POLITICS

Yes, Barnaby Joyce Is A Shakespeare Fan

And a fan of the children, too.

03/06/2016 12:43 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Fairfax: Alex Ellinghausen
The Deputy Prime Minister revealed his literary leanings at a kids debate in Sydney.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has been called a few names recently, even some of the fruity kind. But a Shakespeare fan? Not so much.

Until now.

As Joyce spent day 27 of the campaign trail taking a grilling from high school students in a #KidsDebate, he reflected on his childhood Shakespearean experience, surprising a few in the room -- and probably the internet.

"Mr Joyce, are you a Shakespeare fan?" asked the moderator, Anthony Segaert, who is in Year 11, but was likened to a young Laurie Oakes.

The question was greeted with a few laughs in the crowd of high school students on Friday afternoon. First, silence, and then a laugh from the Deputy Prime Minister himself.

"Well I went to Riverview [St. Ignatius' College in Sydney] so unfortunately I was very fortunate to get a Shakespearean experience rammed down my throat," Joyce said.

Wait for it.

The Deputy PM said there was no better way to understand politics than by delving into Shakespearean literature.

Referencing Julius Caesar, Joyce said: "You think you know where the crowd is but watch out because your head will be on the block next.

"[Readers can understand] the torment that can basically affect a person's serious decision -- there is no better display than King Lear," Joyce told the packed crowd of high school students.

"If you don't get something out of Shakespeare, all I can say is, read it again."

Joyce was joined by Greens Senator Larissa Waters and ALP MP Amanda Rishworth at St Andrews High School in Sydney on Friday to debate, well, anything the students asked them.

And the students didn't hold back, tackling a multitude of national issues including climate change, youth unemployment, the Federal Government's reconciliation with Indigenous Australians and the possibility of Australia becoming a republic. You can watch the whole glorious thing, held by Crinkling News and Kinderling Kids Radio, here:

And the Deputy Prime Minister wasn't able to avoid his long-running feud with Johnny Depp.

MLC student Diya Mehta asked Rishworth whether she would have deported Pistol and Boo, which Rishworth implied was a knee-jerk response despite the importance of biosecurity laws.

When he was asked to respond, Joyce first handed the mic to his Greens counterpart on the panel, before finally answering the question. Highlighting the Coalition's "massive investments in biosecurity", Joyce said there is a threat of rabies in England which they believe can come in through smuggling in "teacup dogs" along with cats and bats.

"We had every right as a nation to come down on that like a tonne of bricks," Joyce said.

The Deputy Prime Minister wasn't the only one answering "the hard questions", with the Year 11 high school moderator interrupting Rishworth at least twice as she tried to dodge the word "invasion" while answering whether it was appropriate to use when referring to Australia's settlement.

Joyce said it only harmed the country's reconciliation with Indigenous Australians while Waters deemed it appropriate.

"I don't want to get caught up -- to be honest -- on language," Rishworth eventually said.

And it seemed some students didn't buy it.

Diya Mehta, an MLC student on the panel, told The Huffington Post Australia the politicians "wove their way around the questions, not answering the actual intent of the question".

"Sometimes, as we know and as we see, they kind of answered everything but the question," Mehta said.

Editor-in-Chief of Crinkling News, Saffron Howden said it was important for kids to "have a voice" in politics despite the fact they can't yet vote.

"They will be able to vote in a few years. What I think is important is to give them an opportunity to learn a little bit about the political process, and also to get involved in it," Howden told HuffPost Australia.

As for the politicians, Waters said it is "wonderful to have so many young people engaged in politics" despite the low numbers of young politicians, in particular, women.

"It's really great to see questions today that weren't about political fripperies but were about real issues," she told HuffPost Austalia.

When we asked the Deputy Prime Minister why he chose to spend his time talking to non-voters during the campaign trail, Joyce said: "Why not?"

"It's live streamed. I bet you there are people all throughout my electorate who will watch that, there will be parts of that watched around the world. Why wouldn't you use your time when you can to sell your message to a younger audience?" Joyce told HuffPost Australia.

"It's good seeing people in their formative time in political development. Their ideas will change over time. You can't change your face, you can't change your height, but your political views do change and they develop."

Joyce revealed he had wanted to speak about Donald Trump "for a long time", which he had the chance to on Friday afternoon when a student asked which Australian politician is most like Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump is like Donald Trump," replied Joyce, to a crowd of laughter.

"What you're seeing there is a reflection of people who are so annoyed by the sanitation of politics that they're reacting against it.

"People have this sense of 'we're getting stuck into Donald Trump'. Remember you're actually reflecting on the people who are supporting him. He's only there by democratic process so be really cautious about that.

"I have some serious concerns with the policies that he's suggesting, there's no doubt about that. But let's not use this mechanism to start belittling American people, because they are following a democratic process."

And was it better than the Leaders' Debate?

"I'll let other people be the judge of that," Joyce told HuffPost Australia, "by how many likes it gets."

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