The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development
Doorstop Press Conference
Friday, 8 April 2022
TOPICS: Gladstone, coal, Urannah Dam, Hells Gate Dam, Alumina, federal election.
KEN O’DOWD: Welcome to Gladstone. Gladstone, as you know, is the heartbeat of Queensland and when it comes to industry: aluminium, coal, gas, cement. You just name it, we’ve got it here. And yesterday we visited a manufacturing plant. It was great to show our Deputy Prime Minister what we can do in Gladstone if we have the right environment from our Government. At the moment, our Government is doing a lot of things to improve places like Gladstone and other places in Flynn like Emerald, Biloela and North and South Burnett. We want to see more dams built in the area. We’ve missed the big rain in the last few months here. Our dams are a bit low, actually. Seasons come and go and that’s what’s happened to our water. But if we had more dams, more infrastructure in our regions, then that’s one reason why Barnaby has come to Gladstone and Central Queensland.
On my left here, I’ve got Colin Boyce, the candidate for Flynn. I know Colin, if elected, will do a great job for Flynn. He’s got the same DNA as I have. We love the stuff behind us. We call it black gold and, of course, that’s what our community relies on. It supplies jobs to a lot of people whether it be the Gladstone Port Authority just here on our left, the railway workers bringing the coal in from the Bowen Basin or from the coalmines at Blackwater and Emerald and Gordonvale, and those places that keep on bringing coal to our terminals in Gladstone. [Indistinct] and Biloela are also very important in this field.
But without further ado, I would like to hand over to Barnaby Joyce, our Deputy Prime Minister, and say thank you, Barnaby, for coming to Gladstone once again. I know you always enjoy your visits here because there’s always things happening here in Gladstone.
BARNABY JOYCE: I enjoy them so much I want Col to tell you about how much I enjoy them.
KEN O’DOWD: Right‑o.
COLIN BOYCE: Well, thank you, Ken, and welcome to Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister. We’re at Wiggins Island coal loading terminal here at Gladstone, and the coal industry is one of the most important industries that we have in Australia. That is what is now funding our health, our emergency services and our education here in Australia. The coal industry, as you know, is a large part of the Flynn electorate, along with agriculture, heavy industry, the alumina smelter, the alumina refineries, the CSG gas industry. We’ve got everything here in Gladstone and in the electorate of Flynn. In contrast, whilst we’re great supporters of the coal industry, the Labor Party doesn’t support the coal industry. Mr Albanese in his Budget reply speech has had the perfect opportunity to include coal in his rhetoric, but not once has he said coal. We’ve got the Deputy Opposition Leader, Richard Marles, he’s on the record – “the demise of the coal industry would be a good thing.” That’s what he has said. So, I would be careful if I were you. I’d vote for your job and vote for the people who support you in the coal industry, and that is the Liberal–Nationals Coalition Government.
BARNABY JOYCE: Well, about 2,000 kilometres out there is the Solomon Islands and there the Chinese want to build a naval base so they can put pressure on this nation. So, we have to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. We do that by earning export dollars. There is our nation’s second-biggest export. It’s gone through $110 billion for the year. If we want to be able to deal with the issues out at the Solomons and the issues that are, unfortunately, tragically, are on television before us in the Ukraine, we need to make this nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible. Therefore, we stand behind the coal industry.
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund is lending the new mine that we’re building at Olive Downs about $170 million. Today I’ll go up there and do the sod turn. I’m quite happy. There’s a spare seat and if Senator Penny Wong wants to come with us, she’s welcome to. If Mr Albanese wants to bring the cameras and come along with us, he’s welcome to. But he doesn’t. It’s not that they’re bad people or anything like that. They just see the world differently. We see the world from Central Queensland. They see the world from central Sydney. And their view from central Sydney is that they’re going to be moving – they believe that the people who are employed in this industry are going to have to find another job. Where is that job? For our nation, where’s the money? Where’s the money going to come from?
Iron ore in our package, in the Nationals package, we’re investing in the Pilbara because we want to export more iron ore. We’re investing in the Northern Territory because we believe in the future of such things as critical minerals. We believe in the coal industries. We’re investing in Townsville, we’re investing in Gladstone, we’re building a road through the desert directly from Townsville through to Perth. We’re sealing the road on the Tanami. We’re building the road so you can go from Charters Towers down to Mungindi and if you want to, I suppose, you can spear off and go to Dirranbandi, but you go down through Mungindi and these are the sorts of investments that we make to make our nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible. Now, the Labor Party says, “Oh, no, we’re not actually with the Greens.” So, here’s the challenge. Put $5.4 billion of the money, all the money, on the table to build Hells Gate dam, something the Labor Party said was their policy, something the Labor Party said was critical infrastructure, as they did with Urannah, so guess what—put the money on the table for Urannah, private enterprise the other half.
They don’t need to put a cent into that either. Sitting back waiting. Got my phone in my pocket waiting for the call. Waiting for the Labor Party to tell me they’re going to build them. But they won’t. Because they’re owned by the Greens. They’re owned by the Greens. The Greens have said that if they have the balance of power, they want a complete moratorium on that, on the gas out there, Curtis Island, and on oil. If you’re looking for cheaper houses, in the Green scheme, by gosh, you’re going to find them here in Queensland and Central Queensland because there will be no jobs, and that’s the danger because it is a Labor–Greens alliance. It is a Nationals and the Liberals against the Labor and the Greens and I’m here today, turning a sod, with Col, with Kenny, to say to them we understand this because we stand behind their industry.
I’ll close on one thing. I’ll show you yet another example. We have a safeguard mechanism. It’s 100,000 tonnes. Labor Party are going to screw that down that safeguarding mechanism. And guess where the businesses are that are going to get a new tax? Right here, right here and in North Queensland. That’s where the tax is coming. Not to Sydney. Only one business in Sydney, a plastics company. But right here, right here. So, what you’re going to get from the Labor–Greens alliance if you support them in Central Queensland is a big new tax. They’re going to send you a big new tax. No dams, because they never said they were going to support that, and they’ve had ample time. Not roads, not the support of the coal industry. They’re going to send you a new tax so you can support Sydney.
JOURNALIST: You’ll be present at the opening of a new coalmine today, which is a bit of a novel experience really. There’s still a lot of coal in the Galilee Basin, the Bowen Basin; do you see this happening again –
BARNABY JOYCE: I hope so. I need this. I need our nation to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. We’re starting from a strong position, but we’ve got to become even stronger because of the circumstances that are before us, and we have to make wealth. And we have to do it not by butterfly chasing, but working out what the world wants, and they are buying more of that at a higher price than they’ve ever bought before. We want to have the money for the NDIS, and you want money for social security and pensions, and health and education, and you want to buy yourself nuclear submarines. Well, the money has to come from somewhere. It’s not going to fall out of the ceiling. You’ve got to be a realist and say where do we make money? We make money out of that. We make money out of iron ore. We make money out of the gas.
If you don’t earn the export dollars, then what happens is this little number in your pocket is worth nothing because that’s just a piece of plastic. The only reason that’s got value is because people need both to buy that and once that demand has gone – and when you go to buy fuel, it’s going to really, really hit you. No‑one is going to want to send you fuel if you can’t send them coal. And when you want to go and buy yourself a new iPhone, they’re really, really dear because no‑one is going to send you iPhones because you don’t send anything on a boat in the other direction. This is economics 101 and we get it and it might be popular to say get out of coal, but my gosh you’re going to be a poor person if you carry down the Greens–Labor path: no coal, no gas, no money.
JOURNALIST: No aluminium.
BARNABY JOYCE: No aluminium and no money.
JOURNALIST: What about the proposed coal‑fired power station at Collinsville? Will the Government be stumping up the extra money to make it happen?
BARNABY JOYCE: We’re going through the process of the business plan. We’ve said that if we get through the process of the business plan and it stacks up, we support that. We want to make sure we get value for money out of the business plan, so it is something we find that if they’re going to use it overseas in coal‑fired power plants, then we’ve got no problem using it here. In fact, we still do. In fact, if you turn off coal‑fired power plants in Australia, your lights would go off and your economy would crash. So, once more you’ve got to be a realist and we want to make sure that the part of the technology that does this as efficiently as possible, but we understand that the world’s buying it because they’re using coal‑fired power plants. We’re using it in coal‑fired power plants and, if we didn’t, the economy would crash.
JOURNALIST: Are you surprised George Christensen is leaving the party?
BARNABY JOYCE: George is a good mate and, obviously, I’m sad to see George leave. I’ve known George long before George was a Member of Parliament or I was a Senator from Queensland. People have their own political journeys and I respect George and it’s a marvellous thing to live in a democracy and, in our nation, you can make decisions like that; and in other countries you can make decisions like that, and you end up in jail.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with his assessment that the party is anything but conservative?
BARNABY JOYCE: No, I don’t. And I think George and I have both been on the side of trying to fight for conservative issues, and I don’t see that changing. Right here today we’re doing it. Conservatism also goes to realism and economics and realism in how you make money. On the other side are butterfly chasers. Nice people, but where they lead you is where the butterflies go, and that’s not how you protect yourself against the people who are trying to build themselves a naval base 2,000 kilometres off our coast.
JOURNALIST: So, you’re here talking about coal today, but the new report from that Beyond Zero Emissions think tank out today said for Gladstone to have that investment or transition in green hydrogen when there’s a lot of green hydrogen proposals in the area at the moment, the Government would need to invest several billion dollars in renewable energy in the area to help that stack up. What is the Government doing to support green hydrogen in the area –
BARNABY JOYCE: People get really worried when you say the word “transition” because for “transition” they translate it to what it means for them. “Transition” translates to “unemployment” because there is no actual job. Once they leave there with their $100,000 a year, there’s nowhere to go and there’s no one to pay for their house and pay for the car and pay for the kids at school. So, when they hear “transition”, they translate that to “unemployment”. So, we want to make sure that we have alternatives that are present, not transitions. Now, if the hydrogen industry gets legs and moves along, that’s great, but we’ll wait for that to actually be present before we tell people to leave a secure job to go into unemployment.
You asked what we are doing. We are putting billions of dollars on the table: $5.4 billion at Hells Gate. It’s there. It’s sitting there. Another half a billion dollars at Urannah. So, we’ve got around about $6 billion. All the Labor Party has to do is say the word “yes”. But you know what they’ll come up with. They’ll say the word “review”. They’ll say the word “study” even though they don’t have to put any money on the table. That just goes to show you how implausible their position is. To make hydrogen you need water. We have made massive investments on the table for the construction of dams. Now, the way they want to do it, you can’t make hydrogen without water. We’re investing in the dams, and we haven’t heard boo from them.
So, let’s cut between the rhetoric and the reality. Mr Albanese should go out and meet them. He’s had his Budget reply speech. He should have said, “I support Hells Gate. I support Urannah Dam. If a Labor Government is elected, we’ll be building the Mungindi to Charters Towers Road. We will be building the beef roads and we’re also going to seal a road from Townsville through to Perth through the middle of the desert.” But we haven’t heard boo from them. All we heard from them is this sort of butterfly chasing, well‑meaning but quite naive type of economic process and we know where that ends up. It ends up sort of stuck in the corner of the road with a flat tyre.
JOURNALIST: Why is the Prime Minister dragging his feet to call the election?
BARNABY JOYCE: Calling an election is almost always a directive of the Prime Minister. We know it’s got to be. It’s got to be by May 21st. We know when the election is on and I think we all know what we’re doing now and, really, it’s perfunctory as to when he goes to Government House.
JOURNALIST: Russia has sanctioned Australian politicians. Is this going to have any impact on Australia’s opposition to the war in Ukraine?
BARNABY JOYCE: I think that Russia will work it out for themselves. They’re murdering – Mr Putin and the rape of women, people being taken out the front of their house, bound and shot, women going into a maternity hospital and having babies, in the process of labour, just had a baby, taken to the basement, hospital is blown up and they’re buried; buildings burnt [indistinct] with children inside, blew them up. They’ve invaded a country of 44 million people in what Australia has to realise is a complete disregard global in Europe for a rules‑based order. The world has changed, unfortunately, tragically, devastatingly it has changed but we have to understand that we have to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. The Ukrainians are heroic. We’re giving them support – Bushmasters, coal. We’re giving them support in armaments and aid. Australia is doing their part. We should look there and say, “Okay we understand how the world has gone. We’ve got to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. Therefore, in our priorities, we’ve got to make as much as money as we possibly can.”
I don’t really care what Mr Putin has to say. I think that Mr Putin should understand that he’s gone and attacked his sister country, and he’s murdering, basically, what a lot of people would say are probably the closest related people to himself. It would be the same as if Australia was to attack New Zealand. It’s just outrageous. So who would want to go and visit him?
JOURNALIST: Do you think suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council will have any impact on its behaviour and today as well QAL here in Gladstone, we saw Rio Tinto say they’ve taken full control. What’s your response to that?
BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I would say that Russia being on the Human Rights Council is a complete and utter farce. What human rights are they showing in the Ukraine? This is something the world has to deal with. If Russia can arbitrarily go to another country, murder, rape, destroy another country, then we have an issue that’s happening globally. And that’s why I say again we need to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. We must be alive to the issues that are before us. We must prioritise in such a form as we give the greatest mechanism of protection to your sons, to your daughters, to your grandchildren. That is not rhetoric. That is not excessive. That is the reality. If you don’t believe me, turn on your television and watch the news.
JOURNALIST: You said that people will translate transition to unemployment do you really believe that it’s a zero‑sum game and we can’t keep investing in greener or clean energy while we’ve got coal projects –
BARNABY JOYCE: Okay, let’s get this live example. There’s the coal loading port. There’s the ship. Curtis Island is out there. There’s the gas. Okay. Great. So if we shut this show down, where is the hydrogen terminal? I can’t see it. So, let’s actually get the industry established, built, so you’ve got an alternative. An alternative is vastly different to saying transition, because transition translates to unemployment. Because people say, “When you start talking to me about transition, Mr Albanese, Senator Wong, Senator Gallagher, Mr Marles, and you don’t actually show me where the job is right now, then I imagine I’m going back home to watch Netflix and, basically panic, because where am I going to get my house payment from?”
JOURNALIST: Is that due to a lack of Government investment?
BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve just said, we’re putting massive investments in – massive investments in. The first thing is water and the Labor Party can’t say the word “yes”. And this is how you’ve got to understand the disconnect between their rhetoric and the reality. They could have come here and said, “Oh, yeah, Hells Gate, 2.1 million megalitres, unreal. Sydney Harbour is 435,000 megalitres. This is 2.1 million megalitres. We need water to make hydrogen. We’re right in there.” But you have not heard boo from them. Not boo. So, don’t get sucked into believing them, right, because once the rubber hits the road, you don’t see them. Their Budget reply speech – tell me the part where they spoke about the massive investment in water to support the hydrogen industry. That was right in probably the same sense as the word “coal”, which also wasn’t mentioned.