Press Conference – Singleton, New South Wales

JAMES THOMSON: It’s great to have the Deputy Prime Minister here in Singleton. An issue which is very important to our community while ever our farmers are hurting, our Hunter community is hurting and whenever our Hunter community is hurting Australia is hurting. So I’m going to hand over to the Deputy Prime Minister to talk a little bit more about what’s been happening and why we have to say something about it.

BARNABY JOYCE: Okay, thanks James. What’s happening here is our nation earning money. Each one of those goes through, it’s about a million dollars in export dollars and about $100,000 in royalties. What you’ve got here is payments for your NDIS, you’ve got payments for your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, you’ve got payments for your pensions and for your unemployment benefits, you’ve got the mechanism that earns export dollars that gives value to the stuff that sits in here, gives value to your currency so people overseas want to buy what’s on there. That’s why they demand your currency, and if they didn’t then your currency would be worth less, which means your petrol would cost more, your car would cost more, your iPhone cost more, your shirt would cost more, your shoes would cost more. So many things in your life would cost more because we wouldn’t have the terms of trade that’s earned that way. Now, there are people that say, “Well, I don’t like a hole in the ground.” Okay, I get that. But there’s nothing to replace that. We haven’t got a replacement to maintain your standard of living if that is lost. The people who work in the mines have not got a replacement for the wages that pay for their house, for their car, for their kids at school, and the shop down here in Singleton has no other mechanism of money turning up to pay for the things in their shop to keep this businesses rolling over. So these people who decide to close all that down, I don’t know, they mustn’t be at work, so probably some of the social security that they’re living off is being paid for by that. They believe that their rights are more important than the economy of Singleton, the economy of Muswellbrook, the economy of Kurri, the economy of so many areas, the Port of Newcastle. They believe their rights are greater than that. They’ve already stopped $60 million of our exports -- $60 million. And not only that, they’ve got the grain trains they’ve backed up, can’t get in, can’t get in because some lady wants to sit on a scaffold over the railway line, or some other person wants to park a car on a railway line. That would be dangerous parking cars on railway lines – dangerous to the driver. They are doing this in such a form because they believe their views are more important than the law. They are a different breed. They are a sacred breed. They’ve made them a self-appointed sacred breed that believes they can shut things down, a legal industry that underpins their standard of living. If they’ve got an alternate way to pay for the pensions – probably the pensions they’re on and the unemployment benefits they’re on – to pay for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, to pay for the defence, hospitals, police, roads, if they’ve got other ways that this nation can earn money right now, then we’re all ears. Tell us about it right now. No mythical promises – right now, delivery. In the meantime, we’ve got to make a buck and we’ve got to support the standard of living that people take as their birth right. That is happening right there.

JASON FERGUSON: Thank you, Barnaby. Look, these people from Blockade Australia, they’re the scum of the earth. You know, the effect that they’ve had on our economy, you know, we’ve got 40,000 highly paid jobs here for people of the Hunter, you know the community of Singleton where we are at the moment, Muswellbrook, Gunnedah. Those people to deserve to be able to put food on the table and enjoy some nicer things of life. So we’ve got a handful of people here who think that they can bring the entire supply chain to its knees. You imagine someone going and sitting in the middle of the railway at Sydney Airport, what consequences there would be for that. But at the moment here these people seem to be immune from any sort of, you know, substantial [indistinct]. It’s time for everyone to stand up and to push back on these people who are in the minority and that we as a society [indistinct].

JOURNALIST: Barnaby, in the long run, is coal dead?

BARNABY JOYCE: That decision will be made by when there are no more ships in Newcastle harbour to pick it up. But there’s record amounts and record prices in Newcastle at Hay Point in Queensland and in Gladstone. The world is buying the product because it’s a good product. People see coal as just one standard product, one lot of coal. It comes at different calorific contents, so it burns in a more efficient way and the most efficient stuff is this stuff. If you don’t want this stuff, they’ll use the Indian stuff and that is a lot more inefficient. They’re not going to stop taking themselves into civilisation [indistinct] electricity because some dipstick has put themselves on the scaffolding on the railway lines. They’re still going to get the coal from somewhere else. What we have to make sure is – and [indistinct]. I saw Chairman Sharma up there and he looked so earnest and almost tears in his eyes as he got his gavel and he hit the desk. He was so upset that we hadn’t moved towards getting rid of the Hunter Valley’s main export earner, New South Wales’s main export earner, our nation’s second biggest export earner. But he seems such an honourable – he’s so earnest. Why didn’t he put up the North Sea oil? Why didn’t he close down his oil fields? Why didn’t he close down one of his big exports? Because that’s where his bread is buttered, so he wouldn’t touch that. He just wants to touch ours.

JOURNALIST: Boris Johnson said that the COP26 sounds the death knell for the coal industry. Matt Canavan says it’s great result. It can’t be both, so which one is true?

BARNABY JOYCE: If Mr Johnson is so enthused about closing down fossil fuels, let him lead by example. Lead by example. Shut down his North Sea oil fields. Shut it down. Just [indistinct]. But of course he won’t, so read between the lines. People are only too happy to shut down what’s in your country, not what’s in theirs.

JOURNALIST: Do you think coal exports will increase over the next five years?

BARNABY JOYCE: That will be determined by the people who want to buy it?

JOURNALIST: What do you think?

BARNABY JOYCE: I can tell you what’s happening now: You’ve got record prices and record volumes. If the world’s buying it, there’s a market for it. If they say the world’s transitioning away from it, well you’ll see that at the Port of Newcastle, you’ll see that at the Port of Gladstone. But it’s not happening. You’re lucky it’s not because if it did you’d be looking for money. And then we’d have people saying, “Oh, well, we don’t want you to cut the budget for the ABC.” And we’d say, “We just don’t have money for the ABC.” And you’ll be saying, “Oh, we need more money for the NDIS.” And we’d say, “Well, we just don’t earn the money that we used to. We’re sorry about that, but our second biggest export’s been shut down.”

JOURNALIST: Do you see, though, that this kind of stuff, these activists, and also the discussions [indistinct] sour taste in the mouth of voters coming into the election?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, no. What I’ll see is people saying, “I’m not dopey. I want my job. I’m not dopey. I understand that if my nation’s not selling a product then we can’t buy a product.” See, everything in your life – I can look at it from here, this light to these microphones, to what you’re wearing, your camera, your phone, to the car you drove in here. What car did you drive in here?

JOURNALIST: Toyota.

BARNABY JOYCE: Toyota. Imported car with imported fuel and imported stereos. The whole thing’s imported. Somebody, somewhere has got to be putting something on the ship and sending it in the other direction, because they’re not sending you all that stuff in your life for charity. And you know what they want to buy off us? The stuff that just went past here on a train.

JOURNALIST: On COP26, though, there was a lot of discussion as well about reducing methane, which you and the Nationals have said that you won’t stand for impacts to agriculture.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Do you see, though, that that’s going to happen, the minimisation of methane –

BARNABY JOYCE: No. No, because –

JOURNALIST: The Energy Minister has said it has to.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, ultimately, you want to eat, too, don’t you?

JOURNALIST: Yes, but the Energy Minister has said that methane is going to have to –

BARNABY JOYCE: I don’t know, I think eating’s kind of important these days, too. Being hungry is a really bad vote winner.

JOURNALIST: On the 2030 target, would you be able to strengthen it before the next election?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that we’ve got to be pragmatic. The Nats have said quite clearly that we’re not starting to change targets for 2030 because we’ve got to earn a buck.

JOURNALIST: So you won’t sign up to that?

BARNABY JOYCE: If people want to be poor, if that’s the goal, they want to be poor, you don’t like your standard of living, then stop exporting the stuff that makes you the dollars and you can be poor. You can be poor. Being poor is a very easy policy to follow and a very hard one to fix.

JOURNALIST: Australia will have to update its [indistinct] by the next [indistinct] next year, though, [indistinct] a new target [indistinct]?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ll be making sure I put any of those discussions to the person who owns a shop in Muswellbrook, to the person who owns the café in Singleton. I’ll be putting those concerns to the people, to the Treasurer and saying if this money comes out of Treasury will you have to cut services to the Australian people? I’ll be saying to [indistinct] if we don’t have those export dollars will it cause inflation, will it raise the price of fuel by reason of inflation coming into place because there’s not the demand for our dollars because we’re not selling the product? It’s so simple just to talk about one thing. It a lot more diligent to look at the wider ramifications. In any discussion about something like that – and we said right from the start, the Nationals said when they went to Glasgow we’ve got no interest in the 2030 target because that would mean we’d have to come back to workers and good, honest people earning export dollars, supporting our nation, supporting our currency, supporting our standard of liver living and saying, “Oh, we’ve got an alternate view as about how it would be noble for us to be poorer.”

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]

BARNABY JOYCE: Because the issue is we’re [indistinct] because of the theft of an asset off farmers. The reason we’ve met our targets is native vegetation laws [indistinct]. I think you’d have an issue with that. Well, they did that to us. And they have credits already and they never even suggested paying for it. That’s why we’ve got to be [indistinct] diligent because it’s the regions that emissions have been going down. The people where the political pressure comes from – Sydney – their emissions are going up. Sydney emissions go up, ours go down. We’re the ones that balance the equation, so we are not going to just hold the line and keep delivering them what so that they can feel good about their lives but we pay the price.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] on COP26 was consideration [indistinct] Australia doing enough for the [indistinct] in terms of that?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’re making sure that we’ve got a job. Yeah, I can tell you, if you stop those coal trains from going through, they’re not going to stop using coal. That’s total naivety. Total naivety. They’re just going to get their coal from somewhere else. It’s like saying if we stopped selling the world beef they’d stopping eating beef. They’re just going to get their beef from somewhere else.

JOURNALIST: Do you see that Australia does have more of a role –

BARNABY JOYCE: What happens then is they just start using coal with a much higher ash content which is less healthy. They don’t stop using it, they just use a different product.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept that the Government’s projections that coal will eventually decline due to market forces, what is the plan then?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s where you’ve got to set down a parallel industry and build up that parallel industry.

JOURNALIST: What is that?

BARNABY JOYCE: Maybe hydrogen, it may be a whole range of areas. But I tell you what it’s got to be – it’s got to be something so the person working in the mine can say, “I can go from this job right now to that job right now at the same pay, same conditions and have the same standard of living.”

JOURNALIST: Why does the Singleton –

BARNABY JOYCE: So what is happening now is people are saying, “Oh, well, there are renewables. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in renewables.” I say, “Well, fine. Where? Where is the renewable town? I can show you Singleton, I can show you coal mining towns – Singleton, Muswellbrook, Biloela, Port of Gladstone, Port of Newcastle, Kurri, Cessnock? But where is this renewable town? Where’s this mythical place? This Alice in Wonderland place, which town is it?”

JOURNALIST: What are you telling coal miners in the Hunter about how long they’ll have a job?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m saying that I’m going to be sticking behind their jobs and making sure that we respect the dignity of their lives and the capacity for them to pay themselves. And I’d say –

JOURNALIST: How long?

BARNABY JOYCE: – sometimes that will be a lonely fight because there’ll be a lot of other people out there to kick them out of a job.

JOURNALIST: A lot of these [indistinct] has put a lot of blame on coal mining communities like Singleton. Do you have concerns within –

BARNABY JOYCE: Sorry, who’s put a blame on the coal mining –

JOURNALIST: A lot of these chats with COP26, are you concerned –

BARNABY JOYCE: You mean all those people in Glasgow –

JOURNALIST: Let me finish. Are you concerned of the mental health of people living in coal mining –

BARNABY JOYCE: You mean all those people in Glasgow just laying poo on people in the Hunter Valley? All those billionaires in their corporate jets getting stuck into the people of the Hunter Valley? All those people in their corporate jets and the movie stars get into the people of the Hunter Valley? I wonder which side I’m going to be on. Thank you.