The veteran Aussie rocker joined comedian Magda Szubanski, MP Tony Burke and Senators Fiona Nash and Jacqui Lambie on the Q&A panel this week, where topics of discussion ranged from immigration to creative copyright to the gay marriage plebiscite.
However, it was during a question about Pauline Hanson’s controversial maiden 2016 speech to parliament — in which she said that Australia was being “swamped by Muslims” — that the Working Class Man got most fired up.
The question posed to the panel was:
Senator Hanson’s maiden speech was seen by some to be borderline hate speech, yet she was lauded by her colleagues in the Senate (with the exception of The Greens). Don’t the government and opposition have a responsibility to rein her in, if her opinions and her language become too extreme, or do they let her be a loose cannon to preserve her support for crucial legislation?
Following an unsurprisingly inexplicable rant from Jacqui Lambie, Barnesy weighed in with a passionate condemnation of Hanson’s “ugly hate speech”.
“The thing about extremism is that extremism in any form is dangerous,” the Cold Chisel frontman said. “Extreme Christianity, extreme Muslims, extreme anything is dangerous. I think she’s extreme, I think it borders on hate speech.
“Her fanning the flames of extremism is not good. I think it’s just ugly hate speech,” he continued.
Host Tony Jones then recalled a previous instance in which Barnesy had stated that he didn’t want any anti-Muslim groups using his songs at their hate rallies or events, which triggered another impassioned comment from the singer.
“I think free speech is a great thing, but also it comes with responsibility,” Barnesy said. “Free speech and hate speech don’t go hand in hand. When Reclaim Australia started using [my songs] – you know, I’d turn on the news and then there’s Keh Sanh or Woking Class Man being played while people are marching around yelling hate – and the thing that really annoyed me, was they were all draped in the Australian flag. And that didn’t represent me.
“It didn’t represent my views. It didn’t represent the Australia that I know,” he continued. “Most of the people I know in this country are tolerant, caring, they have problems but they try to be understanding of each other. And I just said ‘please don’t use my songs’. And you should have seen the mail that I got!
“The comments that I got on Facebook and Twitter were absolutely horrific,” he said. “They were threatening my children. Because I didn’t want to have my songs associated with hate speech, they said I was supporting radical Islam and I should be killed.”
During the episode, Barnesy also got real about his past struggles with alcoholism, which he dubbed “the longest, slowest suicide attempt in Australian history”. He then closed out the show with a performance of James Carr’s The Dark End Of The Street.
Watch videos of his appearance on the show below, and catch Barnesy on his debut spoken word tour of Australia – in support of his forthcoming memoir Working Class Boy – this November and December.