ABC Radio National interview with Fran Kelly

16 September 2015

Topics: New Coalition Agreement, an 'effects test', changes to water responsibilities, election of new Prime Minister.


FRAN KELLY: Financial concessions for stay at home parents, money for regional mobile blackspots, backing for a controversial measure to help small business against bigger competitors. These are some of the concessions - just some of them - that the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has been forced to make or has happily made, we're not sure, with the National Party to get them to sign up to a new coalition agreement with the new PM. Barnaby Joyce is the National Party Deputy Leader, he's also the Agriculture Minister, and he joins me in the Parliament House studios.

Barnaby Joyce, welcome back to Breakfast.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning Fran, how are you?

KELLY: I'm well thank you. Coalition agreements in the past pretty much covered the number of portfolios and the Deputy Leadership position; this one is much more than that. Is this is a sign you don't trust Malcolm Turnbull on policy?

JOYCE: No, it's a sign that we want to have a clear signal to the people we represent, regional people, to people in small business, to people in the agricultural sector, to stay at home mums, that we are in there batting for them. Obviously with a change in Prime Minister there's got to be a restatement so that people have a sense of confidence going forward that your policy views and your values remain the same, and we are doing that. We are showing that we're going to look after those people who just stay at home and have a kid and say look the world talks about everybody else but not us, that we look after farmers who have said look we just believe that agriculture should be complete and one of the vital componentry of agriculture is water, and they want to make sure that that's dealt with. We want to make sure that the positions that we have on climate change and the current policies are maintained, that the things that we asked the people to stand behind us at the previous election are maintained, and it also shows quite clearly that the National Party will go into bat.

KELLY: And I'll come to some of those specific elements of this deal in a moment, but you say an agreement needs to take- needs to talk about policies, views, and values, but as I said before, they don't normally. Normally a coalition deal doesn't do this. So is this designed to really get past the National Party scepticism, which we know was there, certainly in his last leadership of the Coalition, towards Malcolm Turnbull.

JOYCE: Well we bargain all the time Fran, and one of the things that always come …

KELLY: But you don't put it in paper.

JOYCE: One of the things that always annoys me that we seem to oscillate between if people don't see us bargaining enough they call us a doormat, and when we do bargain, they call us tyrannical. Well, we're just tabulating exactly what we do. We're tabulating exactly what we asked for. And these are key …

KELLY: Because you don't trust it if it's not tabulated?

JOYCE: No, I just think it's really important that there is a continuum that people know that, okay, the reason I voted for you is on these key issues and I want to make sure that those key issues are continued to be pursued. They have a right to ask that question in the electorate, because after all we are their servants looking after them, because there's been a change in Prime Minister and they want to make sure that they have that continual certainty going forward. We've got that, now we get back to business, and we have got to win this election otherwise we hand the world over to Mr Shorten and that's not going to be any good for anybody.

KELLY: Well let's talk about the coalition deal now, the deal the Nats have struck with Malcolm Turnbull. The responsibility for water is moved from the Liberals, from the Environment Minister to you as the Agriculture Minister. In topline terms that might worry those who think putting farmers and irrigators back in charge of water policy means the rivers and the lower lakes will miss out again.

JOYCE: Well that's a great sensational claim and I heard it last night by Tony Burke, it's also a load of rubbish. I was the Shadow Parliamentary... as Shadow Minister my responsibilities were water, and I worked with Simon Birmingham from South Australia, and we worked very effectively. So I have had a long knowledge and been in touch with this portfolio for a long period of time. I also lived in the basin. I think that might be important. If I was to say to Mr Burke, well, I think someone from Tamworth should be the Minister for all things that happen on Sydney Harbour, he would say that's an absurdity, you don't live there. Well then on the same breath it is makes logical sense that you would have a Minister for Water dealing with one of the crucial issues, the Murray Darling Basin, who actually lives in the Murray Darling Basin.

KELLY: What about the agreement with Malcolm Turnbull on emissions trading? As I've read it he's had to pledge no move back to emissions trading scheme, just stick with direct action. Is that for this term, or is that for the term of his prime ministership?

JOYCE: Well it's for the term of our coalition agreement with Malcolm Turnbull. So Warren Truss, Leader of the National Party, Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Liberal Party, signed a coalition agreement. That is the agreement that stands between them, that's- it binds them together, and we are bound by that agreement. In the past there was an agreement between Mr Abbott and Mr Truss, now there's an agreement between Mr Truss and Mr Turnbull.

KELLY: And the agreement is Malcolm Turnbull sticks to direct action?

JOYCE: That's the agreement, yes.

KELLY: These social measures you've talked about earlier, the stay at home parents, the Nats have won social measures worth between two billion and four billion, I think at least half of that for this deal with stay at home parents, get an extra $1000 a year. Tell us more about that, and how is this being paid for?

JOYCE: Well the issue there is that there are so many families, and Senator Canavan has been one of the people who have been pursuing this, and there are so many families who say, well, you seem to talk about everybody but us in regional areas. In regional areas it's just the reality, it's not politically incorrect it's the reality that the blokes go out to work in many instances and the lady stays home with the child. And she sees the political debate and says I want you to start talking about me, I want you to start talking about my life and what's happening in my life. And so …

KELLY: A lot of people feel like that though, they don't often get it.

JOYCE: Yeah, well, we've got to make sure that we stick up for our people, and we've got to make sure that those people are respected, and that we- that all that we do, Fran, in the National Party, we're always aware that our people are in the poorest electorates, and we're going to make sure that we go into bat for them.

KELLY: And how is that going to be paid for?

JOYCE: That will be paid for like everything, in the process of the budget, we are coming forward to the budget process. Everything I do Fran, even in the Ag portfolio, everything that we did in the white paper, we find the offsets and we do it. And we'll be finding offsets and doing this.

KELLY: Okay. And one more, and a big one, the so-called effects test to help protect small business-


KELLY: From bigger competitors. This was being very divisive in the Cabinet, Tony Abbott put it off, wasn't quite ready for the fight yet. The Nats want that effects test to be brought into place as Bruce Billson, the Small Business Minister, is pushing for. What commitment has Malcolm Turnbull made to back the effects test, to insist on it, or simply to have the debate?

JOYCE: Well to make sure that it comes into the Cabinet and is given fair hearing. And I think that- I'll let Malcolm speak for himself, but I believe that the support is there. This is- everything we've done in this Fran is talking to our constituency, talking to the stay at home mums, talking to the farmers, talking to the small business people, the hairdressers, the people in the big shopping malls who say I want someone to go into bat for us. And we are going to go into bat for them, and we're going to make sure that this economy is vibrant by reason of people's capacity to participate in it.

KELLY: And on day one of Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership three National Party Senators crossed the floor to support a Greens motion advocating a change in the laws to the effects test, to bring in the effects test. Is that the first sign of a fracture between the Nats and the Liberal Party? Is that a shot over the bow of Malcolm Turnbull?

JOYCE: No, and I always think that in the Senate it shouldn't be that remarkable. I mean, we don't haul in every crossbencher or everybody else. The National Party's had a strong position on wanting to make sure we get a strong support for small business, it's one of our key constituencies, it's the people who talk to us, it's the thing they bring up at our branch meetings that they want, it's the things that they take to our state conferences that they want. And Senators represent their state, and if they have a policy on their state books - have a certain position, I think they're more bound than most to try and represent it.

KELLY: Barnaby Joyce as Deputy National Party Leader, as Agriculture Minister, did you vote for Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull?

JOYCE: I'm in the National Party. I tell you what we do-

KELLY: Oh you don't get to vote, I beg your pardon.

JOYCE: That's right. But what we get to do is do Coalition Agreements after they're finished. That's how we bargain.

KELLY: Alright, well let me ask you this then, is any concern you might have had with the transition in the Liberal Party to Malcolm Turnbull, is that allayed by the snap Morgan poll that happened yesterday that showed that as preferred Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull leads Bill Shorten 70 per cent to 24 per cent?

JOYCE: Well I tell you what, I'd much prefer to be going to an election with Malcolm Turnbull than with Bill Shorten, and that's stating the bleeding obvious.

KELLY: Barnaby Joyce, thank you very much for joining us.

JOYCE: You're welcome.

KELLY: Barnaby Joyce is Agriculture Minister and National Deputy Leader, and of course he doesn't get a vote in the leadership in the Liberal Party room.

JOYCE: Give me one.

KELLY: It's quarter to eight on Breakfast. Doesn't mean he doesn't have plenty to say about it though.