With the Australian public apparently torn between asking what right the media has to pry into the private life of politicians and revelling in how exceptionally funny it is that a conservative politician knocked up a former staffer with whom he had been having a long-term affair, the news that Barnaby Joyce put a bun in the oven of his mistress has unsurprisingly launched a raft of takes.
Is it ethical to splash a photo of a private citizen across the front page of the Daily Tele for the crime of being pregnant? Is it sexist to ask that very question? Was the fact that it remained an open secret so long an artefact of the media propping up right-wing government or simply because they couldn’t confirm it? How would this have gone down if Joyce were a woman? All ideas that are at least somewhat worthwhile to explore.
The idea that Courier Mail opinionmonger Des Houghton put forward could maybe have happily been left to sit festering in the recesses of his brain. “Feminists jealous of Barnaby Joyce’s new love,” Houghton declared authoritatively in the headline of a piece published this morning. It is quite a take:
In the gym, in the newsroom and at a weekend function I heard a dozen moralising morons are queuing up to denounce Barnaby. For what? For falling in love, and accepting the pain he know that will bring.
I heard one woman who should know better speculating whether the baby would have his eyes or hers.
A question needs to be asked: Are some women (and some men) just a little bit jealous that Barnaby and his gorgeous partner Vikki Campion have found true love?
Des, to be quite honest with you mate, I don’t think the question did need to be asked. Sure, we can give Barnaby the benefit of the doubt here – we can see this affair as a romance written in the stars, a deep, emotional connection that defied all the norms that being married usually entails – but to reduce all the criticism of Joyce down to ‘jealousy’ is a pretty clear sign that you took a few weeks off reading the news before vomiting up a take to your far-too-accommodating editor.
Just personally, I’m more inclined to believe that the criticism focuses on his hypocrisy over marriage equality, his hypocrisy over trying to blame young people for not being able to afford a house when he was given 6-months of rent on apartment for free after he moved out of his family home (which then got a massive security upgrade courtesy of the government), his hypocrisy over arguing against a cervical cancer vaccine because it might make girls “promiscuous“, the possibility that a high-paying role was created specifically for Campion during the affair, and the fact that, in the private sector, having an ongoing affair with someone in your immediate employ would be likely cause for some sort of disciplinary action, but we’re supposed to ignore it when the Deputy Prime Minister does it.
He goes on:
Like most feminists, [deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek] is saying the only interest she has in the imbroglio is whether taxpayers’ funds have been misused. Sure, sure.
She has taken the moral high ground and that can be a dangerous place.
There are many Australians who, without condoning Barnaby’s misbehaviour, will have sympathy for his plight.
This is the hypocritical nature of sexual politics. We demand our leaders set standards that many of us cannot possibly meet ourselves.
This might just be me, but asking people to refrain from boning down with their staff while married, impregnating them, moving out of home, and keeping it all a secret for a period of months doesn’t seem like a standard that is that impossible to meet. Even if it were the case that the majority of Australians were one shandy away from having an affair, it’s not so ridiculous that we would hold the man who is in charge of the country when Malcolm Turnbull is away to a slightly more rigorous standard of personal conduct than we hold ourselves.
In a way, you almost have to admire the man for picking the dumbest angle possible and presenting it earnestly and uncritically.