Deputy Prime Minister and federal Nationals’ leader Barnaby Joyce addressed the Rural Press Club this week. This is what he had to say:
Winston Churchill once stated that he was “always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught”.
Australia has to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible, or in the future, possibly imminent future, we will be taught the most brutal lesson of our time.
Being strong means being able to find what you need and restore the circumstances of your previous position as quickly as possible.
It needs the allocation of resources to remove a threat or to repair damage.
It needs money, and money in Australia is made from exports that then rotates throughout our economy, bringing wealth to those oblivious to its actual source.
The value of coal exports could easily reach $100 billion over the current financial year, yet some almost have a fear of even referring to it as if it was the evil eye.
Spending the wealth that comes from coal, has the same people claiming responsibility as if they conjured the royalties out of thin air.
Gas comes with a similar narrative.
The source of this nation’s wealth is regional Australia. The mechanism of realising that wealth is getting our valuable commodities, like coal, gas, iron ore, beef and cotton, to a port and getting paid for it.
Resources are what makes that polymer note in your pocket have a value away from being a meaningless piece of plastic.
We cannot send to Japan a ship with 80 tonnes of coal to pick up a car.
The value of the Australian dollar underpins the mechanism of exchange.
But when we have no coal to send they won’t just accept the value of the dollar because we want a car.
Beyond cars, look at what you are wearing, the phone in your pocket, the fuel in your car, the stove in your house, your television and the movie playing on it.
Let’s be honest, virtually everything beyond the food on your plate comes from overseas.
Your standard of living is based on our terms of trade. The Nationals and Liberals are focused on keeping that strong, for the benefit of our nation.
But we have one party, the Greens, that wants to put an end to coal, gas, live cattle, live sheep, irrigated cotton, irrigated rice, uranium and the list goes on.
The irony is that they want more money for social security, to subsidise renewables, for international aid and to fund whatever the cause of the day is.
What’s concerning is that the Labor Party relies on the Greens and their preferences to form government.
Anyone that picks and chooses the products we sell, that others are prepared to buy, or inhibits the process of getting our goods and commodities to a port makes us weaker and, by doing so, makes us more vulnerable.
This may in some cases be a fair price, but if we make it the rule we are dangerously misreading the geopolitical circumstances so evident on the television or any informed assessment of our part of the world.
I want to now give you two examples of what makes us stronger and what makes us weaker.
The construction of the Inland Rail makes us stronger. The inertia from the almost Kafkaesque litany of approvals and the layers of bureaucracy to achieve this makes us weaker.
As an example, the environmental impact statement for the section of the Inland Rail that will cross the Condamine Floodplain consisted of over 13,000 pages. Seventy-one scientists with over 1,000 years of experience and more than 90 university degrees worked on this document.
But what is still going on today? Yet another review.
The Inland Rail will make our country stronger. Bureaucracy and project delays will make it weaker.
The release of new modelling from the CSIRO this week further reinforces why we must drive the project ahead.
The modelling shows Inland Rail could cut freight transport costs by up to $213 million a year, resulting in huge savings for businesses and industries that use the line and further driving the growth of Goondiwindi, Narrabri, Parkes, Toowoomba, as we drive it down to Gladstone and to Melbourne and to Brisbane
The potential cost reductions cover more than 12,000 supply chains, stretching all the way west to Perth and down to Tasmania, and 94 commodities, including coal, steel, grains, vehicles, horticulture and livestock.
Businesses relying on road-based supply chains will benefit most from the switch, profiting from the average transport saving of $80.77 per tonne, or $179 million per annum.
Savings will only increase as Australia’s freight task grows in the future.
Our continent has only two roads running east to west across it. One across the Nullarbor and one west from Camooweal.
This is something that should have been fixed as we see our strategic weakness so evidently displayed to us by the heavy rains that took out both rail and road across the Nullarbor, threatening our capacity to keep food on shelves in Perth.
We are now building that road from Winton in Western Queensland to Laverton in Western Australia.
Once sealed, the Outback Way will provide an alternate route for heavy vehicles, reducing the round trip between Western Australia and Queensland by 1,600km. It will reduce travel time for light vehicles by around 19 hours.
This makes our nation stronger.
This will also assist in the opening of new critical mineral precincts north of Alice Springs as well as gold near Laverton.
Minister Littleproud is driving the Agriculture Visa which underpins so much of the commercial capacity of rural and regional Australia.
He is expanding the Regional Investment Corporation – a Nationals policy so many people were cynical about who are now saying it’s not big enough.
He is helping to take agricultural production to over $80 billion a year for first time in our nation’s history.
What Minister Pitt is doing in driving the development of the critical minerals, mining and processing sector is a substantial move by our nation.
We are continuing to expand our traditional industries in coal, oil and gas but also build new industries that make our nation and our economy stronger.
This will create another export industry to bring in further export dollars, provide jobs and pay for the schools, roads and hospitals we all rely on.
Critical minerals are essential for a range of industries: from fighter planes to submarines, ventilators to the iPhone.
Critical minerals use will continue to grow. It is an industry currently dominated overwhelmingly by processing in China but this will make Australia a viable alternative source.
Our nation’s second biggest export is coal. The price of thermal coal has hit $374 USD per tonne.
Not bad for something they tell us people don’t want anymore.
Now, we have school students challenging in the Court the Government’s right to approve the expansion of coal mines.
If they are looking to their future maybe they should consider how they will pay for defending it from the most egregious form of aggression that may be forced on them in their lifetime.
Will they stand behind their views when Greta Thunberg’s “blah blah blah” oration fails to defend their rights and liberties?
The same rights and liberties that they avail themselves of in the process they are currently following with the support of politically-motivated benefactors.
As a premonition of tragedy, they are at precisely the right age to suffer the outcome of other deadly or overwhelming encumbrances on those liberties that allow them to go to our nation’s High Court.
The naive belief that adolescent notoriety is a licence against logic from the appraisal so self-evident from the facts on the news every night.
The people of democratic Taiwan could offer some compass points of priorities.
Those carrying coffins out of Ukraine churches are not focused on climate change, as the aggressor has never made it an item of negotiation on a ceasefire.
We can build roads and infrastructure in new areas to deal with more aggressive weather events, but we can’t force China, Russia or Iran to comply with international climate goals.
I don’t mock their idealism.
As you walk up the political hill you are an idealist, but as you walk down it you are a realist.
I am most definitely on the way down the political hill and as grating as that may be for some, realism is what I must offer to the nation I have served.
On a commercial view, analysis has also changed.
Larry Fink, who runs one of the largest investment funds in the world that invests in Origin, AGL, Santos and Woodside, two years ago said his fund would take a ‘rigid stance’ against fossil fuels like coal but has now softened his position.
Writing in his recent annual letter to CEOs of companies he invests in however, he now argues his fund would not be pursuing immediate divestment as a strategy, saying:
“Any plan that focuses solely on limiting supply and fails to address demand for hydrocarbons will drive up energy prices for those who can least afford it, resulting in greater polarization around climate change and eroding progress.”
A live example of this is what is happening in with the price of energy in Europe right now, which is rippling through to Australia.
On a political view, things have changed. On 7 March this year in the UK, The Times wrote:
Boris Johnson believes the West should be given a “climate change pass” to help wean the EU off Russian gas supplies as he faces mounting pressure over the government’s 2050 net-zero target.
The Times has been told that Johnson wants the West, particularly the US and Canada, to ramp up its own production of gas to help remove the “massive leverage” Russia has over EU countries.
Our inertia in bureaucratic red tape has not changed, however, and now I will test that.
The proposed Urannah Dam has the support of both the federal and state governments due to its strategic significance to the region and the entire state.
Queensland Labor confirmed its support for the project at the last state election, but without a funding commitment.
Private enterprise has committed to funding 50 per cent of the bill.
In this year’s Federal Budget, the Nationals and Liberals in Government will lock $483 million in the bank for this project.
The Australian Government is holding money aside pending demonstration of value for money and sufficient public benefit for investment, as well as Queensland Government approval and support.
The Queensland Government have to say now that they want to do it now.
This investment will further drive the development of Central Queensland, delivering a 970,000 megalitre dam, twice the size of Sydney Harbour, to open up 20,000 hectares of prime agricultural land around Collinsville, for produce such as bananas, lychees, citrus and macadamias.
Building the dam could support 1,200 jobs during construction and 650 ongoing jobs.
If it proceeds, Urannah Dam will sit with a suite of dams and water infrastructure projects we are building across our nation.
In Queensland alone, we are investing:
$600 million towards Paradise Dam;
$183.6 million towards the Rookwood Weir;
$180 million towards the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme, including $10 million for the detailed business case; and
$30 million towards the Big Rocks Weir.
Water storage not only underpins mining, agriculture and industry, but also essential domestic requirements.
When Fairburn Dam, near Emerald, was constructed in the early 1970s, Emerald had a population of around 2000 people. Now it has 16,000.
Dams make our nation stronger and drive the development that earns us export dollars and the treasury taxes to help pay for the services that all Australians rely on – from the NDIS and our Defence Force, to pensions, roads, health and education.
Let’s see how quickly Urannah Dam can be approved. Let’s hope it does not take as long as Rookwood Weir.
It does not require state funding, it merely requires a state government to show that their actions meet their words.
I speak of the Labor-Green alliance that the Labor Party vehemently denies.
Well, actions on Urannah Dam will elucidate or otherwise Labor’s rhetoric that they are not in a political alliance with the political philosophy of the Greens, which will come up with a plethora of reasons for why we shouldn’t build Urannah Dam.
A nihilist philosophy that we have gone as far as we can go and are responsible for so many ills that the world has, in their view.
A view that lifting people out of poverty is not worth the price.
A view that beautiful thoughts will defend the nation.
Their future world can be seen now in Victoria where Macedon Council is asking farmers to apply for a permit to bring cattle onto their own land or to plant a crop.
This is apparently to help Macedon Council reach its climate goal. It is a clarion call to where this form of socialism by caveat is off to next.
Vegetation laws that took away ownership of private assets without payment, and now the imposition of a license on the farms’ capacity to earn an income.
All in all, excessive caveats are ingredients to be weak.
The Nationals and the LNP are the voice of regional Australia and understand the issues of importance to our communities.
The Nationals build things.
From dams to mobile phone towers. From cancer clinics to rural medical schools. From building bridges to building a bridge to compassion for refugees from ravaged countries overseas.
We understand that to build and grow a nation requires industries that produce wealth: agriculture, farming, mining, tourism and small business.
The Nationals are united in our fight for ordinary Australians in the regions.
We believe that these wealth producing industries are the key to Australia’s ongoing success.
All sections of all that what we do in this nation must be mindful of the dark cloud of uncertainty that has arrived.
Whether this storm passes over is something that none of us know, but we hope and pray for sanity but we must secure the house from uncertainty.
Current circumstances must prudently inform our mindset going forward.
Making our nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible must be our priority in everything that we do.
This requires not only my commitment to the task and the commitment of my colleagues, but your commitment to the task.
It requires you to have the courage to say “circumstances have changed”. And my ultimate responsibility to my nation is that we must evolve to deal with them.
The phrase “if only”, said in sombre terms at a lonely future date, is not a price this nation can afford.
Thank you for your attention.