Transcript: National Press Club Q&A – Parliament House, Canberra

ANDREW TILLETT: Thank you, Mr Joyce. Very nice to finish up on the importance of education when you started with a history lesson with Alexander the Great. One of the things you mentioned early on in your speech about the geostrategic challenges, China, the importance of the US alliance. Paul Keating today made some quite critical assessment of the government’s current China position saying the government is sort of leading us into a strategic dead end by needlessly provoking China and is more interested in trying to please the United States. I wonder if you could respond to that, please?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, Australia did not incarcerate over a million Uighur people. Australia did not take over the South China Sea. Australia has not built military access roads into the north of India. Australia has been a great nation. And not for one moment do I believe that we should antagonise, but we should most certainly defend. And we must most certainly create for ourselves a potent force that is like other areas and others times a mechanism that brings stability. Because it’s not worth the fight. And I think from a position of strength we have a better position to bargain. You know, I’d rather bargain from a position of strength than from the pulpit of poverty. And I think that’s what our nation has to do. And we just have to be alive. We have to not be historically naïve. We have to be completely alive to exactly what’s happening in the globe, and that’s the best way to keep ourselves free and the best way to have our neighbours around us respect us.

ANDREW TILLETT: At the same time, Australia is highly dependent on China for trade. You represent farmers as the National Party. They’ve already borne the brunt of some of these trade sanctions with things. Do you see that improving any time soon? I mean, how do you try and get tough with your banker, effectively?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, you could pose the question in another way: what liberties and freedoms of speech as a member of the press are you willing to give up? We see the inferences now that if you say the wrong things it creates antagonism. But in Australia you should have the right to say what you like and you should have the capacity to trade with countries, as we do, but not have that overt influence on what we do.

And so I think that it would be no different if we were weaker and it would be no different if we said less except that it would encourage that form and sometimes bullying and forms of intimidation works. So we do have to stand up for ourselves. And I hope and pray that we go back to the relationship where it was mutually beneficial – the win-win situation – that both we economically develop and China economically develops because we need a strong China to trade with and we are a great beneficiary of that. But it is not at any price.

ANDREW TILLETT: We’ll turn now to our media members who have some questions. First up, Sarah Ison from The West Australian.

SARAH ISON: Thank you for your speech. Just on what you were saying regarding naivety in the global market, do you think there’s a bit of that going on on our end considering how much we’re relying on iron ore with what China’s doing in Africa? That obviously is buoying so much of what we’re doing, but could that all blow up in our face? Do you see us needing to take a different tack with that? And secondly, you mentioned how important critical minerals are. There’s a huge deposit of unexplored critical minerals in WA. Are we expecting some Federal Government dollars to flow into that state and others to help with really capitalising on that very, very new and early kind of mark?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, yes, we are – we do have risk in iron ore. The projects that the Chinese are developing in Guinea, which will have another alternate source, so we’ll have Vale and Guinea and, yes, that could change the dynamics in the future. We don’t want it to, but we have to be aware to it – we have to be alive to it. But we can’t basically close our eyes and pretend it’s not happening. However, the sovereign risks in that part of the world are vastly greater than the sovereign risks here. And if you tie yourself to an area that you would have to say is vastly more unpredictable then you put at risk exactly what you do with the product you need to use, which is iron ore.

So I believe that Australia has a great future and it’s a win-win situation. Iron ore has underpinned the growth of Japan, underpinned the growth of Korea, and has underpinned in a large way in a large section the growth of China. And smart people realise why stop a good thing. It’s been working well and it should continue to go on working for the benefit of all.

In critical minerals, yes there is a range of areas of precincts that we should be developing. I was talking to Senator Matt Canavan about when you are building a fighter jet, a submarine, an aircraft carrier. All that varies is the kilograms to the tonnes that are required to do this. And without them you can’t. And it’s in everything we do. From solar panels through to mobile phones. In a mobile phone, there are 14 critical minerals, and other metals on top. For the devices that you all use, if you didn’t have critical minerals, they just wouldn’t work.

And as we go forward the world is going to ask for more and more of this product because, just like you determine what the world wants by seeing the boats that leave our ports, that is a great determinant of what the world wants. The boats that leave our ports, more and more what they want from us is critical minerals.

ANDREW TILLETT: Next questioner is Richard Ferguson from The Australian.

RICHARD FERGUSON: Thank you for your speech, Deputy Prime Minister. Obviously state border closures have been most difficult for border communities like yours in your electorate of New England. If the Premiers, like Annastacia Palaszczuk and Daniel Andrews, won’t commit to opening borders, state borders, completely to New South Wales by the end of this year, should they at least be committing to regional bubbles so that the regional communities that have suffered the most during the state border closures are allowed some sort of relaxation?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, Greg Hunt and David Gillespie – I have to mention David Gillespie – are doing a great job at making sure we get the vaccines and inoculations out as quickly as possible. We’re now well in excess of 20 million inoculations and 35 per cent of Australia has had two inoculations.

Now, that means that we are becoming more and more capable of dealing with the virus. And, as such, we have to obviously progress towards changes in how we act. Now, Australia’s economy cannot just go on borrowing money from overseas in perpetuity. It just doesn’t work. It’s not possible. And ultimately everything we borrow has to be paid back by somebody – your children and your grandchildren will be wondering where some of this debt came from.

But that was what was before us. So, yes, we do have to open up these economies. And an economy to work effectively has to work across state borders. My belief is that we are doing a great job at getting towards the 70 and 80 per cent. Certainly the figures suggest that. And what you’ll have is states not locking us out but locking themselves in soon, because other areas will open up. And Western Australia, well, we’ll say on the east, “There is no borders, we walk around, we do what we like, we’ve dealt with it. But if you make a decision that you’re not going to let your people come visit us, we’ve got no problems with them visiting us, but you want to lock them up when they get home, that’s a decision you make.” And that transition will happen from locking people up to locking yourself in, and that will drive an opening of the federation to what it’s supposed to be.

ANDREW TILLETT: What about the question, though, around border bubbles and regional communities? I mean, it seems – I mean, we live in a border bubble here, effectively, in the ACT and New South Wales. Have the state Premiers sort of been a bit too blunt in how they’ve applied these sort of things?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes. Yep, they have. Because restrictions should be based on epidemiology, not on arbitrary colonial lines from, you know, the 1850s. It’s an absurdity. We had one case in the north of my electorate where a person’s front gate was in Queensland but their house was in New South Wales and they had to get a permit. You know, this is not logical. And, you know, this is why we need to move away from the parochialism of making a statement on behalf of your state, to logic and making a statement on behalf of epidemiology.

And as we go forward, there’ll still be required at times action, but that action should be well targeted and directed to a certain area with a certain potency of outcome and not this sort of broad brush which is, when you think about it in Queensland, what are the people on the Gold Coast doing now? They’ll be looking at Christmas coming and the money staying south. It’s not a good outcome.

ANDREW TILLETT: Anna Henderson from SBS.

ANNA HENDERSON: Mr Joyce, you’re a keen student of history. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you think of the Taliban and the way they operate and whether you think that the 3,000 places that have initially been set aside will be anywhere near enough to deal with the need of the people trying to flee their regime?

BARNABY JOYCE: Okay, well, a fascinating question. And I hope that the Taliban who, to be frank, we did have to rely on for the evacuation of Kabul and, to be frank, Hamid Karzai is now dealing with them, and we do respect Hamid Karzai, and it may be a thousand miles from what we believe is tolerable, but we have to look at through the eyes of Afghanistan and the alternative is ISIS-K or Al-Qaeda. And as obscene as it is, they’re vastly worse.

Now, I listened last night to members of the Taliban talking about how we organize to go on with the test between Australia and Afghanistan in cricket. And I suppose deep down I think, are the cricketers the problem? Should we be persecuting them or maybe – maybe – we should consider whether this gives us some capacity to bring that regime, form of government, call it what you like, into a more tolerable situation. And, of course, one of the sextants of that is to be involved in international cricket you must have a women’s team. And these are the sort of things that I hope will bring it forward. But these are very, very, very early days. And we have to see what happens going forward.

As far as places in Australia goes, the issue is our capacity to manage what – who comes in, to make sure that we don’t fall down and bring a problem in that, you know, terrorism or something came in, it would just set us back, because the Australian would lose complete confidence in our capacity to manage the situation.

Australia is a very generous country in who it brings to these shores. And in my own area, as you well know, what we have been doing with the Yazidi refugees is a classic example of but one. So I think it’s a watching brief, and these things are dynamic and decisions that are made are never made – set in stone. They’re made on the basis of facts, on the basis of capabilities and reviewed and referred on if required, as required.

ANNA HENDERSON: If I may, though, just in terms of the Government that you’re a part of and the Syrian and Iraqi refugee commitment, if the capacity aloud it, pandemic willing, do you think that it should be a similar commitment here?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I don’t think it’s an argument about the numbers; it’s an argument about the capacity and your capacity to bring people in safely. I don’t think Australia has ever been a nation that is arbitrarily is so partisan or bigoted and doesn’t want immigration because it doesn’t want immigration. It does. We’ve grown and our nation’s grown on immigration. In fact, just about every person in this room – I would say everyone – if you reach back into their DNA you will find either convicts who didn’t want to be here protected by soldiers who didn’t want to be here followed by people from the Irish famine who were kicked out of – famine, the Great Hunger, the Great Shame who were kicked out of their country, followed by wars where they were kicked out – First World War, Second World War – South East Asia. There’s not a person who’s probably watching this who hasn’t got some connection to a trial, a tribulation and a pain in another country which drove them to our nation. Therefore, we’re all very, very mindful of making sure that we do the right thing.

But we do the right thing to the extent of our capabilities and to just devise arbitrary numbers without doing the diligence work behind that I think is a failing. But if you do – if you find you have the capacity to do more later on, then why not?

ANDREW TILLETT: Is there an opportunity to perhaps re-imagine the humanitarian program and increase numbers on in the proviso that people go to regional areas? I mean, the abattoir at Young used to get held up as an example of how it was able to keep going thanks to the help of Afghan migrants.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, we note the work that especially – in the Nationals especially Minister Littleproud has done on the Ag visa, which talks precisely to bringing in people from overseas, to bring them into our nation. There are so many jobs in Australia that if there weren’t people from overseas they just wouldn’t get done. It doesn’t mean Australians won’t do it, but they go through those jobs very quickly. They go from picking fruit to the packing shed and then into management as quickly as they possibly can. They go from packing offal in the abattoir to the boning room to management as quickly as they can. But then these jobs that are required to be done for the whole abattoir to work, for the whole packing shed to work, for the motels to work, for other things to work, in this global economy that is a crucial part. And our southwest – our Pacific Islander program and now the Ag visa recognises that reality, which may be 30 years ago people would say that would never happen. One of the greatest aid packages you can give to people is to give them a job and they send their money home. And it’s a win-win situation.

Now, moving people to regional Australia, you have to encourage them and show them that the jobs are there and the future is there. And if you do that, and I absolutely believe we can, even anecdotally in my area of Tamworth with the construction of Dungowan Dam, they’re moving forward with in excess of half a billion-dollar expansion in Baiada Chicken. As I say, in Tamworth, if Tamworth’s not producing animal pro-teen, you’re probably not eating. Eighty per cent of your meat at Woolworths is killed in Tamworth. And they’re jobs. Those jobs are going to be there.

So we have no sense of animosity to anybody when it comes to Tamworth. In fact, it’s great because we know if they’re there, the Indian community, the Philippine community, then our abattoirs are working. And the eggs are being sent off and the chooks are being killed and the sheep are being killed and the cattle are being killed and the Australian people are eating.

ANDREW TILLETT: But can I just flip that around? Is there perhaps an issue that will emerge in coming decades of that we rely on a migrant – effectively a migrant underclass to do the jobs that Australians don’t want to do?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think there’s always going to be people moving around. But when we say a migrant underclass, for a time, the world’s dynamic. Things change. And sometimes the seed of that change is the capacity for people to bring income into their nation. You know, there was a time when you would have said that, you know, China could possibly be a migrant underclass, but now its economy is racing ahead. You could have said the same thing about Japan after the war, Korea. Things are dynamic. And sometimes the seed of change is the capacity for people to bring money home and bring experiences home. And, you know, once more, it’s a statement by all of us that we’ve moved away from the parochialism and bigotry that we say, well, someone wants a job from overseas, and we really flip it on its head and you say, “Well, we’re not going to give it to them because they’re from overseas”. That’s a very peculiar statement.

ANDREW TILLETT: Our next question is from Daniel Hurst.

DANIEL HURST: Daniel Hurst from Guardian Australia. Mr Joyce, given the big role that you and The Nationals will play in the climate policy debate that’s currently underway within the Government, I want to ask a threshold question: do you accept that it’s unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land, that human influence has warmed the climate at rates that are unprecedented for at least the last 2,000 years, that global warming of 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades, and that the intensity, frequency and duration of fire weather events are projected to increase throughout Australia? Do you accept that’s our best understanding of the science?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I really don’t like when a question is presented like that, because it sounds like you’re at a baptism on behalf of your child denouncing Satan and all his works and all his deeds and on and on and on it goes. If the question you ask me is do I believe that humans have an influence on climate, yes I do.

DANIEL HURST: How much of an influence?

BARNABY JOYCE: Look, and if you then walk into the frame of saying I am now going to grab you by the ear and make you comply with everything I say, I won’t do that, because it’s a free nation. And I can say and think what I like. And that is –

DANIEL HURST: It is a statement from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Have you read that report?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve been through whole sections of that report. And I could go through the lead author’s reports in South Africa, the further reports from Kathmandu. I can go through sections of who makes up the actual lead authors in that. But this turns into this sort of parochial, partisan process. I’m going to do and make sure I’m part of my nation, the commitments that we have made. That is my job. And we have met every commitment. In fact, with the Kyoto commitments, the reason they were met, were not – was not by urban Australia – regional Australia met those commitments. We paid with them by the divestment of our property. The divestment of our vegetation rights. I’m not quite sure where you live, but I imagine it is in Canberra or Sydney. Which one?

DANIEL HURST: Canberra.

BARNABY JOYCE: Okay. Your emissions went up. You are part of the problem. Regional Australia was part of the solution.

DANIEL HURST: With respect, Mr Joyce, you’re the Government. This is the IPCC statement of the latest science. So I just want to know whether the starting point is that factual summation of the science.

BARNABY JOYCE: And I’ve told you, I’m not going to stand here and be berated into complying with the thing that sounds awfully like the statements that one gives in regards to their child at a baptism. I will work with the agreements our nation has made.

DANIEL HURST: With respect –

BARNABY JOYCE: No.

DANIEL HURST: – Deputy Prime Minister, it sounds like you don’t accept this science?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve given you the premise of why – because you basically came up with a sort of whole litany of things and say, “Do you agree or are you some sort of, you know, reprobate?” That is the reflection in your question. And I won’t comply and participate in a debate like that.

DANIEL HURST: Just to be clear, these are statements from the IPCC –

BARNABY JOYCE: I know that. I know it’s the way you present them. And I’m just telling you right now, it is my right to say what is my job as a politician – to comply with the agreements that we have signed up to. You asked me do I agree that have humans had an influence on the climate. Yes. But I’m not going to participate in some sort of kangaroo court of, “Now you’ll agree to every statement I say because the IPCC said it”.

ANDREW TILLETT: Mike Foley from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

MIKE FOLEY: Thanks for your speech, Mr Joyce. Mike Foley from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. On domestic policy matters specifically, Angus Taylor has committed to release long-term emissions reduction strategy by November, at least ahead of the Glasgow conference. And, you know, in reference to Kyoto, you’ve said that The Nationals want to see the cost of any new policies before committing to any emissions deadlines. Can you fill us in? Are you working with Angus Taylor at the moment? Are The Nationals working with Angus Taylor? What progress is being made, and what are your priorities for that particular specific policy, please?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, we’re making sure that what comes forward – because we’re kind of bruised and beaten by the Kyoto process. So we’re making sure that we don’t double up. We’re making sure that what is suggested this time is something where urban Australia pays the price like regional Australia, if there’s a price to be paid. And when – if people come up with something that is a logical efficiency of the economy, for instance, what I was talking about, the Inland Rail will replace about – every train is about 100 B-doubles, 150 semitrailers, each one of those uses about 600 litres of diesel each in one section of the trip, that is an effective mechanism. Who would argue against that? That is using logic. That’s using technology.

If you can make things work better then – and that is, in answer to your question, that is the discussions people have. But once more – this is why – in regards to the previous questions, why we get so annoyed because people say, “You must comply with my assertion, and that therefore justifies everything that I want to do next”. Because otherwise I just go back to the initial statement and say, “Didn’t you say this? Therefore you must comply with that”. And that’s bullying. That’s not negotiations; that’s just straight-out bullying.

So that’s why we always say: I must respect my colleagues and my party room and any – if there was ever something put forward to us, we would take it back to them. It is the role of the politician to implement plans. It is not the role of a politician because they don’t have the requisite skills to develop plans. Plans are given to you by people who have competency in thermodynamics, who have competency in atmospheric science, who have competency in engineering. That competency is rare, if ever, found in a party room. But they will come forward with a plan, I have no doubt. And at that stage you have a reason to have a discussion with our party room, and I would never – if I wanted to scuttle it, the best thing for me to say right now, “You’ll agree or not agree to it”. Because it is their right, and I intend to make sure that they have that right to have that discussion.

ANDREW TILLETT: How much, though, do you take into consideration – I appreciate your view about representing your constituents and things like that, but what about the views of, you know, Liberal MPs in the inner city who have constituents who care very much about climate change? What about what we’re seeing happening in financial markets around the world, talk of trade barriers based on carbon tariffs and things like that. I mean, I appreciate, you know, that farmers are angry that they can’t clear land like they used to, sort of thing, but, you know, the world is moving on, isn’t it?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, this is a clear thing. We’ve also got to go back to the pragmatics of the Australian economy. As I said, we’ve got a major debt, and we’ve got to pay for it. And we’ve got to provide to the world what the world wants to get our terms of trade and get the money to keep this economy going. And if you want to know what the world wants then the best place to determine that is to go to a port, to go the port of Port Hedland. And it’s quite obvious – the world wants iron ore. But if you to Hayes Point you’ll see the world wants coal. If you go to Gladstone, you’ll see the world wants coal. If you go to Newcastle, you’ll see the world wants coal. When the world decides it wants to move on, then so do we. But if we turn that around and say, “Well, we’re going to just stop putting things on a boat,” because we’ve made that arbitrary decision right now to do it, then if you’re going to be authentic about that decision, you have to then turn around and say which hospital – because the money is not there – which hospital you intend to close, which pension do you intend not to raise? How you don’t think the NDIS should have the same length and breadth that it has now. That you affect your Defence Force. You don’t have the money for education or the money for doctors, for Medicare. And people say, “Oh, no, I don’t want that either.” And so you’re being a child because you’re saying our biggest export in this nation is fossil fuels. It’s just that you don’t see it from the inner suburbs. But it’s there. And if you say, “I’m going to close down the biggest earner for my family, but I want to live at the same standard of living that I do now”, then just that’s a childish decision.

So, if this nation wants to do that, you have to substantiate, not just muse, not just hope for, but substantiate an alternate income source. And this nation hasn’t done it. And there’s no prospect in the near future that it’s going to happen. If it does happen it will happen in parallel and one will evolve and one won’t. So the answer is if we had this discussion in the inner suburbs, I know I’ll get one view. If I have it in Musselbrook I’ll get another view. If I had it in Central Queensland you’ll get another view. If I had it in the middle of Melbourne, you’ll go back to the former view. Discussions evolve and are affected by what people see out their window.

MIKE FOLEY: You talked in parliament; you mentioned this week in a question in question time that Inland Rail had the potential to be a carbon abatement. If you had to put a percentage on doing a deal on net zero, what would you rate your probability?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I don’t know.

MIKE FOLEY: Is it likely?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, what I would suggest is anything you do – look, coming from the country, I can assure you one thing is in any deal I don’t start by saying what I think it’s worth; I start by saying, “How much do you want it?”

ANDREW TILLETT: Next questioner, Michael Keating.

MICHAEL KEATING: Michael Keating from Keating Media, Deputy Prime Minister. How do you think COVID lockdowns will interrupt freight travel across Australia, and has any economic modelling been done to show the effect on the economy from that loss?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I’d also like to commend the work of Scott Buchholz. We had a ridiculous situation the other day up on the border where people were – people were in the cabins of their trucks for days on end waiting for tests. And, you know, it just can’t go on like that. It’s having huge repercussions. And right now West Australia is screaming out for agricultural workers. They’ve got a crop that’s ripening in the paddock. People are staring at it. The question that’s going through their head is, “How do I get this off?” You’ve got to have not only header drivers but you’ve got to have other material that comes in from the east. You’ve got to bring it in. You’ve got to move things around. And this is one of the consequences I don’t think has been seen in this – that our economy, even in regional areas, we don’t operate as states; we operate as a nation. We’re an economy that is smaller than the economy of California, smaller than the economy of Texas all of a sudden breaking itself up into little Montanas. It’s just – it’s just really odd. And it’s going to have real effect on how it works. And the answer to your question is yes, because we haven’t designed this economy since Sir Henry Parkes to go back to where it was in 1890.

ANDREW TILLETT: I’ve got a couple of questions here from a couple of regular attendees who are in absentia because in the lockdowns. First question from Tim Shaw, Director of the Press Club here: the recent Delta outbreak in regional New South Wales has highlighted the inadequacy of sufficient frontline medical services available for regional communities, particularly for First Nations communities of New South Wales. What urgent steps is your government taking now to protect these vulnerable people.

BARNABY JOYCE: David Gillespie once more has been at the forefront of this. In our discussions, which happen nearly every day in regards to the COVID issue, we fought for and brought forward that chemists, pharmacies, should also deliver the vaccines because in many areas that you’re referring to there are pharmacies, not doctors. And with 4,000 pharmacies around Australia this gives us 4,000 more venues to be able to deliver the vaccine. And for towns that don’t have doctors, it gives us the capacity to deliver that outcome to them.

Now, in other areas it’s the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We’re delivering the capacity to go into the really remote communities and actually meet there. Even this morning I was talking to the Mayor of Goondiwindi and working out how we deal with and what is a better process to deal with areas such as Toomelah and Boggabilla. In my life I’ve lived in Werris Creek, Moree, Charleville, St George and Danglemah, which is an Aboriginal word, and I went to primary school in, you know, an Aboriginal area. And it’s got to be a different approach. It’s got to be really one on one.

And, you know, you can’t sort of do it by ads, you’ve got to do it by on the ground, working with that community. And we are doing that. Like, if you go to Walgett and see the rollout that’s happening there and I commend the work of Mark Coulton – he’s also been a part of this process – it’s much, much harder than doing it in a city environment. But we are doing it. We are getting on with it. The rates aren’t in those areas as good as they are in urban areas and the capital cities, but they’re within sight and we’ve got to drive them forward. They’re within sight now – they weren’t only a matter of months ago.

ANDREW TILLETT: Thank you. And a question from Astrid Watts from the University of Canberra Press Club: with suicide rates increasing nationwide due to such increases of isolation because of, you know, COVID restrictions and lockdowns, would you support the national call to increase funding for mental health services, especially within rural communities?

BARNABY JOYCE: We have been increasing mental health funding, and even recently we had further announcing such things as primary caregivers of mental health. And it’s vitally important. So we’re really calling to do more of what we’re already doing. Because Greg Hunt has been exceptional in the money he’s driven into mental health services. It is incredibly important. And one of the sobering issues that we’re dealing with now is the tragic massive increase in suicides that we’re seeing as a proportion of the base by reason of lockdowns I have to say. And, you know, something that has to be taken into our assessment and statistics – is the issues that are happening to people right now, and the mental health issues that are happening to people right now by reason of their isolation and their frustration because, you know, humankind – being a human is a collegiate experience. You’ve got to mix with other people. And that’s not happening and it’s causing mental problems.

ANDREW TILLETT: Sarah Ison.

SARAH ISON: Just back on the borders, Clive Palmer is poised to launch a High Court case against WA and states like Queensland that are going to require, you know, a jab from people from New South Wales. Do you reckon that’s fair enough, and do you share the view of Michaelia Cash who told The Aus that she thinks if such a case is launched that such states will probably lose that case? What are your thoughts on all of that?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I don’t profess to be a lawyer, so what I say now comes to you as an accountant and as a farmer. But we know that the nation has to start working as a nation again. We know that in the end things will turn around from rather than Western Australia locking us out they’ll be locking themselves in because the rest of the nation will open up. And what other people do will be – same as Queensland, which is up to them. But the rest of the place will be moving on and dealing with the issue.

Section 92 of the constitution, I think it’s quite clear, it says that you can’t use any form of restriction I think in trade or commerce or intercourse, which obviously is the people having the capacity to talk to themselves, talk to others. And if section 92 is to be as its read, then one would suggest that if the vaccination rates go up it would be much hard for a state to argue the case of why they could close their border.

Now, that – subsequently obviously to our constitution states brought in their own legislative requirements, but they are subordinate to federal requirements. And the arguable case in the High Court case in the last time really based it a lot around that we were at the initial stages of dealing with the pandemic. There were vast differences and basically a lack of vaccination rates, but that’s not the case now. We’re vaccinating nearly 2 million a week – 2 million a week now. We’re doing that vaccination rate in a week. And in New South Wales, 70 per cent have had at least one inoculation. So it’s a vastly different circumstances now if it went to court than it was the first time. But I don’t think the Prime Minister will be imparting himself to any case of Clive Palmer. In fact, I could almost bet my house on it.

ANDREW TILLETT: Thank you. And our final questioner is Anna Henderson again.

ANNA HENDERSON: How much pressure are you under from the UK and the US over climate policy, and is it a fait accompli that by the time we get to Glasgow your government will commit to net zero by 2050?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I mean, I can’t talk for the whole of the Government; I can talk for The Nationals on this issue. We’ve been quite clear that, you know, we want details and our party room will make the decision. So a unilateral statement by me has no meaning because it requires the concurrence of The Nationals in the room.

The UK has a vastly different economy to us. The financial sector of the City of London is a big driver. The US has a vastly different economy to us. The US has Microsoft, it has Boeing, it has General Motors. It is set up in a vastly different way. The UK financial services, I mentioned pharmaceuticals, and the US as well, our economy is this: our biggest export is fossil fuels. And just near it, iron ore. Then daylight, daylight, daylight, more daylight and more daylight. Tertiary education was there, but COVID’s caused real problems there. Agriculture. And to give you an understanding of agriculture, barley exports are worth the equivalent of three days’ of iron ore exports. Our beef industry, which we love to death, is the equivalent of 40 days’ of iron ore exports. And our fossil fuel exports are bigger than the iron ore exports.

So my message is that in discussions what we deal with, we have to understand what we sign up to. We have to understand the ramifications back to our economy. And to explain to that Australian people in that process. And I’m not saying the process is without merit, but explain to the Australian people not just their aspirations – because the Australian people are good and their aspirations are worthy, but they’ve got to understand the economic consequences because all decisions come with consequences. And that is something that in discussions with I imagine – and I’m not doing them, the Prime Minister is. But if I was having discussions with Prime Minister Boris Johnson or President Biden, I would have to also make them aware of what we can do and what we can’t do and the process of how we do it.

To be frank, our circumstances in economics are vastly different to theirs. And so we have to be very mindful of how we do it. And that’s why in that speech we talked about such things as rare earths and working out, if there’s a process we have – and I said that in the speech – we have to substantiate it. We can’t just wish for it. And a lot of discussions is wishing for things. Substantiating them and actually proving them is completely different.

ANNA HENDERSON: So are you willing to sacrifice some of the diplomatic goodwill with those countries in order to get what you want?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, that’s hypothetical, but I think the circumstances that the United States of America are dealing with in a geopolitical way and also Boris Johnson are exactly the same as Australia’s. That’s where we have an exact parallel. And those circumstances have to be kept well in mind because it’s important.

Now, I know that the Prime Minister is giving his best endeavours to this process and, as I say, that my engagement is meaningless because it really comes from what the National party room wants. So that is why I’m not launching myself out too far there. But away from just giving a quick instruction that where we start from is a vastly different place to where the United Kingdom starts from or even America.

I might just also add this, and this is where the complexities come in. All these things are not as simple as they seem. A simple answer is generally the wrong one. If America has done very well in their carbon emission reduction by reason of fracking, gas fracking, it changed their whole source of fuel. That has real push back in sections of Australia. We can go to renewables, an expansion of wind towers, but even now we’ve got even the Greens arguing against wind towers. Former Leader of the Greens, Bob Brown has argued now against wind farms in Tasmania. And you’re getting protest groups in our own electorate that are arguing against – you go down to Nundle and you can see the divided communities down the middle, to Kentucky, to Walgett, to other areas. And these people when you talk to them cover the political gambit from Green to National.

And so this is not an easy solution. An even if you expand on the morality of the circumstances of solutions such as solar panels, solar panels need polysilicates. If they come out of China, there’s probably a better than half – a predominant probability, not possibility, that the polysilicates were there by reason of slave labour by the Uighur people, because that’s where they make the solar panels, Xinjiang Province.

And if you say, “Well, I’m talking about batteries”, well, ion lithium batteries require cobalt, and the vast majority of the world’s cobalt supply comes out of the Democratic – and it’s not – Republic of the Congo, where you have child labour. And there’s been congressional committees in the United States that have looked into these issues.

So nothing is holistically good and nothing is ultimately perfect. And when you think about it, the polysilicates, which will definitely be on the roofs of Australia, have most definitely in part of their construction required slave labour, when you go and turn on the lights, do you think slave labour? And do you think, well, “I’ve got to have a wider encompassing view on everything”. Everything is not as simple as it initially seems.

ANDREW TILLETT: With that, thanks Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister.