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Transcript of interview: ABC 24 with Melissa Clarke: 26 October 2012

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Senator Barnaby Joyce

Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water Leader of the Nationals in the Senate

ABC 24 Transcript

October 26, 2012

Subjects: ABC 24 journalist Melissa Clarke and LNP Senator for Queensland Barnaby


Melissa Clarke: Today Julia Gillard will commit to putting an extra 450 billion litres back

into the river system from 2014. That will cost the Government an extra $1.7 billion.

One of the biggest concerned is the Coalition supporters’ spokesperson, Barnaby Joyce

who joins us from Brisbane newsroom. Thanks for being with us Senator Joyce.

Barnaby Joyce: You’re welcome Melissa.

Melissa Clarke: Irrigators have been calling for the Federal Government to go about

improving environmental flows by irrigation upgrades rather than buying back water

entitlements. So isn’t this a good move for irrigators in regional communities?

Barnaby Joyce: Well, it’s great that we look at infrastructure upgrades but we have to

ask for the details remembering in the week that we’ve had the mining tax debacle. You’ve

got to take these people into the prickles of the details. Where is this money going to

come from?

Where are the calculations that add to $1.7 billion? Where’s the hydrology study?

Because for instance if we are going to 3200 gigs there are areas such as between near

Hume Dam and Yarrawonga where you would have to buy easements, lift bridges, there

are so many things that are a part of this decision which we haven’t seen the detail of.

This goes out to 2024. This is really into the never, never land stuff and we have got to

take these people to the prickles and say, we are $250 billion in debt at the moment, you

borrowed $8.1 billion in the last fortnight, enough to buy twenty thousand houses in the

western suburbs in Sydney and now you are telling us that by 2024 magically $1.7billion

will give us 450 gigs. Prove it.

Melissa Clarke: Let’s start on the economic issue. You say that the Government doesn’t

have the money but they are now talking about a billion dollars over a fairly long time

period and as you just said yourself. It’s quite a reasonable amount of money compared to

other infrastructure projects that governments often plan for on a long term basis.

It’s not unreasonable for the government to plan ten years into the future, it does that with

other infrastructure projects likes roads and highways and ports, so how is this different?

Barnaby Joyce: Well, what’s happening is that we are in so much debt at the moment

that they have to actually tell us how they are going to turn the show around. It’s no good

promising a group of people who….the water minister they might not even know.

Melissa Clarke: Sure but you don’t know who’s going to be the roads minister in ten

years’ time and there actually planning for highways several years down the track as well.

Barnaby Joyce: We also got out today the issue about the defence budget and how we

are going to find money for that, that’s going down. Whilst they’re out there they should

promise they are going to put an ambulance station on every corner in Australia by 3030.

The problem we have got Melissa is that until you see the details of this crowd you’ve just

got to be careful because they always suck you in. They say 450 gigs, $1.7 billion and by

the way Tony Burke said that it would largely come from on farm infrastructure. Now, we

want to know the part that doesn’t come from on farm infrastructure because that is

buybacks that will affect the economic basis of the towns. If you take the paddock that

grows a hundred acres of tomatoes and turns it into the paddock that grows 80 then that

means that the motel needs to be smaller, the price of the house goes down and all the

other people associated to the socio economic outcome are affected.

Melissa Clarke: There is no evidence to suggest that infrastructure upgrades lead to

deterioration of regional communities. They have started doing it successfully in Victoria

with the Goulburn Murray project there so the government clearly has a sound basis on

which to go about infrastructure upgrades as a way of getting a win-win for the

environment and for the local community and irrigators.

Barnaby Joyce: My issue Melissa is not with infrastructure upgrades, we were the ones

who put $5.8 billion on the table to do them. My issue is with the Labor Party and how they

came about this. Let’s take for instance the $5.8 billion set aside so far. That’s bought us

about 600 gigs now that would be approximately $10,000 a mega litre. Even if we take

into account that some of that is for other items then the costing of what they want is going

to be vastly in excess of what they have provided. So we have got to actually see where

the money is coming from.

Melissa Clarke: Senator Joyce, a cheaper and more calculable way of getting water

returned for environmental needs is through buybacks and that is what the communities

have been campaigning against so surely if your problem is economics and accountability

for those flows then the government would be better off going back to buybacks under

what you are calling for.

Barnaby Joyce: If we go back to buybacks we will end up with a riot because that shuts

down the economic viability of towns - Deniliquin, Griffith, Mildura. If you want these

people to end up in Canberra on your front lawn screaming at you, then go back to

buybacks and they will all turn up. We are allowed to ask for details Melissa if they can’t

provide them, let’s just see where the details are before we get too excited with what they

are actually going to provide.

Melissa Clarke: If details are out, if all state governments agree and irrigation groups are

satisfied will the Coalition also swing behind this so that there can be some national

progress on this reform.

Barnaby Joyce: Until we see the competency in the government I see before me is the

one that is $259 billion in gross debt, provided a mining tax that didn’t actually provide any

money and now within a few hours they say that we want you to agree with us. Let’s see

the details first Melissa.