BARNABY JOYCE: It’s an incredible honour to have the opportunity to stand before the Australian people and with the Prime Minister as a Nationals and Liberals Coalition to further build on the path that we have so successfully done. It’s the Nationals and Liberals that are building the Inland Rail. It’s the Nationals and Liberals that have laid down the path for further dams, whether it’s Hells Gates, whether it’s Urannah, we’re building Rookwood, we’re building Emu Swamp. All these things are important to stand behind. Our cattle producers, we stand behind our coal miners, we stand behind, unambiguously, people in regional Australia because we know that eight of our top 10 exports, our major exports, come from regional areas. Not only that, we’ve taken regional areas to a time of prosperity that they’ve never experienced before in so many areas such as cattle prices, sheep prices, commodity prices. We do this in a time when the world is uncertain. But we see what China is doing in trying to set up a base in the Solomon Islands, nearly 2,000 kilometres from our coast. When we see the horrific scenes of what’s happening in Ukraine, and the world moving away in certain areas from a liberal rules-based democracy. We need a strong government. The Nationals have been part of a plan that’s taken Australia forward, with the Liberal Party, that’s actually building the Bruce Highway, that is building the Pacific Highway, that continues building on issues such as Western Sydney Airport. These things are a plan that’s happened over a long period of time and must continue on to make our nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible.
Now, I heard the leader of the Opposition, I’ve heard what he just said, heard about Toto and that was marvellous, and Sister Mary at St Joseph’s Camperdown, and then I heard him talking about the Ramones and “hey, hey, let’s go” or whatever. I don’t think that’s a reflection of the alternate Prime Minister, but it’s not just that. It’s that it’s a team. The Australian people have to make a decision whether they want the Member for Cook, Mr Scott Morrison, as Prime Minister or the Member of Grayndler, Mr Anthony Albanese, as Prime Minister. I understand that, but it’s also whether you want Brendan O’Connor as Defence Minister or Peter Dutton. Whether you want Marise Payne as the Foreign Minister or Senator Penny Wong. To be honest, myself or Catherine King who, to be quite frank, in regional infrastructure we haven’t really heard of. And then we’ve got other ones, David Littleproud who’s been up front and in the centre in agriculture, or Julie Collins who I can’t even remember asking a question, she probably has in Question Time, but I haven’t heard it. And it goes on. We know that Keith Pitt stands absolutely behind the coal sector, the iron ore sector. And that’s why in this budget, we understand where our nation makes money. Whether it’s the Pilbara where we’re investing in, or the Northern Territory with critical minerals, or Townsville with the Hells Gates Dam, or Gladstone, even Bundaberg with sugar, or the Port of Newcastle. We are brave enough to set down this path forward.
And right now, listening to Mr Albanese, he talked about Toto, he talked about Sister Mary, he talked about the Ramones, but he didn’t talk about what we’re going to do in the Pilbara. He didn’t talk, except through gritted teeth, about the resources industry and our second biggest export, coal. He didn’t talk about what he was going to do for the Port of Newcastle and developing the Hunter Valley. He didn’t talk about Inland Rail. He didn’t talk about the path forward in developing our nation and making it stronger. And this decision the Australian people are going to have to make as to who really does have to plan to go forward and who really does make their nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible in light of the precarious circumstances that are before us. We need to have a strong nation and we can see in other areas in the social infrastructure, in health. With a regional health minister, Dr David Gillespie, is dealing with one of the most critical problems of our time and that is getting doctors into regional areas. In our recent announcement, we are looking at further MRIs, we’ve put in excess of $66 million to further MRIs into regional areas so that people can get diagnosed earlier with critical diseases that could affect their health. We understand about child care, we understand about health care and we’re investing in that. We’ve invested more in health than any government before. We understand the issues of housing, whether it is making sure people who are doing it really tough can get into a house with support, or making people who really want to buy a house, we don’t mock people who want to buy a house. We’re proud to say that if you can come up with a deposit, as a single lady if you can come up with a two and a half percent deposit, we don’t mock you, saying that we will underpin your capacity to buy a house and give yourself real security. We understand these things. For us, it is making sure that we continue on with this tough work.
Myself and Scott Morrison work very well and very closely together. I respect that man. I respect him because he keeps his word. And we know where he is. We know that he has a compass and he has a direction that that is absolutely focused on making the ship of Australia chart its way through these troubled waters. This is not a popularity contest. I would say politics is a lot like a dentist. You don’t have to like them, all you have to know is that if the drill is in your mouth, they know how to do the job and they’re competent. I heard Mr Albanese say he was the Deputy Prime Minister. That’s correct – for 83 days. This is the issue. In these circumstances, his senior ministry which surrounds him, which is so crucially important, there was just not the depth of experience needed to run our country. And we even look at some of the things that concern me when he says he’s a working class man. There’s no problems with that, but it somehow belies the fact that Sydney University, good luck and God bless him, and a couple of years at Commonwealth Bank and for the rest of his life, basically a politician or a quasi politician. He understands politics and he’s very good at the political line, there’s no doubt about that. But he’s never run a business. He’s never actually understood how to run a business. And he’s never really had a labouring job, so you get a sense of something contrived. Unfortunately, that resonates out. He is one person in Singleton, another person in Sydney. He’s one person in Mackay and another person in Melbourne. And this shows weakness, to be unable to be consistent and honest and straight. What that means is that weakness might mean that he’s going for the prime ministership, but we know that people such as Senator Penny Wong and Adam Bandt, who he will have to do a deal with the Greens, will be running the country. That concerns people. We know that the Greens themselves have already basically put down their policies of what they demand from the Labor Party, and the Labor Party can’t get there without Green preferences. Yes, the Nationals and the Liberals work together. But I’d rather have the Nationals and the Liberals working together with policy structure to keep our nation strong than the Greens and the Labor Party doing a deal that we inherently know will put people at risk, whether they’re miners in Central Queensland or in the Hunter Valley, whether they’re farmers, or small business people with the tax structures that keep their families safe. We don’t want the big arm of government, which is always the article that the left work with, to come into people’s lives. We want people to be as free as possible. We want them to have that liberty. We want them to be able to continue on. That the state is a servant of them, they’re not an article of the state, telling them what to do. In our regional areas, whether it’s making sure we get the health services in, the transport capacity into those areas, understanding and respecting them for the wealth they put on our nation’s plate, we need to continue on with the Nationals and the Liberals.
So, in this next six weeks, it will be a long campaign. We ask you, and I ask you, to consider the future of our nation, to understand the circumstances of our times, to understand the precarious nature we are in, to back in who would have the strength to make decisions such as getting nuclear submarines and understanding how that is an issue, which is unfortunate we have to deal with, who has the capacity to make sure that your children that are sitting beside you, that are watching this, that you will have a government that is strong enough to say what mightn’t be popular, but we know that it’s going to leave you in a stronger position, in a safer position. It’s the most important election of our time. It really is because it’s in one of the most precarious circumstances of our time, that we haven’t seen before not like this, not off our coast, not what we’ve seen even in the Arafura Sea in issues of Chinese naval ships coming into those areas, hitting Australian planes with lasers, trying to build a base in the Solomon Islands, trying to see if they can infiltrate islands around us. This is something that I say to the Australian people, it’s an incredible decision that’s before you and with my colleagues, we will be making absolutely certain that we put our best foot forward as a team, as a team that shows you the actual truth of politics. It’s not a one man show. It’s one team against another team. And ask yourself the question – which is the best team to keep your nation safe, to keep your nation strong.
REPORTER: You say it’s not a popularity contest. Do you accept that Scott Morrison is on the nose across Australia?
BARNABY JOYCE: I always say it’s never a popularity contest because that’s not what politics is about. It’s about the Cabinet system of government. So you must always match up one Defence Minister against the alternative Defence Minister. Peter Dutton is tough man, he’s strong man. At times, people think, oh, you know, I find him too hard, but he needs to be hard. He’s there to protect Australia. And against that is Brendan O’Connor, who is probably a delightful person, but really in that portfolio he hasn’t really been heard of, and this is the time you should be sick of seeing him almost. In areas such as agriculture, it’s David Littleproud and the alternative is Julie Collins. It’s such a vital part of the Australian economy and they’ve basically kept her hidden. And myself, as the Transport Minister and Infrastructure, showing the dams we’re building and telling them the dams that we’re going to build as soon as we get Labor Party approval in Queensland, which is also controlled by the Greens. But have we had one of those infrastructure projects, has Mr Albanese or Catherine King come out and said we’ll build Hells Gates Dam? No, because the Greens own them. Are they going to build Urannah Dam? No, because the Greens own them. Are they going to continue on with driving the railway line from Toowoomba down to Gladstone? No, they won’t say that. Do they talk about other infrastructure in regional areas that are the substantive way to take us forward? No, because it’s either an offence to the Greens, or it’s forgotten by them. And that’s what you’ll see. You’ll see the rise of the Labor left, of Penny Wong, of Katy Gallagher, Adam Bandt. We have Richard Marles who says basically that one of our major exports, coal, should be closed down. And that’s the alternative. You’re about to see the rise of the Labor left to the demise of Australia’s future.
REPORTER: So nine years ago, you started this section of government under Tony Abbott by promising to build several hundred dams, but that’s been whittled down to just about two and you haven’t signed any contracts or shifted any dirt on any of them. What’s going to happen over the next three years if you get re-elected that’s better than last nine?
BARNABY JOYCE: That’s not correct. We’ve got Scottsdale Irrigation Sceme, there’s a number of water infrastructure projects there. We know what’s happening with Dungowan Dam, we’ve got the money on the table waiting for a state government to say yes. We’re actually building Rookwood Weir, it’s underway as we speak. We’ve put the money, the whole of the money, on table for Hells Gates waiting for the Queensland Labor Government to just say the word “yes” for something that they said in the past they approved, but they won’t because they’re owned by the Greens. Urannah Dam, the money is there. They don’t need to put any money on the table. Private enterprise stood up. We continue on with issues such as making sure that we develop the inland of Australia because it goes through critical mineral precincts, which is so important for both renewables and our defence industry. Sealing the road from Townsville directly down to Perth, real vision, the third sealed road across Australia and we haven’t heard boo from Catherine King or Mr Anthony Albanese about it because it’s not in Sydney. And we talk about sealing the Tanami, which we’re going to do, and developing the Pilbara. These are all visionary things. This is a Government with a plan that builds on the work we’re already been doing. I started the sealing, with my Nationals colleagues, of the third sealed road across Australia from Townsville down to Perth. And all that time, Labor’s never, ever said they’ll continue on with it. That’s the thing, their vision stops in the centre of Sydney.
REPORTER: You’ve been an MP or a Senator for 18 years. Assuming you’re re-elected, which is quite likely, are you going to be an MP for another three?
BARNABY JOYCE: Definitely, absolutely, 100 per cent. This is incredibly important. I absolutely respect and thank the people of the New England for the great honour they give me in representing them and also the latitude of understanding that in the office of Deputy Prime Minister that I have a duty for my nation that probably goes beyond the expectations of other people on the back bench. I thank the people of New England for that and I will continue fighting for them as hard as I possibly can.
REPORTER: Would you remain leader, assuming the party agrees to keep you leader?
BARNABY JOYCE: That’s for the party room, and it’s an incredible honour that they have given me.
REPORTER: But you’d be happy to remain in the job?
BARNABY JOYCE: Happy to remain in the job.
REPORTER: You’ve emphasised potential links between Labor and the Greens. Do you accept that you yourself are a liability in moderate seats the Liberals are trying to hang on to?
BARNABY JOYCE: I’m always honest with what I have to do for the nation, and I’m direct. I don’t try to be everything to everybody. I try to be straight with people. And as I’ve said, my objective is not to be liked. This is not Celebrity Chef. This is about making sure that we understand the gravity of the job that’s before us for our nation, which means in talking with the Australian people and regional people, I give direct, to the point and concise and honest answers. And really, sometimes that causes people to say, I don’t like what you said. But what I can say to them, is at least you got a straight answer.
REPORTER: So Liberal MPs fighting seats were pro-climate independents are sitting there going a vote for the Liberals is a vote for Barnaby Joyce, what should they be saying back to those people?
BARNABY JOYCE: I’d say you’ve got more solar panels per capita in Australia on roofs than any other country, that every target that’s been asked of us, we have met. But we’ve got to do this in a way that clearly understands Australia’s got to make money. Eight of our 10 biggest exports come from regional Australia. And unless that money comes into Australia, it can’t spin around Australia, which means the whole economy within Australia is put at risk. And this is a straight answer and I’ll keep saying it. Mr Albanese and Senator Wong and Mr Marles and Senator Katy Gallagher will tell you other stories and that’s their right because they’re very, very good politicians. They’re very good politicians. They’re so often inoffensive. What I want to be for the Australian people is straight with them.
REPORTER: You called the Prime Minister a liar. Why should the public trust Scott Morrison when you clearly don’t?
BARNABY JOYCE: I’m not going to discuss something that was a private message between myself and another person, which was then basically by accident given to a third party and then she chose upon herself to disclose a private text message of mine. I mean, if we use that as preamble, then every private text message from any person about their parents or whatever, is going to be disclosed. And that is not respecting someone else’s privacy at all. What I can say is working with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, working basically with him as the Prime Minister, he’s honoured every agreement he has ever made with me, some of them incredibly tough. And that is a mark of a person I can respect, and that is a mark of a person of strength, and this nation needs people of strength right now, more than ever before.
REPORTER: So one of the deals you made for the net zero, you told me this anyway, was the religious freedom legislation being expedited? That’s not law. Would you be going back to that next term? Would that be part of your agreements? Or is that something you’ve talked about with Scott Morrison? Where’s the religious freedom legislation at?
BARNABY JOYCE: I think it’s so important across Australia, not just in regional areas, that people have capacity to practice their faith and have children brought up in the faith that they practice. This is something that I’ll maintain that is a strong issue. And yes, we must make sure that people who have a right in regards to sexualities also have a right in regards to their religion. And we’ve seen equivalence of rights and the comparison between those two. I think that’s only fair and I think most people, not everyone, most people understand it. Some people don’t like it. Once more, you got a straight answer. I fall on the side of people who want it.
REPORTER: Several Liberal MPs voted against it, that’s the reason it fell over. Considering that this is an agreement between you and the PM, did you consider that a betrayal? Did you consider that a failure?
BARNABY JOYCE: I considered it a disappointment. These policies come forward to us because they are advocated by so many people within our nation, from basically faiths or denominations, from Christian faith to Islamic faith to Hindu faith, this is something they wanted. And we must listen to them because they’re also part of our nation. They believe it needs protection. Now, it’s not that so you can basically use as a mechanism to exploit someone, but they have their right just like people have their right on sexual discrimination. People have their right on religious discrimination and they want to see that protection brought in place.
REPORTER: The big ticket item in the New England is the Dungowan Dam. You announced it several years ago alongside the Coalition New South Wales Government, but it hasn’t begun and if Labor wins power it may never go ahead. Would you view that as a failure?
BARNABY JOYCE: Who would you like to see in the role of Health Minister if the Coalition wins? What I would view that as is an absolute expose of how the Labor Party works. You’ve got a dam in this regional area, Dungowan Dam. If the Labor Party win, the Greens run the show, they stop the dam, just like Hells Gate. They haven’t whispered about it, because they’re not going to do it because the Greens don’t want it. Urannah Dam, they’re not going to do it because the Greens don’t want it. I mean, this is the problem you’ve got. If you elect a government that doesn’t actually have the strength at leadership, that’s actually run by people in the background, whether it’s the left wing of the Labor Party, or their alliance with the Greens, then what you see is to the detriment of regional Australia. We’ve seen it before with the Labor Party and the closure of live cattle trade. You know they’ve got form on this. We see it right now in South Australia. It took them nearly a week before the first place they went was into the agricultural areas and said we’re going to change how pastoral leases work because they don’t like people in regional Australia because they’ve got to curry favour with Greens from the inner suburbs. Even Mr Albanese himself, he can’t win without Green preferences. He fights the Greens for the seat and the Labor Party can’t win without Green preferences. It’s as simple as that. It is a Green-Labor government. Well, in the Nationals, we have Dr David Gillespie who has done an exceptional job and continues on doing an exceptional job. And his program of moving doctors out to regional areas, which is one of the big issues for us, shows how the National Party focuses on making sure that we can get the obstetrics into regional areas, so we can get mental health services into regional areas and basically continue to build on what we’re doing, build on the improvements. We know we’ve got further to go and that’s why we’ve got a doctor in a health portfolio in Dr David Gillespie. That’s the Nationals position. Now, the Prime Minister within the Liberal Party will make a decision but they’ve got an awful lot of talent to pick from in people who have actually had medical experience, allied health experience. I’ll leave that decision to the Prime Minister. If you say, well, we don’t have a Health Minister, we actually still do. Dr David Gillespie, Regional Health, he’s hard at work today. When will Australia’s know who that will be? I’m going to leave that for the Prime Minister. I look after the Nationals, he looks after the Liberals and together we work because we’re not ashamed to say that we are in a Coalition. It’s the Labor Party that gets sneaky and says that somehow, despite the fact that they very rarely win in many seats at all on primaries, but somehow they don’t have an association with the Greens which is once more – Albanese Singleton man and Sydney man. And if you can’t trust him from town to town, how can you trust him to run the Government?
REPORTER: This is a safe seat. Are you concerned with Scott Morrison’s personal unpopularity and the failure to get Dungowan Dam underway that you could see a swing against you?
BARNABY JOYCE: I never take anything for granted. I’ve worked tirelessly for everybody. We’ve delivered for the New England, we’ve delivered in roads, we’ve delivered in mobile phone towers and bridges, in health and everything from halls in regional areas to sporting facilities such as tennis courts. We look to every corner of our electorate and here, it’s public service. And I make sure that we deliver in public service as a servant of the public, delivering on their issues, regardless of who they vote for, regardless of who they support. Because every person deserves the dignity that no one is better than the other and every person deserves the focus of your service.
REPORTER: One of the big criticisms of the Prime Minister is that during a crisis like the floods, bushfires, etc. he’s not there. So he goes to Hawaii, he doesn’t hold a hose, it’s not his job. This is certainly what Labor has done with their advertising in the last couple of days. How can a Prime Minister who can’t manage a crisis at home hope to manage crises in this ever increasingly dangerous world of ours?
BARNABY JOYCE: Perfect little lines from the Labor Party. Aren’t they clever? The Labor Party is full of such great politians, they’re such brilliant politicians because if you go into their resumes, that’s about all they’ve ever done. They’re very good politicians because they’ve had an awful lot of experience at it. From University to union official to politician to Prime Minister. It’s a dangerous career path if you want your nation and looked. Mr Morrison, obviously, has been absolutely focused. During the COVID epidemic, Australia is one of the most successful nations, fortunately on Earth, we’ve saved so many people’s lives, about 40,000. We’ve kept the economy going, we’ve got unemployment about to go below 4 per cent. And that’s a sign of success, not a sign of failure, and clever little lines from the Labor Party just belies the fact that they don’t have the substance to come up with the policies that will be able to match what we do.
REPORTER: Is the electorate going to see much of you over the next six weeks?
BARNABY JOYCE: I’m here today and then, obviously, I’m on the road and then I’m back. People in the New England understand that with the office of Deputy Prime Minister comes an obligation also to your nation. People in New England are very patriotic, they understand your obligation to your nation, as well as your duty to your local electorate. And I’ll be trying to balance them as best as I can.