Interview with Alex Cullen – Channel 9, The Today Show

ALEX CULLEN: Joining us now, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce. He is in Noosa, Queensland. Good morning to you, Deputy PM. We’ve got plenty to get to this morning, but let us start with Novak Djokovic. Now, the big question is: will Immigration Minister Alex Hawke make a decision today on whether he can stay in the country?

BARNABY JOYCE: He’s got the right to make the decision if he wishes to. I’m not going to pretend to be the Minister, because I’m not. Obviously, most of us thought that because Mr Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice that he would be asked to leave. That was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view. The court had a different view. It was about process, the court went down the path of process. But the facts remain the same. The Minister still has the discretion to ask him to leave, and I’ll leave it up to the Minister as to whether he does that or not. I think you have to be frank. The vast majority of Australians didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or the King of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with. Whether they agree with the rules or not, they believe they should abide by the rules. That was the issue with Mr Djokovic and let’s see where it goes from here.

ALEX CULLEN: Well, having said that, Barnaby, your government stopped the boats. You sent Johnny Depp’s dogs Pistol and Boo home for flouting biosecurity laws.

BARNABY JOYCE: I did that.

ALEX CULLEN: Yeah, you did yourself. But you couldn’t stop Novak Djokovic. Now, for a government that prides itself on border security, this is not a good look, is it? Especially with an election coming up.

BARNABY JOYCE: My gosh. If this is what the election is fought on, then Australians have missed a whole range of other issues. I hope the election is fought on the fact of whether Central Queensland is going to have to pay for Labor’s carbon abatement program and have a whole heap of taxes on all their businesses through Central Queensland sent down to Sydney. I hope the election’s fought on that. I hope it’s fought on who can economically manage the joint and basically manage to pay our bills as and when they’re due. If it’s fought on whether Novak Djokovic was in the country or not, then I think we’ve missed the big issues.

ALEX CULLEN: Do you think he should stay?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve made my views clear. I think that the rules that one person follows are the rules that everybody should follow, just like Mr Depp and Amber Heard. I mightn’t agree with the fact that I have to be RAT tested to go from New South Wales up here into Queensland, but I do. Why? Because that’s the law.

ALEX CULLEN: Okay.

BARNABY JOYCE: He’s still a child of God like the rest of us, isn’t he? So he’s got to abide by the laws.

ALEX CULLEN: All right. Let’s go to National Cabinet right now. Staffing, product and rapid test shortages will be a key issue. No one can get them. They’re not free. Seventy-eight thousand positive RAT tests have been recorded in less than a day in New South Wales. That is just through the roof, isn’t it? Look, Australia – across Australia – we’ve got 3,000 active cases in aged care. We’ve got 500 childcare centres now closed. No one can get an RAT test. No one can afford them, as I said. Employers, they’re demanding free rapid tests for their workers. Will your government fund those tests?

BARNABY JOYCE: Let’s first start with Omicron. It’s everywhere. I was going to go to a dinner last night, it’s off because the chef had Omicron, and that’s just an example. It’s everywhere. It’s in Queensland, New South Wales, the place is alive with it. We’re lucky that it’s a mild case and for people who have been double vaxxed – and I’ve had it and it’s like a 2.5 out of 10 flu for a couple of days. That’s how I experienced it.

ALEX CULLEN: Well, that’s not for everyone, though, Deputy Prime Minister. It’s a lot worse for a lot of people.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, I know. I know. For some people. For some people it can kill you, so I’m not putting aside the seriousness of it for some people. Why do I say that? I say that so we don’t have this sort of complete panic, because I’d be worried about if the flu breaks out because a lot of people haven’t had the flu for a couple of years. We haven’t been in touch with it and that’ll have a serious effect as well, but we can’t shut down the country over that. We’ve got to move on. With rapid antigen tests, we’re bringing in tens of millions of these rapid antigen tests. but whether we say that everyone gets…

ALEX CULLEN: Mr Joyce, sorry to interrupt you, but I’ll ask you again: will your government be funding free tests?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’re bringing them in. I don’t know whether we’re going to be funding them, but we’re bringing them in. We’ll make sure we’ll facilitate them. I imagine if we’re paying them we’re going to be funding them, but nothing’s free. When you say are they free, you’re the taxpayer. You just pay for it. We’re just the Government. What the Government does is it gets something and then it sends you the bill on your salaries and wages. You just pay for it later on, so there’s no such thing as…

ALEX CULLEN: They’re free in almost every other country, though, Mr Joyce.

BARNABY JOYCE: What that means is the taxpayer pays for it later on. I’ll let the minister speak for it. I imagine that there will be an involvement by the Government, a process by the Government, subsidisation, or they’ll be free. But I don’t even like saying free, because nothing is free. All that happens is you just pay for it on your tax later on. If you want something to be free, you’re fooling yourself because the money doesn’t just fall out of the air. We just take it off your wages and your salaries and tax your businesses to pay for them.

ALEX CULLEN: All right.

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m trying to be the adult on this one. If you think that things are for free, they’re not. They just go on your credit card and you pay for it later on.

ALEX CULLEN: It’s very hard for someone to hear that who can’t afford these tests.

BARNABY JOYCE: Okay, on that issue, for people who are struggling, for pensioners, for people in aged care, they would be free. But this idea that everybody gets them for free, I don’t know about that.

ALEX CULLEN: Okay. Where are you at the moment? You’re looking in holiday mode there. In Noosa, is that right?

BARNABY JOYCE: I am. I’ve been up in Central Queensland and I’m staying at a motel – and not at Noosa. I’m not quite at that level. I’m at Tewantin, so sort of pretend Noosa, but this river goes to Noosa, apparently.

ALEX CULLEN: Good. Let’s all go to Noosa. I’d love to be in Noosa right now. Hey, Barnaby, I know you’ve got a busy day ahead. Thanks so much for your time this morning, and we’ll talk to you very, very soon.

BARNABY JOYCE: Always a pleasure.