Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said national security is the “biggest issue” facing the government amid the growing threat from China, with economic growth key to Australia’s security.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce believes that growing the economy is key to keeping threats to Australia’s national security at bay.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News Australia senior reporter Andrea Crothers, Mr Joyce said the biggest issue facing the government ahead of the election was the threat from China.
“The biggest issue is China’s progression, unfortunately from a great business opportunity to still a great business opportunity, but now there’s obviously a threat, a real and imminent threat,” he said.
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The comments follow news that the Solomon Islands are planning a military alliance with China that could see Beijing establish a military base in the Indo-Pacific.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Joyce have both admitted the pact worries the government about China’s growing influence in the region.
“In the Solomon Islands, it really affects me, it really focuses me, for a long time,” Mr Joyce said.
National security has been a key campaign point for the Coalition, with Mr Joyce and the Prime Minister repeatedly saying Australians know they will stand up to international bullies.
In the recently released Budget 2022-23, the government will invest $38 billion to rapidly increase the strength of the Australian Defense Force and $10 billion for defense capability projects across the country, as well as record funding for the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).
Despite heavy investment by the Morrison government, Mr Joyce said the key to Australia‘s national security was investing in projects that will grow the economy.
“The difference here is making sure that you get the investment and the infrastructure so that you have the ability to extract more wealth, to develop more wealth, to develop more wealth, to manufacture more wealth because that we need it,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
“If we don’t have that money there’s no point talking about submarines and things like that if you can’t afford them and so that makes the economy bigger and that’s how we let’s make it stronger.”
The Deputy Prime Minister continued to say that the threat from China had become so big that it was now a bigger issue than the net zero debate.
“I think it’s a problem, I’m not saying it’s not a problem, but the biggest problem now is defending the nation,” he said.
“As soon as you start hearing about a superpower that’s basically taken over the South China Sea, incarcerated, we think, over a million Uyghurs, every reporter in Hong Kong just sweeps the street, many of them in prison, I don’t know. find out what happened to them, tennis stars disappear, incursions into Indian territory.
“Once these things start happening Australians aren’t stupid, especially in northern Australia, they’re like, ‘OK, focus, there you go, problem number one right there’.”