Nationals MP and political oddity Barnaby Joyce responded to a hijabi girl’s question about Australian media diversity in the most Barnaby way possible, declaring that since he’s “red”, anyone can make it on news television.
Appearing on Q+A Monday night, Year 8 student and prospective journalist Anhaar Kareem asked the panel if Australia will ever accept a hijab-wearing reporter on their screens.
“When I watch the news I never see anyone who looks like me,” Kareem said.
Her question arrived hours after the release of a groundbreaking report on cultural diversity in Australia’s news television programs, which laid bare just how underrepresented journalists and presenters from non-European backgrounds are in Aussie media.
Media Diversity Australia Director Antoinette Lattouf, whose organisation led the report, said Kareem should “absolutely have a place on our TV screens,” but maintained Australia has a “pretty long way to go in terms of catching up with other Western democracies” in terms of on-screen representation.
Lattouf was firm on the benefits of elevating voices from diverse backgrounds, saying homogenous commentary is bad for everyone involved.
The focus soon turned to Joyce, who agreed that Kareem will have a future in journalism if she wants it, but largely overlooked the ‘cultural’ part of ‘cultural diversity.’
“I’m really interested in getting that challenge of views, the challenge of ideas, the proper debate, rather than seeing a suite of people where I’ll listen to one and go, ‘Here goes all the rest saying exactly the same thing,’” Joyce said.
“That’s what annoys me. What you wear and what your colour is is completely irrelevant.”
(It’s worth mentioning here that Joyce once questioned why the ABC didn’t sack Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a Muslim woman and media presenter, after she shared a view he didn’t agree with. She was eventually harassed out of the country for expressing that controversial opinion. Anyway! Moving on.)
“I’m red,” Joyce joked. “How many of those do we have on television?”
Yes, it was a joke, and yes, Joyce expressed the view that folks from any background should have the same opportunities in the media. Lattouf even expressed the viewpoint that since cultural groups don’t have monolithic views, hiring more diverse staff means hearing more diverse opinions by default.
But Joyce’s viewpoint elides one of the report’s key findings, which is that real, concerted effort is required to overturn the deficit. Declaring everyone should have equal opportunities won’t cut it.
You can catch the clip below:
— QandA (@QandA) August 17, 2020