The federal convention of the National Party recently voted against ISP filtering. What are your views on the issue?
Senator Barnaby Joyce (BJ): To be honest, I voted for filtering and I lost. It’s driven by two dynamics – one is an age group of 16 to 33. They don’t have kids, and are very interested in Internet speed and liberty of access. The other group includes myself and have kids. Once you have kids your Maslow hierarchy of needs changes and what concerns you is how to stop your kids from seeing things that you find pretty weird. But I lost the debate, they won the debate and our policy is now that we don’t support filtering.
Some argue an opt-out measure would be the better solution. How would you respond?
BJ: People can say, “you can get your own filter” and I have one. But I’ve got to think for more than my kids. It’s pretty selfish to say that I don’t want my kids to be screwed up but that I’m quite happy to see someone else’s kids get screwed up. You can’t be complicit in the exploitation of another person in any form otherwise you’re part of the problem.
I can’t imagine what it does to a kid when they see someone chock a block up an animal but I bet it’s not good and that’s what we’re talking about. I’m no prude and I’m no saint but I’m not naive either.
Do you have to abide by the decision of the party when it comes to a vote in the Senate?
BJ: No, we don’t have to. But it’s pretty strong guidance because when you go against party policy you take your political life in your own hands. Another democratic thing in the National Party is that they can call for your disendorsement and vote against you.
If the Liberal party decides to back an ISP filter, what will the Nationals do?
BJ: I’d have to look at the legislation, but you’re influenced by your Federal Council. They’re like your mum and dad because you can go your own way but you better be ready for the blue when you go home.
Are you surprised that a party with a strong foundation and base in rural and regional Australia cares about something that is seen as a city issue?
BJ: The Internet is a bigger issue in regional Australia than it is in urban Australia because everything relies on the Internet. My parents are in their 80’s and they use it all the time. It’s their banking, research, libraries and more. If you live out in remote areas and your Internet goes down, you have no access you anything. We can’t just drive around the corner to a bank or go shopping for a different bank.
Are you upset at losing a Prime Minister from Queensland?
BJ: The Labor party is the philosophical brothel of ideas and people have got to pull them up for it. People are saying, “I want to know where you are because I only trust consistency. Then when you say it I can believe it.”
There’s always a belief in Queensland that southerners can’t stand us having positions of office. Once again a whole heap of New South Welshman decided they could change a Queensland Prime Minister. I thought Rudd was hopeless but I think Gillard is worse. What is white-hot in Queensland is the way he was removed. People are extremely dirty about that and they’re saying, “If he was a problem he was our problem – we live in a Western democracy and get the right to vote. You don’t just turn up in the night and change things then because that’s Central African Republic crap.”