Interview with Laura Jayes, AM Agenda, Sky News Australia

LAURA JAYES: Good morning and welcome back to the program. Barnaby Joyce has tested positive to COVID. He's in the United States and is now isolating in Washington DC. The Deputy Prime Minister says he's experiencing mild to medium flu symptoms and he expects he won't be able to travel home for at least another 10 days. Mr Joyce has been in the United Kingdom on official business and flew to the US on Tuesday to meet with law makers there. He joins us live on the phone. How are you, Mr Joyce? How are you feeling?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, Laura, I'd be a lot better if I wasn't looking forward to being in isolation for the next 10 days, but that's the way it goes. If I could just work out which one of these channels has cricket on it, I'm going to be so much better off. Otherwise, I'm going to be watching dopey soaps.

LAURA JAYES: All right, well, you sound good. What are your symptoms?

BARNABY JOYCE: I was just getting a bit tired and then I started getting a couple of pains in my legs. I thought better get tested. I tested positive. Luckily enough, all of the people with me tested negative. I'd already been tested twice in the last couple of days in the UK, but this was just as we arrived in the United States. But anyway, that's life.

LAURA JAYES: So, you obviously think you picked up the virus in the UK?

BARNABY JOYCE: I would have had to because I tested negative in the UK. It's only just since I arrived here last night and I was tested early this morning.

LAURA JAYES: Okay, so when did you start getting symptoms? And do you think you're over the worst of the symptoms? What's the advice there?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, no I think it's just starting to be quite frank, so I don't know, whatever's in front. If I thought I was really crook, obviously, I would have got tested much earlier, but I don't feel that bad, that's that crazy thing. Like if you said oh you know, you're breathing on the ground in pain. No, not really. You really have to sort of quiz yourself as to whether you need to be tested at all, you know because it doesn't sort of scream at you. I think that's one of the vague things about this virus. Some people have it and they don't even realise they got it and some people, I imagine, get it, just only have to really think about it as to whether they've got it.

LAURA JAYES: Indeed. So, you've tested positive, do you know whether it's the Omicron strain? Is that being investigated?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I don't know what strain it is. I've got very few other people to talk to in this room, so I might have a yarn to it tonight.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. So, do you know whether obviously you've come from the UK, where Omicron cases are increasing, you're now in the US? Is that something that they're going to look into? Whether you have that strain?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don't know, Laura. I really don't. It's a pretty simple thing, you get yourself tested, it comes back positive, you go into isolation and that's where really your consideration of the facts stop. That's about it. I don't know. I'm sure they probably know, but it's not really relevant to me. You have a protocol to follow and I'm following it.

LAURA JAYES: And no one else has tested positive so far in your travelling party?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, which is great, which is really good, which I'd hate to think that there are other people at an inconvenience, but no they're all clear. Just me.

LAURA JAYES: Thinking back now in retrospect, do you think you know where you picked it up?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don't know. In the UK, I must admit, it's crowded. Crowded and Christmas shopping, and you wouldn't know there was a pandemic on in many areas of the UK. People are just shoulder to shoulder and so there's a heap of areas you could possibly get it. Where did you get it? I don't know, 1,000 different combinations and permutations and possibilities, but that's it.

LAURA JAYES: So, you're in isolation now. When were you due to come home?

BARNABY JOYCE: About five days, I think four or five days. I've had some jobs to do. As you know, we’ve got the AUKUS issues we've lately bought forward, which is incredibly important. We've got infrastructure meetings I wanted to have on infrastructure policy in the UK and the United States. Obviously, I've done the UK once and also issues on online. I passionately want to make sure we get better controls on what Facebook and other online platforms put on in your child's bedroom and to put some caveats on the bullying and intimidation that happens online from anonymous sources. I was really looking forward to being part of those discussions, but unfortunately that won't be happening.

LAURA JAYES: So, what happens to all those meetings now? You're back into the Zoom mirror of things or you cancel them.

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I think I just get cancelled. That's about it, which is a shame because I think that's really important. Maybe we just have to find another avenue to try and do them. A lot of these meetings you can only do, especially if there’s anything pertinent to defence, you can't really do them on Zoom anyhow. You have to do them one on one.

LAURA JAYES: So basically, you're stuck there until you return a negative test. No special exemptions for you?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, just stuck here and I think that's what would happen for anybody. You test positive, you go to isolation and that's where I am. But you know, that's fine, that's the way it is. Anyway, as I said, if I can find the cricket I'll have something to do and I'll do some paperwork and read a book.

LAURA JAYES: Well, I hope you find that cricket channel just before I let you go. You've been a big advocate, as of I, indeed, for needing to get on with our lives and live with COVID. Now that you've got it, is it worth it?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, I think so. I just think that I'm still of the same view. We can't just shut the whole place down. The world's got to move on. It's not economically possible for us, or for any nation, just to go into permanent shutdown. You’ll go broke. We've got an economy that you have to make sure bounces along, because if you want to pay for your social security and pay for your health and pay for your schools, then the economy has got to be making money. You can't make any money if everybody is at home. We've got to work out how we keep people out of hospitals. That's terribly important. We’ve got to make sure people get vaccinated. That's very important. And we’ve got to work out the best way to try and manage and move on and get our lives back to as normal as we possibly, possibly can. I hope that in the future, rather than being isolated, it's like the flu – if to get it, you go home and you manage it yourself. With the diligence that people should like they get a flu shot every year, they get a COVID vaccine every year. That's my dream. Where the reality is, I don't know, but that is my dream.

LAURA JAYES: That hasn't changed your perspective at all?

BARNABY JOYCE: Not yet. I'm not dying here, Laura. I'm feeling like I have a slight to mild flu. So, no, it hasn't really changed my perspective. Maybe if you call me in a few days and hear me gasping for air, I'll have a different interview for you.

LAURA JAYES: Okay, well, you're not seeing the light just yet, and we hope that doesn't happen. We hope these symptoms stay mild to medium. But as you say, this will just be the start of it for you. We wish you well, we hope you find the cricket channel. We hope you're getting the care that you need and we thank you for talking to us this morning.

BARNABY JOYCE: Thank you very much, Laura, All the best.

LAURA JAYES: Barnaby Joyce, there live in Washington, DC.