Wales preselection process. Given his previous women problem, do you believe him?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m not going to involve myself in the internal machinations of the Liberal Party. I’m very happy that we have now got this issue settled and we go forward to an election with candidates. That’s incredibly important. It’s important, I think, obviously to the Liberals and to the Nationals, the Coalition as a whole, that is important. We must focus on the main game now. This is an election about our nation and our nation’s future. I’m very happy that the Liberal Party has now got candidates in the field and we’re ready for them to call an election.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Most polls have Labor ahead at this stage. And issues of truth, though, continue to dog the Prime Minister. Is he the weakest link for the party come May?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I think that, as I’ve always said about politics, it’s a bit like a dentist. You don’t have to like the person or dislike them, all you’ve got to know is that when they’ve got that drill in your mouth you trust them to be able to do the job. We know that in a choice between Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese that Mr Morrison has the capabilities in very tough times – and they are tough times for our nation, we’re not making this up, what’s happening in the Ukraine is not a bad movie, what’s happening in the Solomons is not put on for show, these things are really happening – that we’ve got the person with the capability to do that. But it’s a team. Remember, it’s not just Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese, it’s whether you want Marise Payne as your Foreign Minister or Penny Wong, whether you want Peter Dutton as your Defence Minister or Brendan O’Connor, whether you want Josh Frydenberg as the Treasurer or sneaky Jim Chalmers, or whether you want even myself and Catherine King. I bet you there’s a lot of people out there who wouldn’t actually know who Catherine King was, but she’s the opposition infrastructure minister, and what is her views about us building dams and railway lines? Which ones are they going to support? We haven’t heard boo from them because they know that once they have to push up against their Green allies that they can’t say they’re going to build dams and they can’t say they’re going to build railway lines because the Greens won’t let them.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Well on that, Chris Bowen wants a climate summit here. It’s one of his election pledges. Should we proceed with that, too?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, there you go. There you go. Bingo. Well, obviously the Greens would be very enthusiastic about that. Maybe when they’re talking to China and Russia here they can bring up a few other issues such as why are you incrementally coming into our region, what are you actually doing in the Ukraine? There’s a lot of issues they could bring up at that conference. What we’re seeing is climate is an important issue, but I’ve said it’s not the most important issue. The most important issue right now is the defence of our nation and how we do it. Obviously, straight away you’re seeing the Labor Party having to comply with the requirements of the Greens and Mr Bowen’s gone out and announced obviously something that’s very important but you can see the inflection. Why isn’t the first thing they should be having a defence seminar about how we defend our nation? That would be a good thing to have.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Are you still on for May 14, if you’re gambling. Are you still there?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, on Sportsbet, I don’t know. Look, it can only be one of two days – May 14th or May 21st and it’s completely and utterly the Prime Minister’s decision. And I’ll let the Prime Minister make that.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Barnaby Joyce, good to see you. We’ll talk to you soon.