Barnaby Joyce National Press Club Address

Four hundred thousand people have already voted and there are assumptions two million will have voted before election day.

The people, in so many instances, have made up their mind and this is in a frame of geopolitical uncertainty, global economic pressures, cost of living pressures and a vision for our nation that deals with these issues.

This election may be fought by politicians, but it is an expression of the fundamental democratic right of the Australian people.

It’s so obvious but it has to be repeated: this is a political contest of ideas that you, the voter, make a judgement about what is the fairest, what is the most prudent, the most diligent and, ultimately, the safest future for your family and our nation

We know that popularity is not necessarily an attribute of good political leadership, and populism most certainly isn’t.

Popularity is not even a good indicator of who people will vote for.

According to the 2019 Morning Consult survey, Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, had a 50 per cent disapproval rating with registered voters.

It was the second highest after Senator Susan Collins.

But after this rather depressing polling, Senator McConnell won his Senate race by a margin of around 20 points. The reason given was people prioritised state interests over candidate favourability.

Senator McConnell’s Democratic challenger was Amy McGrath. Her campaign was based around being anti-McConnell and was said to be ineffective because it lacked a clear policy agenda.

I think it is fair to say in this election that we don’t want people to vote for the Coalition because they think we are popular.

Instead, we want people to vote for us because we are strong, know where we’re going, can make the hard decisions to get there, and we can back those hard decisions by showing you how we’re going to pay for it.

It is also fair to say that the Labor Party policy agenda has been less than inspiring. In some instances, non-existent. They are more statements than policies because policies come with details.

In a time of geopolitical crisis, popularity takes even more of a back seat to competency and strength.

There is a responsibility on leaders to make tough decisions that are not necessarily popular and, to be quite frank, there is a responsibility on voters to understand that tough decisions have to be made.

In this election, the Labor Party has presented one of the most policy-lite election pitches in living history.

It really is summarised to this: they believe it is their turn.

Anthony Albanese believes the Australian Government is shared around like time with a skipping rope in a school yard. That you’re entitled to be the Government rather than putting forward a better policy agenda than the current Government.

In the past, Gough Whitlam brought forward the termination of military conscription, universal healthcare, free university education and legal aid programs.

Bob Hawke came forward with the Prices and Incomes Accord, floated the dollar, gave the Commonwealth power over World Heritage sites, stopped the damming of the Franklin River, and outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace.

These leaders didn’t believe they were entitled to lead a Government, they didn’t believe it was their turn.

They went out, fought for it, and won the policy battle.

Mr Albanese is hardly going to have his statue held high in the pantheon of great Labor leaders when it sits on a crumbling or non-existent policy pedestal.

He’s hardly gone to the Australian people and inspired them. It’s almost as if he has a fear of his own political policy shadow.

Maybe there is a policy agenda coming and it’s so philosophically Left that the Labor Party is scared to talk about it before the 21st of May.

Maybe those behind him are biting their tongues so hard because they’re waiting to scream if they’re lucky enough to get there.

Because he hasn’t brought forward a policy agenda, we haven’t had a chance to debate it, so don’t blame the assumptions of others when they fill the vacuum.

That’s what democracy is about. You fight for your policy and you pick holes in the opponents’, and by so doing you respect the electorate.

Ultimately, that improves and refines the announced policy, and then the Australian people make a decision which they believe is best for them, is the most competent in its administration and is best for the nation.

But going to the Australian people and saying, “I’m not them and it’s my turn” is hardly Churchillian.

This brings us to the Independents, who are even worse.

The Independents with their imperium in imperio approach telling us that they are unique and righteous, but are actually the precursor to chaos.

I can’t think of one Independent standing in a seat with a serious campaign against a Labor incumbent.

Independents are only successful if the bulk of the other members of the Lower House are not independent.

If all 151 were independent, individually they would be merely one discordant voice in a sea of chaos, a nation farcical in any form of government and an international laughing stock.

151 Independents running around like headless chooks. A ballot each day for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.

A new defence policy each week. A Budget that would be an incompressible bag of ideas with no underlying national plan.

But Independents believe that most people will do the right thing by their nation and vote in blocs for political parties, allowing them to stand aside from the day to day smoother and more effective political process, choosing what suits them at the expense of those who bind and stick for the greater good.

In essence, it is one word: selfishness with possibly a sentiment of entitlement residing below this.

It’s also fundamentally dishonest because they never disclose which side they would support if the vote came down to them.

The thought that they don’t actually know at this stage which political side would get their casting vote in a hung parliament is totally implausible.

Their electorate would be led like a sheep with the wool over its eyes, with the independents implying that their arbitrary promises would be somehow fulfilled even though they are not a member of the Cabinet that makes the policy, nor on the Expenditure Review Committee that approves the money for it.

Of course, a Governor-General would not concur that this could be a tenable form of government and would send us back to the polls to try and sort this national mess out.

For the more affluent electorates that in the past had a strong history of higher office holders, such as Prime Ministers and Treasurers but with Independents are in line to never hold those senior ministries in whatever is the forthcoming government.

I would make a sobering appointment with their accountant to divine the effects of voting for the Independent before they make their decision.

In my portfolio, what is our agenda? Let’s go around the country so I can repeat it for you once more.

It is building the Pilbara, building an industrial city in our north-west so we can export more and earn more money to make us as strong as possible as quickly as possible.

When Port Hedland shuts down, our dollar goes down.

We are building our third road east to west across Australia, a sealed road from Townsville to Perth that will assist in opening up the critical mineral precincts north of Alice Springs and the gold precincts in Laverton.

It will also grow tourism in Alice Springs and help to move cattle more efficiently and with less stress on the stock heading to abattoirs and to the coast.

At first, people ridiculed the Alice Springs to Darwin Rail Line as a boondoggle, but now it is too small and needs to be expanded. This is a clear example of how infrastructure grows into its business case.

To support increased capacity on this rail line, we will build logistics hubs at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine, and, of course, we will build a new industrial facility at Middle Arm in Darwin.

We will build water infrastructure like Hells Gates Dam, as requested by Townsville Enterprise, to build up this citadel city of the north.

We are building more dams to ensure there is enough water for mining businesses, industry, agricultural producers and for domestic use.

Urannah Dam, near Mackay, will be built to open up 20,000 hectares, or 50,000 acres, of a new agricultural precinct.

The Bowen Pipeline will link the Burdekin River Dam at Home Hill, through to Gumlu, Guthalungra and on to Bowen. It will deliver up to 100,000 megalitres per annum of mid-security water into the region and boost horticultural production by up to $300 million a year from a further 40,000 hectares, or 100,000 acres.

We have decentralised Government bodies such as the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority to Bowen, where the Bowen Pipeline will be located.

We will expand the Port of Bundaberg to load more sugar onto boats and send it to those who will pay for it.

The expansion of Gladstone, a city proud of its industrial core, and where so much of our coal and gas leaves our shores. I will make an announcement later in this speech for the further expansion of this great industrial city.

We are upgrading the alternative inland Bruce Highway from Charters Towers to Mungindi, which will take trucks off the Bruce Highway on the coast and onto the Inland Freight Route. Flat, black, and straight for the run south to Melbourne.

Of course, we continue the construction of the Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane and onto Gladstone, the largest infrastructure project in Australia.

A project that I negotiated back in 2016 and now am driving forward so as to be built as quickly as possible and to do this we are making the hard decisions that the reviews must stop and the construction must continue.

Similarly, we must start Dungowan Dam in my own electorate and we will build on the wealth generated by the Port of Newcastle, the largest coal export port in the world.

But it is not just investments in capital infrastructure that we must make, it is social infrastructure, too.

The expansion of allied health at La Trobe University in Shepparton for new occupational therapists, speech pathologists, nurses and midwives, to name but a few.

I have opened an oncology unit at Dubbo and a new training facility for doctors at Orange.

We are expanding telehealth services for patients inland from a facility in Gladstone and Dr David Gillespie has released a new regional health policy to get more doctors out of urban areas and into our regional towns.

This builds on what we have already done, such as the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, expanding medical training at the University of Newcastle, the University of New England, and James Cook University in Cairns, and to start discussions about the further training of doctors at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory.

We have announced social infrastructure such as upgrading the Shepparton Sports Stadium, international sanctioned courts in Tamworth in the hope of inspiring the next Ash Barty, and an already-built football stadium in Townsville.

We are expanding basketball facilities in Ipswich, netball courts in Alice Springs, and athletics facilities in Palmerston.

For people to assist us in earning export dollars, they want to see the social infrastructure that says we respect their endeavours in doing this.

The wealth of our nation comes from the soil of regional Australia, on it and below it.

The Labor Party can’t look beyond the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, and their campaign announcements have displayed this in their paucity for regional areas.

We have seen Labor’s Catherine King come out and cast doubt on the future of the Inland Rail, with calls for delays and reviews which slow the growth of the inland towns of Seymour, Parkes, Narrabri, Goondiwindi and Gladstone.

They have sneered at the appointment of a regional mayor as Chair of Infrastructure Australia and put at risk the Building Better Regions Fund.

They have announced a new tax for more than 200 businesses in Australia, for which one is in Sydney and 15 are in the Hunter Valley. Two are in Brisbane and 46 are in the Central Queensland seats of Capricornia and Flynn.

Very concerningly, they have decided to tax our last two oil refineries, which will either move offshore or hand the tax onto you when you pay for your fuel.

This will be very detrimental to the cost of living that is so paramount in this election which our Government is addressing currently with a reduction in the fuel excise, one-off payments for pensioners and veterans, and an increase to the low and middle income tax offset.

The Greens, who the Labor Party relies on for preferences, want to cease almost immediately the mining of coal and gas.

This is economic suicide for Australia. Where is the money going to come from? How does this plan work?

Labor has given up on regional Australia.

Labor is saying Woolloomooloo policy will work for Weabonga, Walcha and Western Australia.

It won’t.

It’s not that you disregard Woolloomooloo, but you must understand that Weabonga, Walcha and Western Australia are distinctly different.

We have the ridiculous position of the Labor candidate in the Hunter with his misunderstanding of his own party’s energy policy and at odds with Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.

At the Sky debate, we had the candidate basically saying that Labor’s policy position was different to his own.

Is it confusion, is it clumsiness, or is it deceitful?

This is at a time of a new epoch for Australia of a clear and present threat.

Rear Admiral Raymond Perry Rogers, who was an officer in the United States Navy in the late 1800s and served as the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence, drafted War Plan Orange.

It utilised the mechanism of island hopping. That is, establishing strategic positioning on specific islands in the Pacific theatre.

It became a prophesy of the future, beginning with the annexation of Hawaii. Japan and the United States both utilised this process during the Second World War.

The positioning of strategic forces on strategic islands to our north is not new. The common thread, though, is that it is used in military tactics to dominate your opponent.

China is now utilising the same tactical positioning and it is an imperative in this campaign that the Australian people are fully aware of this.

This is not alarmism. It is reality that we have to be awake to.

It is quite obvious through their desire to have military bases that they are starting a process of encircling Australia and that there is a wish, at the very least, to intimidate, or worse, to supplicate Australia.

Australia has a maritime vulnerability. We are a nation that is surrounded by sea. If you can stop imports and exports into Australia, you can stop Australia.

We must regain sovereignty in this space. We must regain the capacity that we have an Australian maritime fleet that can sustain our imports and exports into our nation.

Today, I announce that a re-elected Coalition Government will within the first six months after the election introduce measures to increase Australia’s sovereign merchant capacity. The Government will:

  1. Review Australia’s tax arrangements for Australian ship-owners to ensure they can compete on an even footing with foreign ship-owners. This will include assessing the current income tax exemptions for companies and seafarers and exploring changes that will promote Australia’s sovereign merchant capacity.
  2. Put arrangements in place to encourage Australian ship-owners to look to our regional neighbours for workers to complement the Australian workforce.
  3. Implement changes to the Coastal Trading Act to remove red tape and increase the speed with which ship owners can service Australia.

This plan will not only offer supply chain security, but also a significant economic benefit for Australia and help address a significant shortfall in work opportunities currently available for Australian seafarers.

Both sides of politics have a role to play in order to protect our children, grandchildren and all future generations in how we deal with this.

It will not be assisted by a parliament of Independents.

The military expansion of China is the biggest issue before us without a shadow of a doubt.

I have been aware of this for quite some time, right back to issues of foreign ownership and I refer to my successful endeavors to stop Chinalco’s, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, takeover of Rio Tinto, our largest exporter of iron ore, as far back as 2009.

Later, it was my support of changes to foreign investment laws, which the Labor Party opposed.

In fact, rather than decreasing the screening threshold on foreign purchases of agricultural land from $252 million to $15 million, they wanted to increase the limit to one billion dollars.

One of their champions was Senator Penny Wong, the alternate Foreign Affairs Minister.

As a Government, we have brought about the AUKUS arrangement between the United States, the United Kingdom and ourselves.

We have begun the purchase of nuclear submarines to defend our nation in this increasingly volatile geopolitical environment.

The Quad arrangement involving Australia, India, Japan, and the United States is another example of our vision to build strong partnerships with likeminded nations.

We are investing heavily in defence, which is now around two per cent of GDP.

We have made a $10 billion investment in cyber security.

I could go on.

Legitimacy to these moves is demonstrated in our most recent Budget – a document that displays a Government’s source and application of funds.

You see what we intend to do and you see how we intend to pay for it.

In paying for it, you have to make hard decisions. You have to earn money. You have to understand how our nation makes money.

This is where regional Australia is so important.

Eight of our 10 biggest exports come from regional Australia – things like iron ore, coal, gas, beef, cotton, horticulture and grain – all mineral and agricultural commodities.

The other two – tourism and education – are also represented strongly in regional Australia.

If you don’t understand regional Australia – and the Labor Party doesn’t – you don’t understand how our nation makes money.

The Labor Party and the Greens have noble ideas such as banning or restricting coal and gas exports, but there is nothing currently to replace the hundreds of billions of dollars they earn.

It is beyond folly, it is irresponsible.

Statements about banning other exports like live sheep just reinforces that the Labor Party does not know how our nation earns money and they come to this election with a narrative of restricting or banning exports rather than expanding them.

Exports underpin our standard of living, paying for services such as the NDIS, our defence spending, healthcare, education, the ABC, law enforcement, pensions, and infrastructure.

Labor has said they have a strong belief in the defence of our nation and I believe that is a true statement. I don’t doubt that for a second.

I just completely doubt they have done the homework as to how they would pay for it.

I fear that they will be pressured by the Greens and the left-wing of their own party to obstruct the process of earning the money to do just this.

We are exporting coal in record volumes at record prices, earning in excess of $110 billion, and from gas we are making in excess of $70 billion.

Where will the Labor Party, controlled by the Greens, find this money when they stop the export of coal and gas?

We would become weaker and poorer.

As a person who trained and practiced as an accountant for over 20 years, I am very familiar with the crucial document that is the cornerstone of any national financial analysis.

It is the profit and loss statement. The first part tells you where you earn the money, the second part tells you where you spend it.

In an assessment of whether a person should make a major purchase or expand or go into a new line of business, there is a forward look of the profit and loss statement and it is called the budget.

If you cannot provide a budget, the bank will not provide you with the money.

If you cannot outline a budget, then you are probably about to make a very foolish financial decision, as decisions based on gut feel rather than budget assessment often are.

The reason why so many people come to Canberra on Budget night is because they want to hear the Government outline where they intend to earn the money and where they intend to spend it.

The Budget is the seminal financial document for the operation of Government in Australia.

This brings us to the Labor Party under Anthony Albanese.

In his Budget reply speech, Mr Albanese did not outline his party’s plan of how they intend to earn the money and how they intend to spend it.

He, nor Jim Chalmers, have never to this day provided that document, but ludicrously say they will present it after people have cast their vote.

I would today like to congratulate the journalist who asked Mr Albanese whether he supported a wage hike of at least 5.1 per cent to keep up with inflation.

The swiftness of his reply, “Absolutely”, shows that the journalist is a crucial cornerstone to the Labor Party’s central economic team.

Mr Albanese should understand that on the fly decisions can have deep repercussions and can actually work at odds with the job of assisting cost of living pressures by fanning the flames of inflation.

Believe me when I tell you that if you go to a bank and say, “Trust me, lend me the money and it’ll all work out”, that is a sure fire way to get rejected.

In this instance, the body with the money is the taxpayer, the voter. This person and their progenitors are responsible for the servicing and repayment of any debt.

Even in their promises, there are many holes but I just want to focus on one: the Labor Party’s grand housing policy.

Every time somebody sells their home under the scheme they face a 40 per cent housing tax as the Government takes its share.

Even if you pay 100 per cent for a renovation along the way, Anthony Albanese wants to take 40 per cent of the capital improvement.

In my inner core, I believe it is Fidel Castro politics. The house is owned by mum and/or dad and the Government.

This just underlines the chaotic nature of their policy development.

I now make another announcement of how our Government shall proceed with the further growth of our economy.

Today, I announce $132 million in manufacturing grants that further go to the process of making our nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible.

I won’t outline all of them, but I will outline some.

The war in the Ukraine has proven the crisis we have in fertilizer sovereignty. Without fertilizer, the unfortunate reality of so many Australian soils is that you won’t have a crop.

Yields would be halved. In some instances, they could lose up to 80 per cent of what soil in its natural condition produces.

That is why we are investing $40 million on an inline blending plant in Gladstone, to further enhance this city’s industrial capacity and underwriting the agricultural capacity of our nation.

In Gippsland, we will show the ingenuity of Australian business by funding an indoor recirculating aquaculture system to breed and process barramundi fillets.

Barramundi from Gippsland is like Rainbow Trout from Darwin, but we can do it. These are just to name a couple.

Let me conclude.

This election is a case of whether voters wish to change the curtains or keep them to avoid the cost, as the current curtains work well and no one has proven to us whether the replacements will keep the sun out of our eyes, the carpet from fading and stop other countries from peeking through your window to see what you’re up to.

A AAA credit rating or a Labor alternative that can’t even provide their own alternate Budget.

We maintained our AAA credit rating while keeping people in jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic through JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

Yes, it has expanded our debt, but it kept our nation in a club of countries such as Switzerland and Norway.

COVID taught us that a Government that has the capacity to make decisions quickly saves people’s jobs and does not get bogged down in a confusion and decision paralysis by reason of every Independent having their dibs in a decision.

Our Government that has set down a plan to build the infrastructure to inspire the further growth of where we earn money, or a Labor government that has not said yes to virtually any of the investments we are making.

To new dams, the third road across Australia, the Shepparton Sports Stadium, the new allied health facility in Shepparton, the expansion of our export capacity from the Pilbara and the growth of a new Gladstone, a new industrial centre in our nation’s north-west as well as the expansion of our current Gladstone in Central Queensland.

The Labor Party’s central policy for regional Australia is a proposed carbon tax where nearly all of the more than 200 existing businesses reside outside of our capital cities and the major ones inside our capital cities are our last two oil refineries.

When you borrow money to build a capital asset for the nation, the asset remains on your balance sheet, bolstering our economic strength. When you borrow money that bakes in ongoing and recurring costs, regardless of the virtue of that expenditure, the money is gone.

In the meantime, so many Australians have already voted. They were lined up before the opening of pre-polling, so it appears that many have made up their mind and are casting the vote of their choice.

Understandably, many want to get back to their lives and jobs or taking their kids to sport. But we will campaign to the last minute on the 21st of May.

More than any time in the 18 years since I was elected, this election determines far more than the balloons, tears and self-congratulatory orations at a round about half past 10 on the evening of the 21st of May.

This really determines not only your future, but the future of our children and grandchildren and whether they will live in a nation with the same liberties and freedoms that we took as a birthright from the incredible luck of the lottery of life when you were born in this exceptional nation called Australia.

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