Barnaby off the chain

Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce

NOT content with going after Johnny Depp’s dogs, now Barnaby’s gone to the watchdog.

The agriculture minister is hounding Australia’s media watchdog to investigate an interview in which radio announcer Kyle Sandilands attacked the Nationals deputy leader Barnaby Joyce for his treatment of Johnny Depp and his dogs.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will next week discuss whether to trigger a review, a Senate estimates hearing heard yesterday.

Sandilands unleashed a torrent of abuse on Mr Joyce in an interview earlier this month, calling him “an insensitive wanker”, “a disgrace” and a “gerbil of a thing” on air, after the minister had previously threatened to have Depp’s Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo destroyed after they were brought illegally into Australia.

Mr Joyce’s office has written a complaint to Sandilands’ station KIIS FM, but in a separate letter to ACMA has asked the authority to consider immediately commencing its own investigation.

The complaint to KIIS FM states requests by Mr Joyce and his office for an apology from the station had been refused and “a subsequent email to the station and follow-up texts have not been responded to”.

“On the basis that Mr Joyce was not given an adequate opportunity to reasonably discuss the subject for which he was invited on the program, that there was a stream of verbal abuse, inappropriate referencing, and the lack of courtesies that would normally be afforded to a Minister of the Crown, I am writing to request you review the matter and consider whether a public apology is warranted,” it says.

In yesterday’s hearing, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie asked ACMA chairman and chief executive Chris Chapman whether the interview had breached Australian broadcasting standards.

“I think if we actually go through the code and words and phrases and indeed the tone of the interview – it might actually suggest that there isn’t just one breach of the code, but it’s actually several,” Senator McKenzie said.

Senator McKenzie asked Mr Chapman for his “definition of a gerbil”, to which the ACMA chief said: “I don’t know.” Mr Chapman said it was ACMA’s practice to wait for the broadcaster to respond to a complaint before commencing its own proceedings.

But he said exemptions were sometimes given and the request by Mr Joyce’s office would be considered next week.

Mr Chapman said he would not give his opinion on whether the interview had breached standards, as this could be “perceived as apprehended bias in the event that a broadcaster sought to take administrative or judicial review”.

“With reluctance, I will have to disappoint you with respect to my own opinions at this stage,” he said.

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