Interview with Paul Barclay, Radio National, ABC, RN Drive with Paul Barclay

PAUL BARCLAY: Barnaby Joyce is the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party. Welcome back to RN Drive.

BARNABY JOYCE: Thanks, Paul.

PAUL BARCLAY: So what do you make of John Barilaro's resignation? Did that come out of the blue to you?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, not really. I spoke to John some time ago and he conveyed to me that he, as they say in politics, in pressure positions, he said "mate I'm, basically I'm over it, as we say I'm cooked, that's it, done it and I want out" and now he has done what's right for him and right for the State of New South Wales and formalised that. And we all wish him all the very best. He's a good fellow. He's played a hard game and he's leaving at the time of his choosing, at the top of his game. So what a way to go.

PAUL BARCLAY: Is now the right time though, for the Deputy Premier to leave the political arena just days after the Premier announced her resignation?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, that is probably the reason to go. I mean the Premier is leaving and the Deputy is thinking about going, well, make a clean sweep of it and give the Party, the Coalition, both the Liberals and the Nationals time to reset with a good distance to the next state election. I actually think it's a good time to go. So he's made that decision and he's made it on his own terms. And what else can you do? You wish him all the best.

PAUL BARCLAY: Where do you think this leaves the New South Wales National Party in terms of the way ahead?

BARNABY JOYCE: Like every party they reset, they'll find themselves a new leader and they'll go on and the energy will be there and they'll go forward. It will be different, but it'll be the will be the reflection of a new set of arrangements. And all you do is you wish them the very best. If you want to put the kiss of death on someone, recommend them from national politics, that's the best way to kick someone completely out of the race. So I'll sit back and watch and whoever they pick, I will be 100 per cent supportive of that person.

PAUL BARCLAY: Any horse you'd like to back in that race?

BARNABY JOYCE: Look, I'm a bit greedy. So I'll back the lot. One of them is going to win!

PAUL BARCLAY: No front runner from your perspective, then?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I honest to God, I get along with so many of them, and I wouldn't dare do that because that would be pitching one against the other. And it doesn't help them. There's nothing worse than somebody outside putting their two bobs worth in, because if anything, it hurts chances rather than helps them so I'll sit back and watch. And whoever they pick will be the right choice because it will be made by their own party room.

PAUL BARCLAY: ICAC has been in the news to put it mildly over the past few days. And this morning you said it was akin to the Spanish Inquisition and said that people themselves should be the final arbiter. Why are you so opposed to ICAC?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, because an allegation's been made, nothing's been proven and a Premier is gone. And Gladys Berejiklian was doing a good job. And now, just because someone says, "well, we have an allegation to make against you". I mean, Paul, I'll make an allegation against you. And the next thing you know, you don't have a job. I don't believe it's the right process. They should keep it all in house. And when they've got it proven, when the person is done, well, fair enough. But this idea, I make an allegation against Paul Barclay, therefore Paul Barclay has to resign from his job at the ABC. That's great, because if I don't like Paul Barclay I just make an allegation against him.

PAUL BARCLAY: But it is only an allegation. And we all know that allegations are allegations. They may not be proven. And the Premier was, she didn't have to resign. She could have stepped aside.

BARNABY JOYCE: No, no, they are expected to step aside.

PAUL BARCLAY: To step aside, but not resign.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah but, what happens, it just becomes murky and innuendo and inference comes into play. And your enemies and your opponents, you're hot at [indistinct] and they blow wind into the fire. And we all know how the game works. None of your listeners are naïve. You know that if you start throwing mud it sticks and it starts dragging everybody down with you.

PAUL BARCLAY: There's never a good time, I suppose, for an investigation by an independent body such as ICAC. But what did you make of the timing in this instance in New South Wales?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well I, like many people, have a sort of a fondness and I think Gladys has done a good job and I don't look at her and think I see a bad person or a nefarious character. I think she's a very decent human being. Of course, I was disappointed to see her go, and she's been under the pump. And like most Australians when someone's under the pump, your inclination is to support them rather than be part of the party that kicks them under the bus and giggles with glee. It's not how we work.

PAUL BARCLAY: Do you not see a role, though, for an independent watchdog to investigate allegations of misconduct, corruption, conflict of interest, and so on?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well they're always are, you know, Senate inquiries. But what I don't want is where a government has to govern and sometimes has to make decisions which are not corrupt but are not seen as where others may believe they should go. And if somebody does something that is not the recommendation of the bureaucracy, they say "oh well that's because you're corrupt". No that's because you're an elected member of Parliament and you're allowed to do that. People elect their local members. They don't elect bureaucracies. And I'm always very cautious – even though they might want a transfer of power from elected members of Parliament to unelected participants in the machinery of government. And I want to make sure that the premier source of power resides with the people that your listeners go to the ballot box and elect.

PAUL BARCLAY: We want high standards of integrity in public office, you know, we've all heard it said that there is cynicism towards our elected political leaders. Isn't this one way, just one of many ways of helping to ensure higher standards in public office?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I suppose we can go back through history and the inferences and innuendos that come up against everybody from programs lately on the ABC about Wran and before that Askin. And I don't know, what that shows to me is there is ultimately a form of transparency. Things come out and people ask the questions. And that's why we have a police force. And there are the venues where people have the capacity to inquire at a federal level. You can be called before a Senate, a Senate committee. If you don't turn up, it can be seen as the contempt of Parliament. You have multiple layers. But as I said, but I don't want is people acting in such a way that they think, "well, I can only do what's recommended to me, otherwise, I'll be seen as corrupt" because that is not government. That is government by the unelected body, which is bureaucracy, not government by the elected body, which is the government of the day and the respective ministers.

PAUL BARCLAY: But is there any evidence that anti-corruption bodies act as a constraint on good government?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, that is the discussions that I've had, that you've got to be really careful that you don't get into a position where people are afraid of making a decision under their executive powers, which are not corrupt, which are not illegal, but it's their decisions, but may be different to the recommendations by bureaucracy. Now they're the discussions I've had and other people may say, "well, that's not what it's about", but they're the concerns that I have. And I always want to make sure that the premier source of decision making resides with the people elected by the Australian people or the people of New South Wales. Not the inference that you didn't accept my decision, therefore, there's some nefarious purpose to it, therefore you must be corrupt.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yeah, I mean, you did make the point that the people are the final arbiter and that is true in a democracy. We vote in our members of Parliament and so forth. But what is interesting, of course, is that New South Wales is about to be led by two individuals who, though elected to their seat, were not elected by people to govern. I mean, this is a new leadership team that has not had the imprimatur of the public. So there are limits to that.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I think that people elect a government knowing full well that the election of the leader is the mandate of the party room. And the party room knows people at close quarters so that they can make an informed decision about who they think is the right person and the right character. Now, they would be more aware of any concerns than anybody else, because they're in such close contact with them, and they're not going to elect someone that they think is not of good character or is a likely problem. People are wiser than that in politics. Well, in politics it's always very simple. If you want to know who the best person to govern, just ask them and they'll say it's themselves. So the best question to ask is who's second best and second best will give you a clear insight into who they think is another person who's up to it.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yeah, just a quick final one. If the Nationals and Liberals in New South Wales don't put a woman into one of those leadership positions, would it be fair to say that they failed in terms of modern standards?

BARNABY JOYCE: No. If they put two women into those positions, I'd say that's a fair call. If they put two men, if they put a woman and a man. I think it's a bit demeaning, someone saying "oh, you got the job because of your sex". I think you should get the job because of your competency. And the way of the world now, you take the Nationals at a federal level, there's only one guy in the Senate team. Should we have a quota? Should we kick out one of the other women to put another bloke in because it doesn't stack up on a quota system? That's absurd.

PAUL BARCLAY: Barnaby Joyce, thank you very much for talking with us.

BARNABY JOYCE: You're welcome, Paul.

PAUL BARCLAY: Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party.