SUBJECTS: Press Freedoms; War Cabinet
SAM ARMYTAGE, HOST: This morning every major newspaper across the country has been heavily censored. The redactions offer a glimpse into a future where laws continue to erode press freedoms.
DAVID KOCH, HOST: The coordinated campaign reflects genuine concern that the public's right to know the truth is being compromised. More than 60 pieces of legislation have been introduced over two decades, aiming to criminalise aspects of journalism and penalise whistle-blowers. For their thoughts, we’re joined by Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Shadow Agriculture Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon – morning to you both gents. The issues being cited, such as withholding information around aged care abuse, Joel is access to information being denied simply to protect the best interests of the government do you think?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: I think there are legitimate concerns that the freedom of an independent press is being undermined by government. We don't want to be living in a police state. The media is an important part of our democracy and we need to protect their right to tell people what they need to know.
KOCH: Barnaby, are things like the AFP raids on the homes of journalists a way of intimidating reporters from exposing stories and keeping the truth from voters?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well Kochie, you are a business and you have to make money first and foremost, and the fourth of state is important. But you're not Clark Kent from the Daily Planet. We talk about the public interest as if it’s some indissoluble right that's a beacon of justice which everything else can be put aside to protect. Well that is the same indissoluble right that was used to take photo of a pregnant lady, a private individual, walking cross the road and you also believe that was in the public interest and not only was a good, it went on the front page and got the fourth state a Walkley. We have to understand that when you talk about…
KOCH: Ok, now you're referring to your own situation here?
JOYCE: Yeah I am. I'm referring to you can't have it both ways. The public interest test is important and it must be respected in its entirety. You talk about that you have to have the protection of a whistle-blower in delivering its source and the person they deliver their source to should be protected. But isn't that exactly what Julian Assange did? He never broke into a building; it was Bradley Manning who gave them the information, and you haven't been sort of rocking the place with your front pages about that. Now, your biggest threat is not from this, it's from oligopolies that now are not you. They are Facebook and Google and they are destroying your business plan. They're ripping away eyeballs, and they're destroying your income base.
ARMYTAGE: Well, isn’t that, Barnaby, isn't it going to be even more of a wild west? I mean, love it or hate it the media does have some regulations now, Facebook does not. They’re putting videos of slaughters in Christchurch to air. We're not allowed, I mean we would never be able to do stuff like that. Facebook is getting away with blue murder, literally.
JOYCE: Absolutely, Sam. And that's why when we fought – I fought in the past for antitrust legislation to curtail what we have. And the major platform like Google or Facebook, they should have a bureau here in Parliament House. They should have cameraman here in Parliament House. They should have regional studios, that should be their license and yet they don’t.
ARMYTAGE: They should have regulations. Government should put regulations on them.
JOYCE: Put it on the front page – support it – I'll be fighting for you.
KOCH: Barnaby, you obviously hate the media…
JOYCE: I don’t, no I don’t, I don’t hate them.
KOCH: … because of your personal situation – sounds like it – but the interesting thing is your partner was responsible for a lot of this in her former life as Chief of Staff of The Daily Telegraph.
JOYCE: Yeah, I know, well, two wrongs don’t make a right. I absolutely believe Kochie and afford the same. It is fundamental, I've put it in speeches, and you've got to have a strong fourth of state, a transparent fourth of state to make sure our democracy works. Otherwise, we'll be living in China or Russia or somewhere else. So it's absolutely vital, but it cuts both ways. And you know, I do think in times like this, we should have an open and frank discussion on both sides.
ARMTAGE: Yeah be interesting to see what our viewers, what real people out there think because I think the media tends to get lost in itself sometimes – a lot of the time. So let us know at home what you think on this issue. Now Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, has suggested a War Cabinet be set up with bipartisan support to deal with the drought. Joel, do we need this? I mean, is there not bipartisan support on helping farmers here?
FITZGIBBON: Sam, just on Barnaby, he can't have it both ways either. He can't be supporter of both Julian Assange and Peter Dutton. But, Sam, the drought is growing really bad, seriously bad and we're all praying for rain, but the weather forecasters don't give us much hope. And I think it's going to become very difficult for government. Some tough decisions might need to be made about where investment is made and not made. And I think it's a reasonable thing for us to offer a bipartisan hand to take the pressure off Scott Morrison and his government to be making decisions together in what could become an almost warlike situation. And I think it's disappointing that Scott Morrison – we've reached across the aisle – Anthony Albanese has extended the hand of friendship and bipartisanship and I think it's disappointing and a mistake for Scott Morrison to reject it.
KOCH: Barnaby the Libs and Nats have clashed a bit over drought announcements; can politics be put aside – politics if you're like – in a national emergency and do what Albo has called for having a Cabinet of all sides of politics?
JOYCE: Well, first of all, yes, it should be and I've sold basically the last of my cattle in the last week and now we're back down, just back down to sheep which are loading sheep, five o'clock this morning. Yes, it's a premier issue, it's number one, and it hasn't gone away and I’d like to thank the Labor Party for putting me on their Cabinet. But the really important thing is that we understand that this goes on. The National Party have been – we are having meetings, we have another one today – one of the policies we're bringing forward is about drought. We are fighting this day in day out because it's in our electorates; we're having to deal with it. And we are the last people want it to be political. We want to drive this agenda. We want to make sure that we get good outcomes. We have driven an agenda. We've got changes to the FHA, we've got money directed straight to councils, we've got concessional loans, some of them have zero interest rate, and there's more we can do. I believe that we have to go direct to communities, like we do in other grants systems, get a proper community from that community, from shires, and let them have a crucial role in directing where aid needs to go because it's not just small players that need help. It's now the big players; it's now the shops in town; it's now the abattoir. It is an insidious thing that is bringing down the whole economy of regional areas. And we've got to deal with that.
ARMYTAGE: Well, this makes me mad as grazier's daughter. The days of sitting in Canberra having War Cabinets, whatever you want to call it, are done. This has been years and years and years of drought, and finally everybody's talking about it. Why does it – who cares if it's bipartisan, somebody do something and stop the talk.
JOYCE: You know, Sam, I'm not only a son of a farmer, grandson of a farmer, a fifth generation farmer, I am one myself. And you know, absolutely I get this. And I get the frustration of the bloke I was speaking to at the service station as I went up to do the sheep work and get home. He says mate I'm back driving trucks, I've got off-farm income, I don't get support. I'm talking to the bloke I was working with, he said I'm shearing, I'm back shearing, I don't get support. My other offsider, whilst we were out marking lambs, he has gone back to painting; he doesn't get support. We got to recognise that these people with off-farm income, they're out, they’re off the farm because they're out making a buck as best they can, as best they can. And we've got to understand that, you know, the big businesses too are coming to see us. They say, mate, unless it rains, unless we get stock, we are closing this abattoir now, what are you going to do to help?
ARMYTAGE: Let's stop this rubbish about War Cabinets and just get some bloody water out there for goodness sake. All right gents we have to go, I'm sorry we're out of time. I could talk about this all day and as you can see I'm bloody angry about it, but thank you.
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