Barnaby Joyce has denied his call for more privacy rules to safeguard his own family contradicts his opposition to extra protections for people using abortion clinics.
- Barnaby Joyce has been calling for a tort of privacy that would give people the right to sue
- He argues against safe zones to protect the privacy of women using abortion clinics
- Mr Joyce says a privacy tort would do a better job of protecting those women than safe zones would
Since his affair with former media adviser Vikki Campion put the spotlight on his personal life, Mr Joyce has been calling for a tort of privacy which would mean people could sue for compensation or an injunction if their privacy is breached.
That argument has come under scrutiny after Mr Joyce lobbied New South Wales Nationals last week to vote against a bill banning protesters from outside abortion clinics.
The bill — which punishes protesters who intimidate, harass or film people within 150 metres of clinics or hospitals providing terminations — passed, including with Nationals support.
Mr Joyce told the Northern Daily Leader last week he did not condone women being harassed as they entered abortion clinics but he also said he believed in free speech.
But the former deputy prime minister has continued to push for new privacy rules to protect people like his family members.
Mr Joyce clashed with a photographer outside a church in Armidale over the weekend, then posted a video of the incident on social media.
Photographer Guy Finlay accused Mr Joyce of threatening to punch him, but Mr Joyce denied that and said others leaving the church also saw that he did not do it.
He said as a public figure, he did not expect privacy, but argued that Ms Campion and their son were private individuals who deserve “a greater protection”.
Channel Seven’s Sunrise host David Koch today challenged Mr Joyce on whether that was a double standard compared to his view on abortion clinics.
Koch also asked Mr Joyce if it meant that he had “changed his tune” about privacy protection.
“No, people know my position, I have always been a pro-lifer,” he told Channel Seven.
In 2014, the Law Reform Commission recommended a protection for serious invasions of privacy, but then-attorney-general George Brandis rejected the move as an intrusion on personal freedoms.
Mr Joyce and Ms Campion have complained about being hounded by media and having drones being flown over their house.
“I expect to have to do interviews, that is my job, but private individuals — kids especially — should have greater protections than what they have got,” Mr Joyce said.
Tort would offer better protection at abortion clinics: Joyce
The Nationals MP argued that his call for new rules would have better protected people going to abortion clinics than the law that means protesters have to stay 150 metres away.
“If we had a proper tort of privacy that would protect people going to clinics absolutely, because you wouldn’t be able to go up and harass somebody, it would be much better protection than saying ‘stand back 150 metres’,” Mr Joyce said.
But he did not elaborate on how giving people the right to sue for privacy would be better for those going to abortion clinics than keeping protesters away from them.
NSW Labor MLC Penny Sharpe, who co-sponsored the bill to force protestors to stay 150 metres back, said Mr Joyce was wrong to compare his situation to the one faced by people who need terminations.
“The two things are not the same,” she said.
Ms Sharpe said his proposal would be a cumbersome process for people who just wanted to go to the doctor and move on with their lives rather than take on a legal battle.
She said Mr Joyce’s situation was “all of his own making”.
“It was very hypocritical for him to have tried to convince his colleagues to refuse to protect women from harassment,” Ms Sharpe said.
Law Council president Morry Bailes said privacy law as a concept in Australia was “a bit nebulous” especially given there is no bill of rights to include a right to privacy.
He said the Law Council’s concern was mainly about the impact of national security legislation and surveillance laws on ordinary people’s privacy.
Mr Joyce conceded he was feeling the strain of the controversy surrounding him.
“Obviously there is a bit of pressure there and you would be foolish to say anything else,” he said.
“I can manage it over a period of time for myself but obviously it is difficult trying to manage it for everyone else.”
Mr Joyce was criticised by colleagues including Kelly O’Dwyer for doing a paid interview about his personal circumstances, and one of his state colleagues said he should quit politics.