Press Conference – Maneela Park

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much, Mayor Kay. And Mayor Kay told me innumerable times when I came here, she said, “Just remember that we are bigger than Newcastle.” So I won’t make a tragic mistake and cause a disaster for my first press conference down here.

I’d also like to acknowledge the traditional owners who are so important every part of Australia that we live in. I’d like to recognise the councillors who are here. I’d like to make a special recognition to Rose Davies. Isn’t it an incredible thing to have a person who represented our nation, wore the green and gold, and, I know Rose would get an incredible buzz out of that experience, but we get an incredible sense of pride from all our Olympians because they represent us and we live vicariously through them, and their successes become our successes and their happiness becomes our happiness. Over time, we will always look back as if we did it somehow ourselves. And, Rose, you’re an incredible part of that. A 5,000-metre race, I just don’t know why someone would do that. In my previous time I used to do 800 – about 40 kilograms ago – the 800 and 1,500, and they hurt. They really hurt. You’re a better person than I could ever, ever be. To Nick, likewise. Nick also having represented our nation at 2.25 metres, is that it? I couldn’t touch that if I had to jump up on the spot let alone jump over it. Nick, thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been here before. My daughter collected the baton on the second leg just there, just over there. All my daughters were very, very good athletes, and one of them, Julia, she was a champion athlete for south west Queensland. So whether we were following them around to netball or following them around to softball, following them around to athletics, following them around to touch football. One of my daughters, Caroline, she’s down here at the moment doing med – she swam in the state finals for breaststroke in swimming in Queensland, which was quite something. Queensland’s kind of keen on swimming. It’s really important – it’s really important – what sport does. Sport allows you to be another section of your personality that might be hard to explain to others. You can be, not to the detriment of yourself, but have a different side to in your personality that nobody actually knows – that nobody actually knows. And you can surprise people because there’s something you can do that is clever, that is particular, that is different, that adds to who you are – that adds to who you are.

I would also like to acknowledge James Thomson, who’s right here. The wonderful thing about democracy is you have a competition between – you give people the opportunity to make a choice, and I’m sure that Joel will be around with the Labor Party candidate, and I’m walking around with James who’s the Nationals candidate, and that’s good because it gives you choice. That’s why we live here and not in other countries. Great that we have that opportunity.

To be here today to be able to announce $10 million from the Federal Government towards a $25.7 million project is an incredible attribute that will be to the great City of Lake Macquarie, which is vastly bigger than Newcastle – not only to you but for Muswellbrook, for Singleton, for Scone, to allow you to compete with Tamworth – and we’ve got our own sporting precinct about near Tamworth, to do that – so that we can generate the future Roses of this area, the next Rose. And we can generate the next Nick. And we can show to people in this area that you can come here and have the premier facilities, not have to just go to Sydney. There are other places on the map apart from Sydney. So Mayor Kay, thank you very much for your warm welcome here. Thank you. It’s been an incredible surprise, I never knew this was coming. And thank you everybody for attending today. I wish you all the very best. And on behalf of the taxpayer I’m sure you will spend their money well and properly and create a great facility. All the best, and God bless.

JOURNALIST: Mr Joyce, we’ve got a federal election looming. You’ve mentioned your Nationals candidate today. Is this a case of pork-barrelling?

BARNABY JOYCE: I love it when I get that question. We do have an election coming up and I do have my candidate here, James Thomson, and that’s a great thing about democracy. I’m sure the Labor Party will have their candidate. And that’s what you’ve got to do – you’ve got to give people that opportunity to look over the product that’s before them on the political shelf and make a decision. In fact, you shouldn’t be shy about it – it’s your job. Get out with your candidate, stand with them and let people make their choice. Because that’s what I love about this nation.

The next question is it pork-barrelling? It drives me insane. Every time Sydney gets something, apparently it’s a great decision. It’s a great decision they spend billions of dollars on a tunnel. It’s a great decision they get a new railway line to the Western Sydney Airport where we’re going to be spending even further billions of dollars and you’ve got to have that new arts precinct. It’s a great decision that the Sydney Opera House is there even though it doesn’t really make much money, okay? But all these things in Sydney are great decisions. And something magical happens – you cross over the Hawkesbury and it’s pork-barrelling. It’s pork-barrelling. And so I don’t care what they call it we’re going to drive to make sure that people, whether in Lake Macquarie, whether in Muswellbrook, Singleton, Tamworth, Wellington, if they go out to Dubbo – and they can call it what they like. I don’t care what they want to do to me or other people in the Nationals. We’re going to make sure we drive so we get some services out here.

These things had hard fought for. Nationals brought these policies ahead because we got sick of being left behind. And what we see today in Lake Macquarie, $10 million is coming out here. If they spent this in –­ I don’t know, somewhere in the centre of Sydney, they wouldn’t even blink. They would say, “You know, we always had to have that second statue of a great big owl. It’s incredibly important. It adds to us.” We want sporting facilities and we’re going to go in and fight for them. The best thing to do is to make sure that our political opponents in this incredible democracy and the Labor Party say, “We’ll match it, we’ll do better. We’ll also have a bigger fund than the Nationals. We’ll do a better fund than the Nationals for regional Australia.” Because in that contest we’re all better off.

JOURNALIST: While you’re speaking about arts funding, $344 million is being spent at New South Wales Art Gallery in Sydney. Newcastle Art Gallery needs $10 million of either state or federal funding, and they’re currently waiting for a grant I believe actually from your department. Do you have any news on that? It’s the last $10 million that they need for their project to finally go ahead. They’ve raised $10 million themselves.

BARNABY JOYCE: I can find out about that. Why don’t you leave that with me and let me get back to you. But I think you just once more put your finger on the button – how much were they spending in Sydney again?

JOURNALIST: $344 million.

BARNABY JOYCE: $340 million. That must be pork-barrelling. $340 million in one suburb, in one suburb. That’s outrageous. Outrageous. Stop that. Send them to ICAC.

JOURNALIST: While we’re talking about funding, the Lake Macquarie-Glendale transport interchange has been on the cards for so long. Feds put some money in in 2017. Is there any more money coming this way to try and get this project off the ground?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’re trying as much as we can to pour money into this region. Into this region we’ve got $1.6 billion I believe that we’re putting into the bypass of that other place down the road. And what we are going to make sure is we drive these things forward. We’re spending billions of dollars on the upgrades in this area. We’ve got $770 million that is going to be spent on the Singleton bypass, $1.6 billion down here. So it’s not millions, it’s not hundreds of millions – it’s billions. And we’re going to make sure that we do whatever we can to assist. And I’m not going to start pre-empting, but what I can say is judge us by our record and the money that we are spending in this area to bring the road infrastructure here ahead.

JOURNALIST: How far away do you think you are from an election, Barnaby, in your opinion, and how many seats is the Coalition targeting here?

BARNABY JOYCE: Just between you and me, okay? I don’t know. The Prime Minister makes that call. So I can say this without giving away anything – because I don’t know anything, right – I can’t see it happening before Christmas. He said he’s going to go to full term, so that’s sometime down the track next year. Obviously he has to go before I think it was May next year. So it will be May or before. So, you know, you make the best from that. But it’s the one thing the Prime Minister can do completely and utterly on his own and he doesn’t have to tell anybody. He just swans up to Government House, rings the doorbell and next thing you know it’s on the news.

JOURNALIST: So it is freedom day here in New South Wales. Do you think the regions should be opening given our vaccination rates aren’t quite up there with the state average yet?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think there’s still restrictions on people travelling from Sydney to the regions. The main thing I want is people getting vaccinated – as many people get vaccinated twice as quickly as possible. We’re all over this. We’re all sick of it. And we’re all sick of working out whether, you know, where we can go with a mask and where can’t we go with a mask and how that’s going to work and am I going to get pinged 200 bucks because I forgot to put it on as I went into a servo in Armidale one day? It’s making sure that we get to a point where we get our liberties and freedoms back. I want us to get to that point as quickly as possible, Matty. I want us to get to that point so that we can just put this as something we’re living with but not with the onerous encumbrances that are currently on our liberties and freedoms. We just – as Australians we just don’t like – we’ll comply with it because we’re a law-abiding people, incredibly law-abiding people. But we’re kind of sick of it and we want to move on.

JOURNALIST: Cases in the Indigenous population, in the Hunter region, there was at least 60 just last week. Does that concern you, that cases are going up?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, it does. It does. And one of the things that I’ve brought on your behalf – or everybody’s behalf – to the National Security Committee is making sure we have a real focus – now they call themselves Aboriginals, so I’ll say Aboriginal – on the Aboriginal community, the Indigenous community because they have real vulnerabilities. And I’m very, very focused on that. And because of low vaccination rates and also culturally how – especially with funerals and there’s a real movement of people from one area to another. That’s why we do still – and it’s part of the Doherty plan – we do need targeted, very targeted, lockdowns into the future, and we still need to make sure we drive that vaccination rate up in the Aboriginal community. We’re very lucky that our fatality rate has been low, but that’s luck. And we’ve got to keep it low. Ultimately, all this is about is trying to keep people alive. That’s what it was all about – trying to keep people alive and not have unnecessary deaths, like they had overseas. If we followed the trajectory of other OECD countries – every human life is worth exactly the same at another – but Australia’s done so well compared to what happened in other countries. And we have been so lucky, but we want to get this thing to the end now, get to a period of time in our life where we get back the freedoms that we had.

JOURNALIST: A couple of questions for Nine Canberra, if that’s okay?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah.

JOURNALIST: Can you name the Nationals price for signing up to net zero? What exactly are you asking for?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ll tell you why I can’t name it because it’s not actually my decision. It’s the Nationals party room decision, and I’ve said that all the way from the start. The Nationals party room – we’ll have a meeting today and we will talk about the process – the process – not whether we agree to it or not – the process of going forward of how we do that. And then, I suppose after the cabinet’s met and discussed it and we get access to what’s involved with that actually document, we will then have a discussion about whether people agree with it or not, in full, in part and how that happens.

It’s going to be a very arduous process for me because I know within my party room there are vastly divergent views, like there is in the community, like there is in regional areas. We’ve got to somehow manage that process. I think that if you want to talk about where as a joint position do you have something in common – that is, it doesn’t affect regional areas. Now, we going back to Lake Macquarie, we go back to Tamworth, we go back to Singleton, we go back to Cessnock and say to these people, “You’re not going to be put out of a job”. That’s the big issue for us. Because people want their new house. They want to be able to buy a new car. They want to be able to spend money on their kids and their education. They don’t want us jerking the economic rug out from underneath their feet.

We’ve got a responsibility in the Nationals because they’re in our area. The people are not going to be effected in Warringah. They’re not going to be really affected in Woolloomooloo. They’re not really going to be affected in Turramurra. And God bless those people – they’re wonderful, but they’re not really going to be affected. But these people in this area, if we get it wrong, will be. We’ve let this happen to us before. Basically we woke up one day and they found out they’d met their equation by saying, “See all that part of your land over there that you used to own? Well, now we own it,” and that’s how they did the Kyoto process. So we’ve been done over once before. Because we’ve been done over once before in regional Australia, we’re all eyes and ears and we’re not giving anything away. We’re just keeping our cards very close to our chest and we’re being polite – we’re being polite to the Prime Minister, we’re being polite to everybody. We’re going to watch this. We’re going to make sure that we do the thing that protects our people and looks after our people. And who are our people? Regional people.

JOURNALIST: So can you get the whole party room on board by the end of the month?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t think I’m ever going to get the whole party room on board, no. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. We’re the freest party in Australia. The difference between the Nationals and others is – so you say you’ve got the whole Labor Party on board. Well, they’ve got to say they’re on board otherwise they’re kicked out of the party. That’s not what I believe in. Even the Liberal Party is a bit that way. Greens – they’re remarkable. They always think the same. Amazing. They should only send one of them to parliament because they all think the same. But not in the Nationals. You can see that. Matt Canavan on one side. You’ve got other people on the other. You’ve got people in between. Because we treasure in the Nationals our capacity to say what is important for Lake Macquarie. We treasure in the Nationals our capacity to say what’s important for Singleton. And to say that as you see is a reflection of your community. And all these members in the Nationals are going to be listening to what their community says. And they’ve got to make sure that their community is part of that decision. So they’re not their lord and master – that they always remember the order. They are the servant of the people who sent them to Canberra. They’re not there as the boss of the people who sent them to Canberra.

JOURNALIST: So Bridget McKenzie wants the pause button to be hit if progress on emissions reduction negatively affects the region. Is that practical?

BARNABY JOYCE: This is exactly what I say. If Bridget will come forward in the discussions – it won’t be the ones today because that’s just about the process of how we discuss it, that is not the discussion in its formless sphere. But Bridget’s got some views. We’ve heard Minister Keith Pitt has some views, some that have been ventilated publicly. I’ve got some views, but I’ll keep them to myself. When we’re inside the Nationals party room, on behalf of the people who sent us there – the regional Australians and regional electorates, whether they’re from here or that other place down the road which we can mention – these are the people who send you down to Canberra. We will see what’s on the document. I’ve already had one look at it, but, of course, it’s in confidence and I can’t give it to people. Then they’ll go back and say, “Well, how does that fit for Cunnamulla? How does that fit for Rockhampton? How does that fit for Gladstone? How does that fit for Shepparton? How does that fit for Lake Macquarie? And then they’ll say, “Okay, we’re on board, or we’re not or we’ve got to make some changes to get us on board”. My job is try and corral that. At the end of the day, are you going to have them all on the same page? Not a chance

JOURNALIST: You mentioned there Kyoto targets earlier.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah.

JOURNALIST: The NFF wants farmers to be compensated for their help in reaching those targets. Is that fair enough?

BARNABY JOYCE: They should never have had their assets stolen off them in the first place. You know, people got to understand, their assets – farmers’ assets – were taken off the farmers, stolen off the farmer without payment. It was basically like someone coming into your house and taking your television set or your fridge and just saying, “Oh, we believe we’re entitled to that.” We can’t have that happen again. They should be compensated. It should never have happened to them in the first place. What other country just takes an asset off somebody and doesn’t pay them for it?

JOURNALIST: Is that something that you’d write into a net zero deal with the Nationals?

BARNABY JOYCE: No. What I write in is what the party writes in. And I’m sure the party will bring up NFF’s issues as well as so many other issues. And that discussion is not today. Today we’re just going to talk about how the process is going forward. Because if we were going to talk about whether we agree with the 2050 or not today, it would be ludicrous because we don’t have anything before us. I mean, I’ve seen it. But the others are not allowed to see it because it’s what’s called cabinet in confidence, right? In fact, other cabinet ministers haven’t seen it. So once they’ve seen it and once we’re allowed to publicly say, “Well, this is what we’re considering,” then you have a lot more cognizant debate. If I turned it on its head and people said, “Do you agree with 2050 or not,” well, every other member would just say, “Well, agree to what? What am I agreeing to or not agreeing to? You know, what’s your process?” If you say, “Our process is we’re going to shut down Sydney Harbour Bridge and the M2 and the M7 and close down the lights in the centre of Sydney,” they’ll say you’re a nut case, but, “If that’s what you want to do, knock yourself out. But it doesn’t affect us.” But we’re very aware that what they’re going to say probably will affect us.

JOURNALIST: Just on a different topic – sorry, if that’s okay?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Australian officials say they don’t know the whereabouts of Hekmatullah, the former Afghan army soldier who killed three Australians after he was released from custody in Qatar. How concerning is that?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s concerning. We have an incredibly competent capacity at making our border secure. And the evidence of that is the safety we’ve lived in without incident in Australia and I hope that remains the case. I’ll leave it up to people more proficient than that.

Can I just add one thing just before I go – and that is – because I’m going to say this. I’m going to fight this right to the end. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all these other companies who have made people billionaires and presided over billions of dollars of revenue going back to their investment houses, who have sat idly by while in houses, especially mothers, have had to deal with especially daughters, having to deal with mental health issues because you think you can just get away with this and you can go on forever and you’ve been swindling us, and we’ve seen that with some of the evidence that’s happened in the United States, being dishonest, and you think that we’re not being to do something about this? Well, I can assure you – we are. We are going to do something about this. It is going to happen, and it’s going to happen very quickly, because we’re over this. We are dead set over this. It’s not on behalf of me or what might have happened in my family. That’s just one tiny little part of what’s happened to so many families for so long. And it’s got to stop – and it is going to stop. It’s going to stop because the Prime Minister and I are on the same page, 100 per cent. Sometimes we have our differences. Not on this. Not on this. So we’re going to go absolutely dedicated. We’re going to be focused. There’s going to be an absolute change in the direction of how this works. And I’m very encouraged by the fact that in the United States of America the Republicans and the Democrats – who usually fight each other – are not on this. They’re all lining up. So be aware. You’ve been sitting back there sniggering, laughing, thinking you can get away with this. You’re not. Things are going to change.

ENDS