Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

23 June 2021

MICHAEL ROWLAND: But as we mentioned as well, still a bit going on in Canberra, in Parliament House, in the wake of Barnaby Joyce's ascension to the Deputy Prime Minister's job again. The Deputy Leader, David Littleproud, joins us in Canberra. Good morning to you.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Reports of a potential deal between you and your coalition partners on getting to 2050 net zero; what price will the Nationals like for that?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, no, we haven't been formally asked to support the Liberal Party in any commitment they made, ad I don't think their party room has either. All the National Party has said, that we have continued to make sure that farmers should be rewarded financially for the stewardship of their land. And if there is to be any move towards it, then farmers should be part of the solution and they shouldn't be penalised, like they have been in the past, where they have footed the bill for the country's social conscience. And we just simply say that it's time to square the ledger, and if a proposal is put to our party room, then we'll consider it as a party room in whole.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: You talk about social conscience, is that how you really see this move to cut greenhouse gas emissions?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, I think there- obviously, we're good global citizens, we've made those commitments. But unfortunately that bill has been thrown on us and us alone. And that's where we're saying that it's time to square that ledger. Regional Australia has paid the price. And if there is an opportunity to go further, then we have to see what reward is there to not only farmers but right across regional and rural Australia, for them to take financial benefit of it.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. So what reward - your word - are you after?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, look, obviously, we need to see where the technology road map goes. And as our Government has said, that we want to try and achieve this through technology not taxes. But we have to be honest and what that technology mix looks like, I think's important. From an agricultural perspective, we're about 13 per cent of emissions and there's things like soil carbon abatement, there's also things like carbon farming that we already having, but we're obviously looking at biodiversity stewardship as well, which is carbon plus. But we've got to be careful not to take away productive agricultural land and make sure that we do it in a balanced way, while not having perverse outcomes, like the carbon farming model currently has, where we're seeing large tracts of land locked up from passive investors from capital cities walking away and then leaving rural areas in decline.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Now, The Australian reports this morning, you and Barnaby Joyce have struck a succession plan. Is that correct?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No. I mean there's going to be a lot of finger pointing, a lot going on about what happened on Monday. The reality is, the party room - what happens in the party room, stays in the party room. My comments have been quite public. I've been consistent with those comments and, obviously, there'll be a lot more theories, a lot that will go on. But the reality is, I'm not listening to any of it. We've now got to get on with the job.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. So no deal between you and Barnaby Joyce, about you taking over from leader at some stage in the future?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: There can be no deal. No one is owed the leadership of the National…

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Because you know, these secret deals have ended very badly for leaders in the past.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, there is no secret deal. And these are the theories and the finger pointing. I mean, this is nonsense and I don't intend to engage it. I've made public comments about what my position was, and I think my record lives up to that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Barnaby Joyce is very firmly of the belief that the Tamil asylum seeker family should be sent back home to their Queensland community of Biloela. Now that he's Deputy Prime Minister, would you expect him to help to try to make that happen?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, that's a question for Barnaby. But we've made it quite clear that, obviously, there is the rule of law in this country. No-one is above that. We need to let that process take its course. That is actually taking place as we stand and I think we need to continue to allow that. And that has tested Australia in good stead to make sure that the rule of law is what has kept us as a society…

MICHAEL ROWLAND: But your leader is strongly on the record as backing their return to Biloela. Do you support your leader on that front?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, what I'm saying is I believe quite clearly that the rule of law is what we should be guided by. And I want to be listening to what the rule of law - there is a process taking place as we stand and we need to let that take its course.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Mia Davies, the head of the WA Nats, says Barnaby Joyce's return is very disappointing. She says it raises question about the message being sent to women. Steph Ryan, who's the Deputy Leader of the National Party in Victoria says Barnaby's previous behaviour should have disqualified him from ever returning to the top job. David Littleproud, if senior women in your very own party are not too happy about Barnaby Joyce coming back as leader, how on earth are you hoping to persuade or sell him to women in the electorate?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think Barnaby under his own admission has acknowledged the wrongs of the past and I think he's demonstrated remorse for that. And I think that is appropriate that he should. What he has said, that he's obviously reflected, he now believes that he's learnt his lesson and all he's asking for is a fair go to prove that he has changed his ways. And I think all he's asking for is the opportunity to do that. And that's- obviously there'll be differing opinion on that. And the only thing that'll be the proof of that is the test of time, in his actions, and obviously, Barnaby is very keen to demonstrate that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. We'll watch. David Littleproud, thank you for joining us.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Thanks for having me, mate.