Interview with Edwina Bartholomew and Matt Shirvington, Sunrise

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW: Let's go back to our top story now, and tennis superstar Novak Djokovic will remain in Australia until at least Monday as he fights deportation. It's making headlines all around the world. Joining us now is Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Morning to you, Barnaby. Of course you famously defended our borders from Johnny Depp's dogs, Pistol and Boo. Now, Novak Djokovic is trying to come in. The Prime Minister said yesterday rules are rules and there are no special cases. But the reality is there have been a number of special exemptions made over the last couple of years. Should celebrities ever get special treatment?

BARNABY JOYCE: Because I’m on holidays up here on the sunny coast, I woke up early and started reading the correspondence between Greg Hunt to Tennis Australia and I don’t think Greg could have been any clearer. He was quite clear. He said you’ve got to be double vaxxed, you can’t just say, they won’t accept you’ve just had COVID as a reason for you to get an exemption. Now, the Victorian Government, they've decided that they wanted Mr Djokovic in and Tennis Australia probably wanted Mr Djokovic in, but they don't make that decision. That’s the Federal Government. This is where we got these confusions. So ultimately, Greg, the Minister for Health, was absolutely black and white clear to Mr Djokovic about what his responsibilities and the expectations were. Now we've got this confusion. He's got an interlocutory proceeding going on. See, I did get up early and read all my papers, and that will be heard on Monday, so we won't get in front of the court. But when you sit back and look at it from a distance, you just think sometimes you get a sense that people who make a lot of money start believing they've evolved somehow above the laws of the land, whether you like them or not. We saw this with Mr Depp, and I'm not saying that Mr Djokovic is Mr Depp, but you’ve got to, look, I think it's ridiculous I have to get a RAT test to come into Queensland. Here I am in Queensland, but I had to get it because that's the law, and I did it. You abide by the law and that's the process. If you don't like the law, then you change the people who make them. I hope they don't do that. This is the problem Mr Djokovic has got. The courts will make the hearings on Monday, but it seems pretty black and white to me.

MATT SHIRVIGTON: Based on the correspondence that you've been reading, do you think he's got any chance of beating this and getting that visa approved on Monday?

BARNABY JOYCE: I'll leave that up to the court, but if I was a betting person I wouldn't be putting my house on it.

EDWINA BARTHOMOLEW: Why wasn't this resolved, Barnaby, before he actually arrived in Australia? Because there's some debate today whether this is political or just procedural to stop him and detain him like this.

BARNABY JOYCE: That's really a question for Mr Djokovic. Most of you have been on a plane, you fill out those forms, don't you, before you go through customs, saying I don't have any little dogs on board, I don't have any wooden plants and you declare all your stuff and then you sign it. It's called trust, right? Trust. And then you hand it in. We don't go through sort of an interview process before you go on the plane, it would slow things down incredibly. You read the information that's there before you. The correspondence was black and white clear, given to Tennis Australia, so they should have conveyed that onto Mr Djokovic and then he still made a decision he's going to jump on a plane and arrive here. Now, we're not responsible for the fact that after all the information that was there, he's still arrived here. Now, he's still going through the process. He’s going to end up in court on Monday and we'll see how that goes. The decision was his. He made the decision but the advice, the advice he got was quite clear. Get yourself vaccinated twice. It's not good enough just to say I’ve had COVID, because I’ve had COVID. It's not good enough.

EDWINA BARTHOMOLEW: Barnaby, could this backfire on the Government? Because now global attention is on this Park Hotel in Carlton. There's a protest planned there for midday today of Serbian supporters of Novak Djokovic. That's where 32 refugees and asylum seekers have been held, some for the last year after spending nine years in detention. It's bringing attention, global attention to their cause, too. Could this be a further international embarrassment?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I think that, let's go with Mr Djokovic first. Overwhelmingly, the mail I've been getting from people is why does this person, why does he seem to be getting special treatment from the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia? Why is that happening? We wouldn't get it. Why does he get it? And the egalitarian nature of Australia I understand completely. We won't have to worry about getting any bad press from making sure that everybody has to deal with the laws and equivalents, which is what's happening with Mr Djokovic. The issue of maintaining strong borders is one that is always incredibly vexed and hard, but the Australian people overwhelmingly want to make sure that we remain a generous nation, that we have a high refugee intake, but we do it with a process that's determined by us, and it's not ad hoc. That just goes on its own path because it ends up in chaos and we've seen that before and we don't want that. It's a matter of being generous, but also being methodical about how we control our borders and that's exactly what the Coalition has always done and we'll endeavour to keep on doing.

MATT SHIRVINTON: Deputy Prime Minister, thanks so much for spending a little bit of time with us on your holiday. Enjoy the rest of it.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah. Thank you for letting me into the sunny coast, beautiful spot, that’s raining.