Interview with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Channel 7 Sunrise

NATALIE BARR: For more, I’m joined by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning to you. Barnaby, how significant is Freedom Day for the national economy?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s incredibly important, and like being down here in the Hunter Valley, we could go to this gym where we’re about to give $25.7 million, we’re giving 10, and that’s really important. People are going to be able to get out, they’re going to be able to exercise, they’re going to be able to get their liberties and their freedoms back and that means whether you’re in the Hunter Valley or anywhere else you have the capacity to start living the life the way you wanted to. So get your second vaccination, get it all over and done with, make sure you get back out and put this something behind us and let’s all move on.

NATALIE BARR: Exactly. Hopefully it is behind us. Joel, the New South Wales Premier says he wants to avoid any further lockdowns. Is that going to happen? They talked about targeted restrictions.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well this is the point, isn’t it, Nat? There’s a mixture of excitement and nervousness up here in the Hunter today. People are obviously very happy, they’re off to have their first schooner for a while and maybe a haircut and a trip to the gym. But they want it to be long-lasting. We’ve seen this movie before, so people are a bit nervous about that. And of course it’s a partial break out. Sydney still can’t come to us, we can’t go to Sydney and our visitor economy here is very heavily dependent on that Sydney market, so we have a way to go yet before our economy is up and running again. And there’s also some nervousness about the low rate of vaccination here in the Hunter. Sydney will be coming to us in the not-too-distant future and our vaccination rates are going to be too low. So we’ve got a bit of work to do there yet.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, a lot of regional areas seem to be worried about that. New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet is coming up live on Sunrise after 7am, we’ll ask him about that situation. Now the Prime Minister’s indicated overseas travel could be fast tracked in New South Wales pending a home quarantine trial. Barnaby, do we still need home quarantine if so many people are vaccinated?

BARNABY JOYCE: Hopefully we get to a point once we continue our vaccination rates up where that becomes less and less the requirement. What we want to do, as we raise the requirements, as we raise the vaccination rates, we can reduce of course the other impediments to our liberties and freedoms that we’ve got. Now, we’re moving back towards international travel. We’re moving back there quicker than we expected and that’s a good thing. We want to make sure that people have the capacity to travel overseas and to come back. Right now, yes, they’ve got to go into home quarantine. But, you know, the world will move on as we get further and further and higher and higher vaccination rates and that is a good outcome. There’ll still be requirements from time to time for targeted and specific lockdowns but they’ll be very small in scale and very, very targeted.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Joel, do you think the overseas travel will be an incentive for the rest of the country to hurry up and get vaccinated, those states like WA and Queensland that have low rates because they haven’t had many cases?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yeah, I hope so, Nat. We in the regions like to travel overseas too and any incentive to get those vaccination rates up will be a welcome one. I think the key thing here on home quarantine is that politicians need to still be guided by the health expert advice. If we continue to do that then we’ll come out the other end in pretty good shape, I hope.

NATALIE BARR: Now this is an important one. The Prime Minister could seek future legal action for those who use online platforms to vilify, abuse or harass others. Barnaby, this is an issue you are passionate about. You have spoken about this. How quickly could we see some change here?

BARNABY JOYCE: As quickly as possible and I was speaking to the Prime Minister about this yesterday. The Prime Minister and myself are at one on this. We are not mucking about. Changes are going to happen. This has gone on too long. When we have children, especially young girls, and I’ve had to deal with this issue before rather than just the most recent circumstances, who the bully goes into the bedroom with them at night on Instagram and basically attacks them, assaults them from an anonymous source. This has got to stop. This is garbage. We’ve talked about this for too long and now actions have to happen. And they’re going to happen here, Nat, and they’re going to happen in the United States and things are going to change and if anyone wants to vote against the mums, predominantly mums and dads, who have had to deal with the calamity in mental health issues that this has brought about, well they can stick up their hand and be seen by everybody and good luck. Good luck with that. We have got to change this.

NATALIE BARR: So yeah, what is it going to be? There’s word that you’ll make Facebook and Twitter be treated as publishers under Australian law so they will receive, they’ll be under the same conditions as other media companies.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well I mean if you say something, Nat, or Kochie, you go to court.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah.

BARNABY JOYCE: You’re a publisher. These people are also stripping all your revenue off you. They are stripping your revenue off you. They are basically bringing about the demise of papers. They are taking away the revenue from television stations. They are taking away the capacity for proper investigatory fourth estate role, which is your role. The proper investigation into power and into politics. But these people go and their algorithms talk about finding the vulnerable and affecting them. And we’ve seen that in some of the evidence in the United States and there is a committee in the United States, and I’ve contacted that committee. I’m serious about this. We want to see some changes. We’re over this, over talking to these people. It shouldn’t be Facebook and it shouldn’t be Instagram and Twitter that are tearing people’s lives to pieces by having to manage their kids who have, you know, we put billions into mental health and then these people collect billions of profits and they know what they’re doing and we’ve found that out.

NATALIE BARR: Yep. They’re big enough and rich enough and smart enough surely to do something. Joel, would this receive bipartisan support?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yes, I think so, Nat. I mean the social media platforms have amplified the voices of every individual and made it all too easy for people, sometimes and often anonymously, to vilify and defame people. So the platform owners have a responsibility to do something about it, as does government. We’ve got to be careful though too not to kill the Internet, or in this case our social media platforms. People are so dependent on them these days for their information.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: And of course in regional Australia where we’ve lost so many of our regional newspapers, these platforms have become the key source of information for many communities, so we need to get that balance right.

NATALIE BARR: I know but some people feel like they’ve had their chance so now we have to force them into it, so yes.

BARNABY JOYCE: People can say what they like but they can’t say, “I’m Sir Rag Toll 123. The world’s made of cheese. The world’s flat and I don’t care about that but you’ve got to go away and kill yourself”.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I agree.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, I know, it’s horrendous. Time is up. Thank you gents.

ENDS