Interview with Karl Stefanovic, The Today Show

23 June 2021

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, it's the second coming of Barnaby Joyce returning to Parliament House full-time as leader of the Nationals and Deputy PM. His deputy Agriculture Minister David Littleproud joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Good morning, mate.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Did you manage to wash the blood off your hands before Parliament yesterday?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Look, it was a traumatic day but democracy has made its call. Now we have to just get on with the job and win the next election under Barnaby.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Who'd you vote for?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Look, I've been consistent. I don't get into these games or finger-pointing exercises after the event. My comments- my public comments have been very consistent and my actions align with that.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. How'd you manage to hold on to that job then?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, anyone can contest me.

KARL STEFANOVIC: [Laughs]

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: But obviously they didn't feel they had the numbers.

KARL STEFANOVIC: [Laughs]

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: The only- the first rule of politics is if you've got the numbers, you use them. So, I was happy to be contested. If that was what the party room decided, then that can happen at any point.

KARL STEFANOVIC: I do like your straight talking. Let's talk about this. Back to the 2050 zero net emissions target; is a deal being done on not?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No. The National Party has nothing in front of it at the moment. But obviously, we're looking already, even before this was popular, to try and support our farmers with carbon soil abatement, also in carbon farming. We're looking for some changes to that, to be candid. There's been some unintended consequences where we've seen passive investors come out to western Queensland, New South Wales and just lock up large parts of productive agricultural land and just take a passive income while they're drinking pina coladas at the beach while- and decimating little towns, taking families out of them.

So we need some changes to that and we need to make sure that we look at the biodiversity of that as well. But there's some practical measures that agriculture can play a part of.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: But we can't sign up to something that will be detrimental to regional and rural Australia. And we had paid the bill for our country social conscience in trying to achieve Paris. And if we go to net emission- net zero by 2050, we can't continue to pay that bill.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. So, there's no- I mean, I agree with you. I think, on paper, this looks good but I agree with you all these investors from the city going to out to the farming areas. The guidelines and the policing are hard to do with carbon in the soil and also if you collect enough of it, it can be a problem if it doesn't become part of the soil ecosystem. So, there's lots of work to do there. So, what you're saying this morning is there's no deal on the table, the Nationals aren't considering zero net emissions by 2050.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, not at the moment but if we get a deal, you don't give your hand away until you see what is on the table.

KARL STEFANOVIC: [Laughs]

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: That's the first principle of business, mate. Don't show your cards if you want to get the best deal.

KARL STEFANOVIC: So, what- give us an idea. There's lots of people in the National Party, there's lots of people in the country looking at you going, okay, what is the deal? Are you going to roll over and what is the difference? Because your previous leader could have got this deal done.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah. That's the issue. We don't know what's on the table because the technology mix hasn't been clearly articulated about what that can actually achieve. And I think that's what we're trying to be honest not only with ourselves and in our own party room but also with the Australian public. Just not blindly sign up for something and not being able to tell everyone how you are going to get there and who's going to pay for it.

And that's what the other mob has done. And no one's going to know how they're going to get there and who's going to pay the bill. And that's why the National Party wants to be honest with people.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: And so, when we get that put in front of us, we'll make a decision in our party room and we'll think about that through the lens of regional Australia.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. Will you have at least- will you have a stand on it and will you have a deal in front of the Australian people before they go to the next election?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, that depends whether we get that technology mix and how much that can achieve in terms of reducing emissions to the net zero and what role agriculture can play without paying the bill.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just finally, I watched with a little - well, I was a little bit disturbed by this yesterday when I found out that you were discussing in your meeting about childcare and outcomes there and the fact that you- I mean, you've declined the spend on child care because it discourages mums- some mums from staying at home. I couldn't believe it. Do you think that child care is outsourcing parenting? Is that what you believe personally?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, I don't. My personal view is that child care is very important. We can't- we can't take, you know, 50 per cent of the population or up to 50 per cent of the population out because they choose to have children. I mean, we're in a modern society.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Were you surprised at that yesterday?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, we have divergent views not only in the National Party but in the Coalition and I respect that. That makes us a healthy democracy. And my view is clearly that child care plays a very important part for both men and women to be a productive part of society and our economy. And I think the proof is in the pudding. You should look at Australia and how we've evolved. So, I'm very supportive of child care and I personally have used it myself so I'd be a hypocrite if I sat there and said we shouldn't. So, I'm very supportive of it but I respect views that differ from me. That's the beauty of living in a democracy.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Very progressive guy that George Christensen, isn't he? Good on you, David.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: He's a good guy.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Okay. Thank you, my friend. Talk to you soon.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Thanks. Thanks, mate.