Interview with Rowan Dean, Sky News Regional, Outsiders

ROWAN DEAN: Well, as I said, I’m in Canberra and I’m delighted to have some of my very, very favourite politicians here with me today. Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister. Great to see you, mate. How are you?

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank you for inviting me onto your show and you’re dead right. I just went down to mass and then went for a cup of coffee. It’s cold and it is wet. Copeton Dam is overflowing. All the dams are overflowing and Mr Flannery, what do you say? It’s going to be dry and hot.

ROWAN DEAN: Even the water that boils will never fill our dams or our rivers.

BARNABY JOYCE: It’ll evaporate before it hits the ground.

ROWAN DEAN: Now, Barnaby, it’s great to see you and we’ll chat about net zero and all those things in a moment. But some great news from the Government today that you’re going to be announcing. You and your family have suffered horrifically from trolls. These are these idiots, these anonymous idiots on Twitter and elsewhere who are so cruel. It’s part of the job so we accept it, but I’ve certainly copped my fair share of this sort of abuse that the Government is now doing something about. Tell us.

BARNABY JOYCE: So they should. What it is you’ve seen that Mr Zuckerberg, Facebook, Instagram, their capacity to go into the lives of mums and dads, find their daughter, predominantly daughters, tell them “you’re too fat, you’re too fat, you’re a scrag”, blah, blah, blah, get inside their head, turn the head upside down, inside out. Next thing you know, eating disorders, all these sort of things coming into play. We spend billions on mental health and we allow these people to make billions of dollars of profits. And then they sit back and say, it’s not us. Oh, we went there, no. As I’ve said before, it might be the ambit. What you see online might be the ambit scratchings on the back of a lavatory door, but it’s no longer a lavatory door. They put a massive billboard in the middle of the city, shine bright lights on it, make billions of dollars of advertising revenue, put the authentic fourth estate, investigative the fourth state, out of a job. Then they say, “Oh, well, this is free speech”. You know? They can say that. If you said it, I said it, a paper said it – straight off to court, straight off to court. But they say “oh, well, you know, wasn’t me. Wasn’t there someone else? I don’t know”. And you say, “Well, mate, if they’re screaming profanities out of the window of your car as it drives randomly round the city, knocking over pedestrians, you can’t just say I wasn’t driving the car because it is your damn car”. That’s the reason they can do it.

ROWAN DEAN: So what will the legislation – I know the Prime Minister is announcing it later, but briefly, what will the legislation do to stop trolls on the internet?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think it’s really important that I let the Prime Minister announce the legislation he’s going to stand in front of. But look, if you said well what’s the magnus of it, the magnus is that your capacity to be anonymous is now going to be fervently challenged. We can ask of the provider, no, that’s not good enough, Mr. Rooster123 is not actually their name. Their name is actually Jim Smith at 55 Jones Street. If you don’t want to tell us that it’s Mr. Smith from 55 Jones Street, we’re not going to find Mr. Rooster123, we’re going to find you, Mark Zuckerberg, and get some money out of you.

ROWAN DEAN: And you had a great line in The Daily Telegraph where you said we want to live in a democracy. I’ll let you do that –

BARNABY JOYCE: If you have a choice between a democracy or a Zuckerbergcy, I know which one I prefer to live in. A democracy comes with certain rules of the Fourth Estate. Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg, you are part of the Fourth Estate because you’re sending them broke.

ROWAN DEAN: Absolutely.

JAMES MORROW: Barnaby Joyce, good to have you with us this morning. I want to ask you, we’ve got this Omicron virus variant that’s going on around the world and already we’re having state premiers closing borders, even changes to the quarantine restrictions and self-isolation for international travellers. What are your thoughts about this? I’m wondering, do you think that government should just take a moment to get some data before they start going the knee jerk, lock down and lock out route?

BARNABY JOYCE: Can I just start with a smart alec thing? And I don’t profess to be expert in this, but it’s a past interest. Wasn’t the last variant, wasn’t it Delta? Last variant. So this one, should it be Epsilon? Because isn’t it Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron. So what happened to all the other ones? Where did they go? Maybe there’s been other variants and we’ve only just found out about this. There you go. Appear on Pub quiz test, but I thought it should be Epsilon. Anyhow, if it’s serious we’ve got to treat it seriously. It’s like any disease, we’ve got to get more information on this. I do not support mandatory vaccinations, right? If you’ve got a certain area where there’s obvious comorbidities like aged care, yep I can understand that. It’s like wearing thongs on a building site. But what’s happening to us is we’re getting lumbered with state laws and they’re coming back to the Federal Government. We don’t tell you that you can’t go to a restaurant. That’s the state. That’s Mrs Palaszczuk. That’s Mr Andrews. We don’t tell you that you can’t go to a cinema. We don’t tell you that you can’t go to a church. These are all state laws. We’ve got to let the state explain their position and the reasoning why. That is also part of democracy. Now we’ve got another variant out there. Five to nine, B, eleven, five to nine. Some so-called Omicron variant, which possibly should be the Epsilon variant. But look, let’s find out what the virologists have to say about it and then we can have a more fervent and open and cogent discussion.

ROWAN DEAN: Well, as we pointed out earlier on the show, they’re one between – there was a new variant as well, and there’s omicron one in between the Z, the XI.

BARNABY JOYCE: The Zeta.

ROWAN DEAN: That’s the one. We’ll there you go –

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank God for Greeks.

ROWAN DEAN: Daisy.

DAISEY COUSENS: Barnaby Joyce, I’ve noticed in general parlance and also we’ve seen this from the freedom protest over the weekend that there seem to be an increasing number of people out there who feel that state and federal governments are often just caving to media hysteria when they implement these very strict COVID laws. Certainly they don’t have confidence in the decisions. A good example is Greg Hunt’s rather impressive backflip over border restrictions because of the Omicron variant. Do you have anything to say to those people to perhaps reassure them that the decisions are made solely on the basis of health advice?

BARNABY JOYCE: What I can say is that even with your border issue, we don’t close down state borders. States close down state borders and the higher lunacy you see in places such as the north of my electorate where we’ve had people where the house is in New South Wales, but their driveway goes into Queensland, they literally had to get a pass to go out to the front gate. And there are concrete bollards almost in the middle of paddocks. This is weird. I always wondered what it would be like to live in East Berlin before the wall came down. Every time you get to go to Queensland and you get to experience in a minor form. This is how the people were and it’s completely crazy. I think we’ve just got to get this sense of balance. We get that you’re dealing with a virus. Of course, you’re dealing with a virus, and you’ve got to be prudent. But this is complete debauching of our democratic capacity to operate as a nation, not as little fiefdoms and principalities has got to stop. The complete intrusion into people’s rights has got to be left behind. We have to clearly state we have given people a logical reason to get vaccinated, and we should premise the process on logic, not on compulsion. I’m vaccinated and I’m one of the vast, vast majority, but we did it. I did it. I imagine, like everybody else, because you thought, well I’ll balance up my alternatives and I’ll make a logical decision. I’ve made it. What they’re doing in places like Queensland, the deft hand of the state is coming in and saying the individual is merely an article of the state. The individual resides in the bowels below the omniscient state. Well no, the state is there to serve the individual. The individual should be above state, and with a slow transition-

DAISEY COUSENS: But Mr. Joyce, I really hate to interrupt you here. But wasn’t it, wasn’t it, Greg Hunt, though, who made the decision about the international border? That’s a federal decision, isn’t it?

BARNABY JOYCE: That is a federal decision. That’s correct. I suppose when you look at it right now, what we are seeing with the so-called Omicron variant making its way into our nation, that yes, you do need a sense of oversight into what’s going on. But as we become more vaccinated, we want to get to the position where you basically leave the airport, walk out the street, go home. That’s what we’re driving.

ROWAN DEAN: And would you like to see no vaccine passports?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t like the idea of so-called vaccine passports. What I can say is that if you’re in an area where there’s a much higher risk where people have comorbidities and I think the rights of those people who you are looking after have to be taken into account. What we’ve got is this slippery slope where the states will say, “Oh, that is for everybody. This is for the people in the restaurant”. That should come down to the restaurant. If they want to enforce those laws as their private property, they can. But they shouldn’t be forced to enforce laws if they don’t – they say, “Well, now you’re coming into my decisions and my life again”.

ROWAN DEAN: Barnaby, the Prime Minister is about to make a statement, but I just wanted to ask you briefly the reason the net-zero deal. You made the argument very cogently that you’d rather be inside the tent as it were and protecting jobs going into net-zero world. How will you protect jobs and what’s to stop bankers or hedge fund managers further down the track, saying you know, we’re-

BARNABY JOYCE: I was having this argument with them just the other day. I said, I tell you what fellas, talking to people of the Business Council of Australia just so you know, if you close down the coal industry and you close down the gas industry, which is our second and third biggest exports, then obviously the demand for that polymer note in your pocket, your $20 note, becomes less because the people overseas, they don’t actually want your insurance agents or your accountancy fees. They want your coal and your gas. But seeing you’re not going to sell that to them anymore, then the value of your currency will go down. The price of everything you import, from your fuel to your phone to your shirt, will go up. Inflation will come to play. Then the Reserve Bank will follow and say, “I must put up interest rates to deal with inflation”. Then the pensioners will come to us and say, “We need more money because we can’t pay for any our lifestyle anymore”. I’ll tell you what, Business Council Australia came up with this brilliant idea, we’re going to go straight back to you and say, “Where are we going to get the money from?” And when the Labor Party comes up with a super profit tax and you come running to us saying, “You must stop this”, we’ll say, “Um, you kind of caused it”.

ROWAN DEAN: Absolutely great. And very quickly. Green hydrogen or nuclear?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve always been a supporter of nuclear. But the Australian people, I think, are going down that path. We’re getting closer and closer and closer. With an honest discussion about the risks and the returns, I think that in due course you’ll have a bipartisan. You see, the Labor Party are going to play us off a break, aren’t they? They’re going to go out with a nuclear power plant in every backyard and all that rubbish. I think the Labor Party are going to get left behind in this.

ROWAN DEAN: But don’t you think the Australian people are smart enough? If you took nuclear power to the next election, they’d get behind you in the same way that John Howard did the GST.

BARNABY JOYCE: Above my pay grade. I have to go back to the backbench for that one.

ROWAN DEAN: Quickly Green hydrogen, which Elon Musk great [indistinct], has said is mind bogglingly stupid. This is Andrew Forest, green hydrogen, mind bogglingly stupid, says Elon Musk.

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m just going to make sure that we keep the lights on by keeping our coal-fired power plants going. I’m going to keep people in jobs because we’re going to keep our mining industry going. I’m going to try and keep our value of our dollar. That underpins everything, because everything you live with in your house – your phone, your car, your lights just go through the whole lot – it all comes in on a boat. We have to be putting something on a boat and sending it in the other direction. Right now, you are selling more coal at a higher price than you ever have before because people want to stay warm, even in Canberra.

ROWAN DEAN: Barnaby Joyce, thanks so much for coming on Outsiders. It’s great to see you mate.

BARNABY JOYCE: You’re welcome.