Barnaby Joyce makes surprise call to ABC radio to talk about class and bogans

Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It is a wise Abbott government minister who keeps his love for the ABC a secret. But if the federal Agriculture Minister wanted to avoid being outed as an ABC listener, he might have chosen a trickier pseudonym than "Barnaby in New South Wales".

A talkback caller to Radio National on Friday morning who expressed passionate views about "bogans" and the class system in Australia has been revealed to be none other than Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals' member for New England.

Radio National listeners were treated to a range of views unrelated to the agriculture portfolio. And Mr Joyce's press secretary was treated to a surprise unique to those whose job it is to manage the most unmanageable politician in the federal cabinet.

"Let's take some more calls, 'cos it's a full board here in our Friday talkback on class here on Life Matters," said the Life Matters host Natasha Mitchell.

"Barnaby in New South Wales, hi!"

Barnaby: "G'day Natasha… "I think if people honestly believe that there's a class system then it would be clearly identifiable as you walk down the street.

"You'd be able to say that person belongs to that class, that person belongs to another class, and I don't think it is," he added.

Barnaby from New South Wales made several further points. It was a myth that a class system still existed in modern Australia. Being a "bogan" was more often than not "a consumer choice" and paying for private education was a consumer choice not unlike buying a speedboat or a car.

"Where is the clearly identifiable upper class?" Barnaby from New South Wales wondered. "Where do you see people and say, 'Well that person is obviously of the upper class?"' Another guest suggested to Barnaby that the upper class could be found at Randwick Racecourse and "in all the good places".

"Walk into a shopping centre," another guest volunteered as to the location of the working class. "People in high visibility vests."

"Yeah, but they're probably earning more money that you," Barnaby replied. "If they're richer and happier what does it matter?"

Perhaps trying to elevate the discussion, Natasha Mitchell asked about the division between public and private education in Australia. What, she asked, did Barnaby think about the concentration of children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in public schools?

"I think it is a case of parents wanting to make a greater contribution towards an education," Barnaby said. "That's a choice that they make. Some people decide to buy a speedboat, some people decide to buy an SUV…

"Well, not many people decide to buy a speedboat," Ms Mitchell interjected.

Barnaby: "Ok, well whatever blows your hair back. Whatever makes you happy.

"Some people have a desire … especially sons and daughters of immigrants, they want to get their kids the best form of education and they think there is an advantage there, but you can easily fix that up by just giving greater latitude to state schools to have a greater say over what they do and that will remove a lot of that."

And it's not just Barnaby from New South Wales who thinks that. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has been saying the exact same thing.

This story Barnaby Joyce makes surprise call to ABC radio to talk about class and bogans first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.