I am really conflicted over the Barnaby Joyce rumours - politically, ethically and emotionally. Though not being mentioned on TV political news shows, everyone on social media would have seen the article by Sharri Markson “Barnaby Joyce battles vicious innuendo as Coalition fears citizenship woe” which in itself is an odd piece. It was like Sharri could not make her mind up about whether she was setting up a ‘poor Barnaby attacked by nasty opponents’ piece to help garner sympathy for Joyce if there is a by-election in New England or, as I strongly suspect, under the guise of ‘poor Barnaby being attacked’, she was actually helping whoever Joyce’s internal enemies are in the Nationals (or Liberals) as looking at Markson’s past form, she sure as hell would not be assisting ALP or Windsor (who of course gets the blame for the ‘innuendo’ in her piece. But we can get into Ms Markson’s motives further down the track…
The fact is, regardless of the extent of the sensational Deputy PM who “has for months struggled with issues that have affected his marriage of 24 years”, which translates to everyone gossiping about Joyce having an affair, chasing women, hell even references to his drinking, you name it, the gossip covers the whole gamut. I’ll state right up front, I’m not a fan of Barnaby Joyce so I do understand some of the viciousness we are seeing online about him, though, having said that, I do feel for his wife and family.
Leave Mrs Joyce and his daughters out of it!
IF what is being insinuated is true, just think for a moment, think… Imagine how Mrs Joyce is feeling right now. IF there have been problems in the marriage, trying to deal with that when you are married to a man who is rarely around would have been hard enough. To now have your marriage being discussed in national media, online by punters and most likely amongst family as well would be a horrendous position to be in.
I know many say that families sign up to go along for the ride with politicians, so have to expect more media exposure and to a certain degree I agree with that, as obviously the higher pay, connection etc. usually benefit the family as well, though, I tend to see that as a trade-off for not seeing your family as much so it balances out. However, once you get into the ‘sex scandal’ type area, that is beyond what any partner signs up for.
Way back in the day in my first short-lived marriage I was on the receiving end of being cheated on. Dealing with that is bad enough, but, being in a situation, like I was, where I worked at a very large business where my then husband also worked, so everyone found out, gossiped etc was, to be frank, humiliating. Just walking to my office I would see someone glance at me while chatting to another staff member and for all I know probably only mentioned I was going to be late for a meeting, but, in my – mostly paranoid - mind, I was positive they were discussing how stupid I was that I never knew that my husband was cheating on me, comparing me to the ‘mistress’ (it had been going on for nearly a year and heaps did know, just not me SIGH!), or pitying me for being so clueless, the list goes on as to how badly you can beat yourself up when a marriage fails due to betrayal.
Having said all that, I was no-one. So I have empathy for Mrs Joyce being the silent victim in this media exposure, but she is the member of a high profile family in a regional area. She would be worried about the effects of this gossip on her daughters, IF the rumours are not correct, she would be worried about effects on her husband and his career, IF the rumours are correct, well, poor thing would be feeling that similar humiliation that I did, though on steroids.
So I would ask, you may be getting a vicarious pleasure seeing Barnaby Joyce mired in a drama, but please, consider his wife & daughters, they don’t deserve even more shite, they most certainly did not sign up for that. IF the innuendo is even partially true, they are victims as well and the only person to blame is Barnaby Joyce for them putting them in this position. Save your ire for him, not them, they deserve support, respect and privacy while they also deal with this crap.
Thinking on privacy… Katharine Murphy did a tweet, which I assume is a veiled reference to the Joyce scandal piece:
1. There's something of a convention in Aus politics: unless there's criminality, coercion or abuse involved, private lives are private.— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) October 21, 2017
As a general rule, I would agree with her. I don’t really care if a politician gets his jollies sucking toes or is a massive flirt, as long as they are not breaking the law, abusing the taxpayer or making decisions based on donors (a big rant for another day), I agree that private lives of politicians should remain private. Though I am less sure in regard to 'cheating' politicians, it could just be my previous experience clouds my judgement, though Paula Matthewson (@Drag0nista) wrote two very good pieces on 'cheating politicians' that sum up better than I could how I think this is one of those cases where the private life of a politician does matter and should be reported on: "VOTE CHEATING POLITICIANS OUT" and "Political private lives CAN be a public issue".
Private made Public
I’m torn on this Joyce issue though? It was only in march this year we saw a “Barnaby unplugged” piece in The Australian about how hard life is for the absentee dad, his wife and their four daughters. I remember at the time thinking what was the point of this puff piece? Were their manoeuvrings in the Nationals to punt Joyce as Leader? Though quickly forgot it. Though, in light of the Herald Sun piece “Page 13: Talk of high-profile politician affair with staffer sweeps around Parliament House” not so subtly alluding to the Joyce scandal, this, in their words “late-night office grappling is believed to have been going on for at least eight months”, sort of gives more context to the March puff piece? Or I could just be a cynical old bird ;-)
A politician having an affair, makes them (in my opinion) a pretty shit human being in most circumstances, but, if between consenting adults, is not really any of our business.
A politician having an affair with a staffer? Well, that I’m not so sure about? There is a power imbalance between a boss and his employee. That is always a murky area and without knowing all circumstances it is hard to judge. I just have faith in the likes of a Katharine Murphy that if journalists of her calibre are aware of this so-called open secret in Parliament, that the staffer in question is not being taken advantage of or in a vulnerable position as gallery journalists with integrity (and there are quite a few of them) would raise the issue if there was a problem?
IF we were only looking at the above issues in relation to a politician having an extra-marital affair then I would agree that it is Private, not our business and has no place being reported in media.
Having taken the above into account, what slants me towards this allegation not being private, if proved to be true, is the current issue of the Same Sex Marriage debate.
Barnaby Joyce has made much of his Catholic, Conservative, Family-focussed ‘values’. He quite famously said "Just get out of my face" in response to Marriage Equality campaigners who he does not agree with, being staunchly of the ‘marriage is between a man and woman only’ line. In fact, he has also attended “No” rallies, where he has advocated not changing the law, bringing in his family, in this case his four daughters, to back up his stance:
"We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband, and I want that to happen for them.
"I don't want any legislator to take that right away from me."
Let’s ignore the fact that that statement does not even make sense in the context of Marriage Equality (like so many arguments from No campaigners which tend towards baseless), Mr Joyce brought his family into a political area. He consistently advocates for sanctity of the ‘marriage’ as the only ‘proper’ family unit. Therefore, in the climate of this debate, this makes an allegation of infidelity in his own marriage news.
Sort of ironic actually. IF there was no Same Sex Marriage debate, I (and many others) would not consider that the marital status of politician should be reported on, it should be kept private. However, from past reports, it was the Nationals themselves that helped former PM Tony Abbott come up with the rubbish plebiscite idea, so it is Barnaby himself who has inadvertently put himself in this position, making his personal dramas, public and newsworthy.
Let’s be honest here. I think there are a lot of good journalists at News Ltd publications, they are not all beholden to their boss and just the marketing arm of the LNP. Having said that, the highest profile journalists at News Ltd – we all know who they are – most certainly do deserve all the LNP Cheer Squad assertions that are thrown at them. Sharri Markson is most definitely in that second camp.
You also don’t have to be too bright to know that News Ltd media is the ‘drop’ of choice for the Coalition. You only have to watch SKY News or read any of their stable of papers to see lines like “Government Ministers unhappy with…” to raise an issue, or “Maybe GST should be raised…” to see an idea from Government floated to test the waters before they officially state it is an idea Government is looking at. My personal favourite is the pre speech, pre budget stuff that gets dropped, so they can ‘exclusively’ tell us what we will hear in the next 24 hours. Given all this, it is not a hard stretch to know that these ‘drops’ are also used to destroy political opponents, or in the case of Tony Abbott, just stir shit.
So, having said all that, it would appear unusual for a Government cheerleader (even if under the guise of “poor bloke battling nasty gossips”) to actually publish this piece which regardless of tone, gets the gossip mill grinding and does not put the Deputy Prime Minister in a good light? Knowing this will happen, who is actually behind it? It sure as hell is not Tony Windsor, that is not the way he rolls and anyhow, he could send a nasty detailed email to the Daily Telegraph full of facts that could help a campaign for him and no way in hell would they bother giving him the time of day LOL! So he is a convenient scapegoat here, but I don’t think he is behind it. The mention of the below means it is something open in Government:
“The private turmoil has spilled over into his office with staff leaving at the height of the situation. One of Mr Joyce’s female advisers left his office to work for another minister who is close to Mr Joyce, before moving to another MP. “
So I think the bigger political question is? Who leaked this information to Sharri Markson? The detail in the piece are more than just rumour and we can only imagine what was NOT included in the piece due to legal ramifications or the sensational journalism formula of giving enough information to whet the appetite for further scandal, which, is a favourite type of ploy for a particular style of journalist so they can keep the story running and expanding over a longer period of time?
Who benefits from this story? I suspect that while many have been watching and waiting for someone in the Liberals to put their hand up to take on PM Turnbull who let’s face it, is a dead man walking according to polls and only retains the position because no-one has bothered challenging him, that it is actually the Nationals where the real killing season is about to happen?
Warren Truss may not have been the most exciting of men, but he was a steady hand as leader of the Nationals, he had true roots in a regional committee and was a good “Nationals” man. Barnaby Joyce on the other hand appears to be riding on the coat tails of the mining companies, waltzing with Gina Reinhart, embarrassing the conservative heartland with his utter stupidity of getting himself in trouble with the citizenship saga which could so easily have been avoided, the rumours of drinking and inappropriate behaviour (which have been consistent in the past few years) and now this alleged affair with a staffer… Well, that is a pretty big list of behaviour that does not sit well at the local CWA?
Are The Nationals behind this drop?
Is it an internal ‘thing’ to shake up the Nationals and put Joyce in his place? I’ve seen a few tweets about the ambitions of Trevor Khan, though not being familiar with NSW Nationals politics am unsure about validity or likelihood of those rumours.
I’ve also seen in Queensland the country LNP MPs being threatened by One Nation in the looming Queensland State election?
Extraordinary that One Nation Senators are making Regional Grant announcements worth $15m on behalf of Government #governmentfail— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) October 19, 2017
Joyce has obviously tried to put the blame onto the Prime Minister with “Barnaby Joyce warns PM that Queensland MPs are on warpath over favours to One Nation” but, I’m pretty sure in the likes of Nationals heartland, Toowoomba, ruled by LNP powerhouse Barry O’Sullivan they would have to be wondering how Pauline Hanson (who is gunning for LNP seats that are more National than Liberal in Queensland) is turning up in their backyard handing out Community Development Grants and Barnaby Joyce didn’t stop it? I mean, he should have their backs? He is the Deputy Prime Minister in a Government that is only hanging on by a thread with National Party support, yet, the opportunity for LNP Senators & MP’s to shine in local media by handing out Commonwealth grants just prior to a Qld election is given to the very party that is trying to steal seats off them?
The Nationals may only be the “N” in LNP nowadays, but in Queensland, old Nationals never die. They still believe they are the true backbone and heartland of the Nationals and with Barnaby Joyce acting more like a Sydney spiv than a good ole Nationals farmer, well, could they be behind a push to oust Joyce as National Party Leader? Only last month Barnaby copped a spray from a woman in the Nationals heartland of Gympie when a Widgee local eloquently demanded:
"Use your testicles and stand up to Malcolm Turnbull."
I'm wondering who else in The Nationals is thinking "You're not doing a good enough bloody job Barnaby"?
I have no idea, obviously I’m just surmising, but what I do know is… Please be careful as to what you say on social media, consider Mrs Joyce whilst gossiping and, look a bit further as to who is really behind these stories, somehow, I don’t think is Tony Windsor, there is more to this story, let’s hope that the ‘privacy’ aspect doesn’t stop Journalists in their tracks? They can avoid the unsavoury yet still investigate the political motives and shenanigans as to who and why this is being raised at such an inconvenient time for Barnaby Joyce?
PS. Let me know your theory? Though please, as I said above, leave Mrs Joyce and his daughters out of it.
The more we have chatted on Twitter about this issue, the more I'm leaning towards it being Barnaby Joyces own spin doctors who have released this info. IF there is a by-election, it will be at least a month or more away and that is enough time to have a scandal hit and go away in the public eye? So it could be Joyce himself getting ahead of an issue that he knows too many are aware of and would hate for it to hit the news while he is in campaign mode?
If that is the case, IF, sort of makes him worse in my opinion as he has pretty much thrown his family under the bus to save his own political ambitions. Really hope myself - and many others - are wrong on that tactic being reason for dump to The Daily Telegraph as I know that politics can be cut-throat but, a man who is happy to see his family publicly humiliated as collateral damage to ensure the continuation of his political career is a full on grub, no other word for it, and not worthy of high office.
I truly hope that is not the case and we are just being cynical.
The Weinstein Effect?
Another aspect to maybe consider? Again, not a good look for the Press Gallery if there is a touch of this in their attitude about keeping private lives private at all times?
For discussion: is there a touch of the Weinsteins in the gallery's we-know-we-don't-tell approach to MP sexual conduct? Esp with staff?— Jonathan Green (@GreenJ) October 22, 2017