Sky News Breakfast with Sam Chiari

31 May 2024


SAM CHIARI, HOST: Joining me live now is Assistant Trade Minister, Tim Ayres and Shadow Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Barnaby Joyce. Thanks so much for both of your time this morning. First, I have to ask you, Tim, what's your reaction to the breaking news that Donald Trump has been found guilty? 


SENATOR TIM AYRES: Well, I certainly don't have a comment to make about developments in United States politics or in their legal system. It's not appropriate for people who are representatives of the government, or, indeed, representatives of the other major party of government to be making commentary on US politics. We respect the outcomes of the American system in terms of whoever's elected. That is because the United States is a very important strategic partner for Australia and a very important economic partner for Australia. That is the approach that I'll be taking on your show this morning, and it's consistent with what's in the national interest of Australia and a sensible approach to these issues. I'll leave the commentary to others, Sam, is what I'm saying. 


CHIARI: So, Barnaby, do you have anything to say? What is your reaction in regards to the developments this morning, out of the US? 


BARNABY JOYCE: I hate to say this, I really do, but I agree with Tim. Look, I'm going to let the United States deal with United States issues, and I'll concentrate at home. 


CHIARI: Ok, so we have some good news this morning, Barnaby., For our farmers, what do the lifts on the beef exports bans mean? 


JOYCE: Well, this is good news, of course, and I congratulate the current government and the previous government. We've been working for a long period of time to expand our beef exports. When I was the Ag[riculture] Minister, I said; “we'll take the price of beef from about two dollars a kilogram alive in the yards to above three dollars a kilogram.” Everybody thought I was mad, but we opened the markets up in China and all around the world and the Middle East. We got this - we got a real big return back to farmers. It was great. You know, it not only went through three dollars, went through four, five, six. In fact, I remember going to sale where it was seven. You know, to do that, you need a multiplicity of markets, and you have to understand your buyer. You know, what the seller wants - the best return. But you have to understand the Middle Eastern markets, the Chinese markets, the American markets, the European markets, and the product that they want, not the product that you want to try and ram down their throat, the product they want and how you get that product to them. This is why the closure of the live sheep trade is completely the opposite approach to how you get the best return back through the farm gate. 


CHIARI: A lot to unfold with that in WA today, Tim, whilst we're still seeing lifts on beef, there are still bans in place. What is the government doing to try and lift these current bans? 


SENATOR AYRES: We are taking the same approach to those that we have about the whole range of $20 billion worth of impediments that were put in place in front of Australian commodities trade to China. Since we were elected, we have worked assiduously at Ministerial and at official level, with the whole team engaged from the top to the bottom. The Prime Minister, the Agriculture Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, my senior colleague, Don Farrell, the Minister for Trade, and all of the team in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, working in a consistent, strategic way in the Australian national interest to deal with $20 billion worth of impediments. Now, we've worked our way through the barley questions, oat and hay, coal, a range of these product categories. I'm very pleased about the announcement in terms of five beef facilities. I know at least one of those facilities really well. When I grew up in the Northern Rivers of NSW, as a young kid, my dad used to deliver cattle to the Casino meat works that's been the subject of this direction. I know what it means, not just for the staff and the owners of that cooperative, but I know what it means for the beef community in that area. As Barnaby said, the impact that will have, not just on the volumes that are being exported, but on the price, will be significant and measurable. That is a good development. But there is still work to do. There are still two meatworks where additional work will need to be done, and there is, of course, the lobster industry, which is still the subject of some impediments getting access to the Chinese market. As a government, we don't run the victory flag up the pole, we don't play all of these issues for domestic political value. We work hard and assiduously on these issues in partnership with the agriculture sector and I'm very grateful for the way (the disciplined, strategic and effective way) that representatives of the ag[riculture] sector have worked with the government over the course of what's been a two-year long effort. 


CHIARI: It really is a good news story this morning. Now, we heard from our political reporter earlier about backroom chatter building about the future of Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. Barnaby, do you think his time is up? 


JOYCE: Well, what worries me about this is they obviously see Veterans’ Affairs as the parking room for hopeless Ministers. This idea, well, you know, we'll fix it up. We’re going to get Minister Matt Keogh from Veterans' Affairs and put him in to clean up the mess of Minister Adam [Andrew] Giles. And then we're going to put the mess that Adam [Andrew] Giles did in detainee, in Direction 99, and give them to Veterans' Affairs. I mean, why does Veterans’ Affairs end up with a booby prize? Veterans’ Affairs should be back in the cabinet and not be, sort of, the resting places for inefficient ministers. Now we've got Murray Watt, who obviously doesn’t want to be the Ag[riculture] Minister, wanting to take Clare O'Neil's job, and then Clare O'Neil goes somewhere else. You've got to have people with a passion for the job. If you're going to be the Ag Minister, love being the Ag Minister, want to be the Ag Minister. I hate to say this, maybe Tim should be the Ag Minister. I'm very encouraged if his old man used to move cattle to Casino meat works, Casino Cooperative Meatworks, that's a good thing. And I'm dead serious about that. Not knocking it. If you've got a passion for it, take the portfolio. I say that to his colleagues. Please don't give us someone in Ag who just, you even see it on their face, they just don't want to be there. Put someone in who wants to be there. That's the best outcome for our nation. 


CHIARI: It is indeed. Now, Tim, just quickly, what are your thoughts? 


SENATOR AYRES: Well, two points. Firstly, this is just backroom chatter and we won't be taking advice about governance in immigration from Peter Dutton. This has been a week where we've just had a characteristically noisy and nasty campaign that has blown up in Mr. Dutton's face. Why? Because there is a yawning chasm between what Peter Dutton says and what he did when he actually had power in immigration as the Minister, as the senior minister, to deal with issues. There were 1298 hardened criminals, sexual violence offenders, murderers, people convicted of child sex assault offences released by Mr. Dutton under his watch. People who - there was no High Court decision. These were released as a result of ministerial directions. Now, Mr. Dutton appears in the parliament as if these were new questions. The moment that his record in immigration, first of all, releasing, as I said, 1298 hardened offenders over his period, the reviews which have indicated that as the migration system collapsed, has become a bin fire under his leadership, where it became a honey pot for organised crime, it was degraded in terms of its capability so that it couldn't do its job. Well, we are getting on with the job and Minister Giles and Minister O'Neil are getting on with the job of doing the reforms that are required. That is what they are doing and that is what the government is focused on. If I can just say this about Veterans' Affairs...some gratuitous commentary about that from Barnaby this morning. The truth is, when they were in government, it took veterans more than 400 days to have their claims assessed. Why? Because they outsourced to labour hire companies. The work of the people who did the assessments for our veterans, the people who've served Australia here and overseas. Their administration of Veterans' Affairs, what Barnaby should start with in his career as the Shadow Minister, is a giant apology on behalf of the previous government. 


JOYCE: Nine out of ten outcomes are slower under you now. Nine out of ten outcomes in Veterans’ Affairs are slower under you now than it was under us. 


SENATOR AYRES: Now, we are working through, in a systematic way, reforms, very significant improvements, already delivered by Minister Keogh.  


JOYCE: Look at these people go mate, but nine out of ten outcomes are slower now than they were under us. 


SENATOR AYRES: What we won’t be doing is making gratuitous claims about the treatment of our veterans, people who should be respected.  


JOYCE:  You kicked the Veterans’ Affairs Minister out of Cabinet. You kicked them out of Cabinet, and Direction 99 is your misdirection. Direction 99 is your botch. It is your problem. Direction 99 is not us. 


SENATOR AYRES: The government’s arrangements- 


JOYCE:  These people are on the streets - these criminals are on the street because of the Australian Labor Party. That is why they are there. 


SENATOR AYRES: 1298 crooks released by Minister Dutton. That is the real record of the [former Coalition] government. 


JOYCE: That’s fine, go back to the opposition. 


CHIARI: Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve got time for this Friday. It's been a huge morning of news. Thanks so much for your time. We'll speak to you again soon.