By Tanya Plibersek

18 September 2023



SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament referendum; Nuclear power stations.


NATALIE BARR: Thousands of Australians have taken to the streets to show their support for The Voice to Parliament. Up to 200,000 people attended more than 40 yes rallies across this country yesterday, as well as hundreds more marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It comes as cracks start to appear within the no camp, with Warren Mundine saying treaties would be more likely if the referendum fails, and the date of Australia Day should change. Joining me now is the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to both of you.




BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning.


BARR: Tanya, you were at the Sydney rally yesterday, does the turn out give you the confidence that the Yes vote's going to win on October 14?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, it was a terrific turn out in Sydney yesterday. Thousands of people, many more than I was expecting, and we saw that pattern repeated right around Australia. So yes, it was a day of great hope and there were thousands of people there saying vote yes, vote yes to reconciliation, vote yes to recognition, vote yes to listening, vote yes to better advice, vote yes to better outcomes. That's why they were there.


BARR: And Barnaby, Warren Mundine's comments that if the referendum fails, if the no vote gets up, there's going to be more likely that there will be treaties with indigenous Australians. Is that what your side believes?


JOYCE: Well right now we just focus on the referendum. There's no doubt about it the yes case has big business, it has big unions, and it has a big, big pile of money and, you know, we don't take this referendum as a joke. We think it's incredibly important that people also understand you've got to a big, big change to your constitution if this goes through, the biggest change in the history of Australia. And it’s something we've got to really focus on and take seriously because a selected body having that much power at an executive level of our nation based on race is something that so many people, the quiet noes, the quiet noes, and I see them all the time, the loud yes, the loud noes, but the quiet noes have real concerns about this. So divisive they just want October 14 to come, October 14 to go and to try and then remove the derision and get back to normal.


BARR: Yeah, so Barnaby, but just the question was about a prominent no campaigner yesterday going on national television and saying if the no camp wins there'll be more chance that there'll be treaty with indigenous Australians and that the Australia Day date will change. Is that what your side believes?


JOYCE: Well as you see we live, Australia, in the peaceful nation we have. That's never had a civil war, never had major internal conflict, lives with basically the no case with the status quo. Now I can't see why that's going to substantially change in regard to treaty, but I can tell you that delivering on the Uluru Statement in full, as the Prime Minister has said, if the yes case gets up, is yes to the referendum, yes to treaties and yes to truth telling ‑‑


BARR: So on that no, on that no question, do you support Warren Mundine, one of your prominent co‑no believers?


JOYCE: Well I just stated the obvious of where we are now. We live in the status quo and the status quo in the constitution has been incredibly good to Australia.


BARR: Yep, but just on that question again when a prominent no campaigner says that do you support that, because you're on the same side?


JOYCE: Well I base myself on the facts. The fact is we live in the status quo. The status quo's been incredibly good to a peaceful and harmonious Australia as the constitution as it is ‑‑


BARR: Yep, so do you think there'll be more treaties and ‑‑


JOYCE: ‑‑ and the yes case comes with, comes with treaties ‑‑


BARR: ‑‑ the date will change because you're on the same side, so just asking that one?


JOYCE: I'm, I'm basing it on where we are at the moment and saying in the future it will be the same. So I believe that what we have is a harmonious nation under a constitution that's boring but consistent.


BARR: Okay.


JOYCE: We'll lead Australia into the future, into the same sort of harmonious type of nation that we already are, and that's where I want our nation to be.


BARR: Okay, just acknowledging we didn't get an answer.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Why won't he answer your question, Nat?


BARR: I think we'll just acknowledge we didn't get an answer on that one.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Why won't Barnaby answer?


JOYCE: Well the answer, quite obviously I'm ‑‑


NATALIE BARR: Let's move on because we've got other things to cover besides The Voice.


JOYCE: ‑‑ I'm quite obviously saying that no, I don't.


BARR: Moving on. New analysis shows Australians would be forced to pay billions of dollars if the Government follows the Coalition's plan on power of converting from coal to nuclear. Costings by the Department of Climate Change and Energy shows the proposal would cost taxpayers $387 billion. The Opposition wants the Government to convert retiring coal‑fired power plants into nuclear small modular reactors. Barnaby, nearly $400 billion that price tag. Would that be worth it?


JOYCE: Well when it comes from Mr Bowen who told us about a $275 reduction in our power bill, can't believe him on that. The same ‑‑


BARR: Well they're Government costings so do you believe that?


JOYCE: Well they had costings of $275 reduction in their power bill. That never happened. The Bowen plan's quite simple. Your power prices go through the roof, your reliability goes through the floor and they're all overseas companies, so the money goes overseas. Net Zero Australia, which is a pro‑renewable group that also works hand‑in‑glove with the Government, Princeton University, Melbourne University, Queensland University has said to get to 2050, 2060 zero emission targets is $7 to $9 trillion, that's 20 times more than what Mr Bowen's put forward as it's nuclear cost. So spare me. And what, Mr Bowen's right and 32 other countries around the world are wrong? Is he the only one in step? I mean it's ridiculous.


BARR: Tanya, let's get your view as a final comment on this Coalition plan to convert coal‑fired power stations to nuclear. It sounds like the idea is to unlock private investment. Is that an idea?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well look, this is the most expensive form of energy there is. It'd cost every Australian taxpayer $25,000 a head to build and then it's the most expensive form of energy into your home or business.


JOYCE: No, it's not.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And there's more than 70 reactors we'd have to find places for around Australia. Where are they going to go? Where is Barnaby going to ‑ is he going to have them in his electorate? Where are they going to go?


BARR: Barnaby?


JOYCE: Well I tell you what, we'd prefer them more than the transmission lines you're putting all over electorates, all over our farm land. The wind factories, the solar factories, off the coast of port Stephens, all through New England ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: All right, well I'll look forward to a map from you, Barnaby, about where the 70 reactors are going to go.


JOYCE: ‑‑ we just don't ‑ we don't want to ‑ and the obvious place to have them is where you've got power stations right now, so we don't have ‑‑




JOYCE: ‑‑ them litter the country with this, litter the country, litter the country with what you are doing to it right now. Go talk to the people at Port Stephens. Go talk to Meryl Swanson about how she feels about it. Go talk to the people in North Queensland, the Gippsland, Central New South Wales ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: You just don't want to say where the reactors are going, Barnaby, because no one wants a nuclear reactor in their backyard.


JOYCE: ‑‑ I've just said ‑‑


BARR: Okay.


JOYCE: ‑‑ I've just said to you, I said where the power stations are.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well there's not 70 power stations ‑‑


JOYCE: I can't be more clearer, where the current power stations are.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ that are closing down, are there?


JOYCE: Where the current power stations are.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well I look forward to your map.


JOYCE: So you don't have to destroy our landscape.


BARR: Okay.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I look forward to your map.


BARR: I think we've both had our say on a couple of topics. Thank you very much, we'll see you next week. Thank you both.