Press Conference – Gilgai, Inverell Shire Council

BARNABY JOYCE: In regional areas there are times where roads are forgotten about, where roads literally over the last half century haven’t had anything substantial done to them, except for regular maintenance. But these are the roads that a parent will get bogged on because there’s a section that just, when it rains, it gets boggy and it stops them. And that could stop them getting their kids to school. It could stop them getting to the hospital if they are sick, having a heart attack. They’re roads that have corners that there’s been an accident and another a couple of years, 10 years later, another accident, but the bad corner’s still there.

Today I announce $150 million for these forgotten roads across our nation. What this will do is allow people on those roads in those districts to petition their councils and then the councils take forward a recommendation to the department – it goes to an independent grants hub – and if it’s successful in that grants hub process then it comes back, and we will fund 80 to 100 per cent of doing up these roads. Because we know that this is, in many instances, the only hope they’ve got.

These roads – it’s not a case of sealing them; we want to spread the money as far as we possibly can. It might be in certain sections you can get gravel down, another area where you knock a couple of corners out, another area that you might just do a little bit of seal either side of a bridge so you don’t get those big cut divots that happen when you go on to and off a bridge. That’s the sort of outcome that makes roads safer, it makes the area more livable and gives people a sense of security that they can get to hospital when they need to get to hospital, school when they need to get to school, and also that the produce that they bring out is able to be brought out. We’ve got some areas where transport operators say, “I’m just not going in there. I’ll do a tyre, mate. It’ll cost me too much.”

We’ve got roads in this area where people say, “Are you serious? Does someone live up here?” And where I grew up we’ve got roads like that. And that’s why it’s important. But it’s not just about here at Gilgai; it might be between Alice Springs and Santa Teresa. It might be up in Cape York. It might be down in Tasmania. But they’re there and I think this gives those people who say, “If it just came down to the numbers of how many people there were, we’d never get it, because very few people live here. So we don’t really have political power,” and they’re the people I like to focus on. To reach down to the bottom and say, “We’re going to help the bottom get up.”

JOURNALIST: Fantastic. Well, have you got a bit of time for one or two questions about the Opposition’s movements around the electorate?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, sure.

JOURNALIST: The main message that Anthony Albanese brought forward today was that you’re anti-jobs, you’re anti-renewable jobs in your own electorate. How would you respond to that?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, you know, first of all, I welcome Mr Albanese to the electorate of New England. Do you know, credit where credit’s due – good on him for coming up. What I can say is that Mr Albanese, let’s go through this. Let’s look at the mining jobs that you’re putting under threat. Your coal mining jobs and your gas jobs. Because your party doesn’t believe in fossil fuels, you don’t believe in coal. You can hardly say the word. So I can take you to the coal mining towns, Mr Albanese. I can take you to Muswellbrook –

SPEAKER: Do you mind if we pause? There’s a car coming.

JOURNALIST: You were discussing you were taking him to communities that are losing jobs.

BARNABY JOYCE: And I say to Mr Albanese, you know, you don’t believe in coal mining jobs. No-one is thrilled by a big pit in the ground, but they’re thrilled by the money that supports the town and supports the shops and supports the hairdressers. So, Mr Albanese, I can take you to the coal mining towns. Gunnedah is underpinned by coal mining. Bogabri, Muswellbrook, sections of Newcastle, Singleton, Emerald, Biloela, and on – Hay Point, big sections of the Mackay area, all supported by the mining industry. And Mr Albanese, you won’t even say the word “coal”. It’s almost like it’s some totemic word that you’re too scared to be seen in a coal mine.

Well, Mr Albanese, I hear what you say about renewables. But, Mr Albanese, take me to the renewable town. Take me to the renewable town like Gunnedah that’s been created by renewables, or the industrial renewable town that looks like Gladstone that was created by – Gladstone from mining. Show me to the renewable one.

Remember, these renewables are fully imported from overseas, right? Fully imported. Maybe the concrete might have come from Australia. Maybe a little bit of the tower came from Australia. They’re 70 per cent foreign owned. So they’re fully imported, 70 per cent foreign owned, and it’s just not the truth. You don’t go to a wind farm and see hundreds and hundreds of people wandering around working. It just doesn’t happen. It’s not like an abattoir and it’s not like a coal mine; it’s just not the truth, Mr Albanese.

So when you talk about hundreds of thousands of jobs, well, where are they? They’re contractors. The contractors come in and build them and the contractors go out and go somewhere else. Expertise comes in from overseas, expertise goes back. And sure, we’ll have renewable power, but don’t spin me the yarn that there’s a big new city that we haven’t heard of yet that was created by the renewable industry, because it just – it’s just a load of rubbish. It’s not the case.

JOURNALIST: I suppose Labor’s position is that they are going to go perhaps a little further, but not that much further than the Coalition, on net zero. So, really, how many coal jobs is that going to threaten in the short term?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I just want to make sure that we don’t threaten any coal jobs. Now, if the global demand changes, well, okay, that’s something we have to manage, and we do that by making sure we grow a parallel economy – a parallel economy through hydrogen to other issues so we give people a sense of security. Critical minerals. Okay, if this one starts trending off, then that one is building up and you can go from that one to that one and still have a job. Still make your house payments. Still make your car payments. Still pay for the kids at school. Okay? That’s what we’re trying to do.

What Mr Albanese said – and you’ve got to get it from him, you know, you’ve got to ask him upfront – he wants to legislate. Legislate creates laws. Laws outlaw things. Laws are enforced by penalties. So, Mr Albanese, what are you planning to outlaw?

JOURNALIST: Yeah, sure. I guess the overall impression that Labor’s trying to create is that you’re kind of the face of the government, really. You know, they’re talking probably more about you than the Prime Minister at the moment on this. How does that make you feel?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I’m glad Mr Albanese is fascinated by me. I’m flattered. I feel a little bit awkward about it, but, you know, I suppose – well, if he wants to come up to the New England and talk about me, well, happy days.

JOURNALIST: Fantastic.