In defence of Barnaby


He might be a tomatohead but he’s our tomatohead – and he’s right.

Unless you have been in a quarantine yourself for the past few months, I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic skeleton of this story:

Johnny Depp was filming the latest theme park ride-turned-blockbuster movie franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the Gold Coast.

To keep him company he smuggled into Australia his wife Amber Heard and their two Yorkshire Terriers Pistol and Boo – on a private plane and without going through all the standard quarantine measures that apply to lesser mortal’s pets.

Depp and Heard were found out, prosecuted under the biosecurity laws, and as part of the settlement with the Australian government forced to make an excruciatingly insincere video-apology-cum-public service message about the importance of the said laws.

Overnight, Depp discussed his brush with the Australian law with Jimmy Kimmel and had this to say about our Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce: “He looks somehow inbred with a tomato. It’s not a criticism. I was a little worried. He just might explode.”

Depp’s concern for Barnaby’s health is quite touching. I have also over the years been worried about Barnaby. I don’t know whether Barnaby is Monsanto’s first-ever Genetically Modified politician-fruit hybrid (yes, tomatoes are a fruit), but I suspect that it’s more likely a combination of the traditional ruddy Outback complexion, an outdoorsy lifestyle, high blood pressure, and a dash or two of red wine. I’ve known Barnaby for years, if rather vaguely, and I quite like him, despite his occasional agrarian socialist tendencies. I certainly hope he doesn’t explode any time soon, as Australia would lose one of her most colourful (and not just in the skin complexion sense) politicians.

Depp might feel hard done by and inconvenienced by the whole fracas at the hands of some Aussie yokel in a funny hat, but I for one appreciate the fact that we still have one law for all, rich or poor, celebrity or nobody, Johnny Depp from Hollywood and Jenny Smith from Holywell who wants to bring her border collie with her as she migrates from England to Australia. Biosecurity laws are here for a reason, and whilst they might seem like a nuisance to pet-attached visitors from overseas, anyone even vaguely acquainted with Australia’s past experience of exposure to foreign pests and diseases will understand the rationale. For all I know Pistol and Boo might be the cleanest dogs in America, with a regular monthly toxicology and SDI screening performed by Beverly Hill’s best vet and plastic surgeon, but that’s not the point – and it’s not Depp’s and Heard’s assessment and decision to make.

As a great former Prime Minister once said, we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come. And that, albeit for different reason, includes goddamned dogs, too.