At the time of writing it looks as though Barnaby Joyce will keep his positions as Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister. The Nationals seem to have given him ‘another chance’, as his deputy put it. Quite what would, after this episode, make its members think otherwise is not clear. Throughout this trial by media two thoughts kept running in my head. The first was why the press gallery had decided to run as a pack after him, and who might be the next MP or Senator to be brought forward for public excoriation.

For, as I see it, an old and important rule has been broken in this case: a parliamentarian’s private life is kept private unless those concerned make it public themselves, as was finally the case with Jim Cairns and Juni Morosi a long time ago, or where one of the parties outs the other. There are good reasons for such a rule. Every Parliament is a hothouse, where there is intense pressure on the leading players, all day, every day. The hours can be weird. MPs and Senators are, almost all of them, away from their homes for extended periods. The pressure can lead to over-indulgence in alcohol, to drugs, to dalliance, and even to physical violence.

Those who work there know all this. Moreover, there are a lot of alpha males (and an increasing number of alpha females) together with a lot of attractive younger women and younger men. The number of MPs and Senators who have enjoyed the favours of support staff, let alone of each other, is not restricted to the numeral one, and confined to Barnaby Joyce. The press gallery members are alert to all this, and will have a fair idea of what is going on at any time. But they don’t write about it unless there is good reason. At least they haven’t since I became a habitué of the old Parliament House in 1961.

What was the good reason? Joyce began having an affair with a staff member. He then recognised that they could no longer have a professional relationship, which was correct, and with the agreement of colleagues, the staff member went to another office. His marriage was apparently not a happy one at the time, and understandably became even unhappier. His lover became pregnant, which meant that he had to make some important decisions. He made them. I don’t know the details, the dates or any of the other circumstances, and I doubt that many of those who have written about it have any more information than me, but this is the story as I have worked it out.

Anyone who has been through a broken marriage, and I am one, will know that it is a wretched business, with more losers than winners. I don’t know Barnaby Joyce at all, but I feel sorry for him. It is not at all enjoyable to be on the front page of newspapers because of the details of your personal life. As I read it, the charges against Joyce are that the support staff member should not have been found work in other offices, or that the Prime Minister should have vetoed the moves as being inconsistent with the rules. The issue seems to rest on whether or not the staff member was a ‘family member’ at the time. Mr Joyce says she is now but wasn’t then.

Added to these charges are some vague ones about what Barnaby Joyce stands for publicly and what he has been doing privately. One writer said it wasn’t about sex but about integrity. For heaven’s sake! Hypocrisy and double standards are widespread in our public life. Stand up those who are not guilty of saying one thing while doing another. Oh, I’m not saying that hypocrisy and double standards are fine things and we should all be engaged in them. But politicians have to speak to diverse audiences, and they say different things to different audiences. To a church group you might emphasise family values; to a women’s group you might applaud freedom of choice. Stand up those politicians who have never done something like that. Whatever you say there is a good chance it will be recorded, and then used against you if the moment seems ripe.

The silliest charge I saw was that Mr Joyce had claimed 50 days allowances for being in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting. The accuser seemed unaware that Barnaby Joyce is not only Deputy Prime Minister but also responsible for a couple of departments of state. I would expect him to be in Canberra at least as often as he is in his electorate. Sydney and Melbourne ministers can have their offices in Commonwealth buildings in those cities. It is not the same for ministers who have country electorates. And you need to be where the head offices of your departments are. They are mostly in Canberra.

The longer the issue went on — more than a week so far — the more I wondered who had started this, and why, and whether they had thought of the consequences for themselves and their colleagues afterwards. For, annoyed and irritated with the Nationals Leader though they undoubtedly are, the members of the Coalition will be ready with their own fire when a suitable culprit from the other side demonstrates his or her very own human weakness. It won’t be hard to do. A little leak here and a little leak there, and the press gallery will be passing around a new story. I see it as inevitable, but a pity. The old rule was a good rule. Unless the private life is adversely affecting public life, it is not really for the public prints, because it is just gossip. Would those in the press gallery appreciate their own private lives being made front-page gossip news?

A later thought wondered whether the Barnaby Joyce affair is an extension in some way of the #MeToo movement. We don’t know the details, but it is hard to read some of the comments without coming to the conclusion that these commenters see the staff member as the victim, if not of sexual harassment, then of some nebulous construct like the Capitalist Patriarchy. The staffer is now publicly the Deputy Prime Minister’s partner, but that idle fact seems sometimes to have been passed by. Perhaps it was the price he had to pay, such a commenter might add. No couple ought to have their privacy invaded in this way. I had put the #MeToo movement to the side for a later essay, and I have no evidence that there is a connection. Nonetheless, there is an eerie flavour of it in some of the comments.

In short, someone somewhere decided that Barnaby Joyce’s private life could be made a matter of public interest. If it was someone in the ALP the party will live to regret it. If it was someone in the press gallery, then such a person will in due course find that a career there will prove to be short and profitless. Episodes like this one bring out a most unsavoury ‘holier-than-thou’ flavour in the self-righteous statements of politicians and commentators. The victims in this story are not simply Barnaby Joyce his family and his new partner, but the quality of our public life.





Join the discussion 101 Comments

  • whyisitso says:

    At last some commensense about this “issue’. Thank you Don. I subscribe to The Australian (rather than the Sydney Morning Herald). But I’m disgusted with their coverage of this matter. Its Home page this morning featured five articles in the main news column, and four of them were about Barnaby Joyce. A total lack of proportion.

    • margaret says:

      “One writer said it wasn’t about sex but about integrity. For heaven’s sake! Hypocrisy and double standards are widespread in our public life. Stand up those who are not guilty of saying one thing while doing another. “
      She was right, that writer. Your defense of Joyce’s lack of integrity is disappointing. It isn’t a sex scandal despite the peddling of the photographs that make it out to be. It’s about Barnaby Joyce’s astounding lack of integrity of which his affair is but a tiny human failing portion.
      His massive egotistical sense of entitlement to accept a free rental from a millionaire friend when he earns over 400K and really needs to say no mate, thanks but I’ve been telling everyone how cheap it is to buy a house in Armidale so I’ll rent it from you and you can give the rent to the homeless.
      Well that last part just came off the top of my head while I was writing but rather good!
      I don’t like this first name only title of your essay. He is Barnaby Joyce leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister. Yet he conducts himself like an arrogant goose.

      • margaret says:

        Barnaby Joyce really can’t get away with saying things like his daughters would be best off in the sanctity of marriage to a good bloke (or words to that effect used at an anti same sex marriage rally some time ago), and not expect a backlash to his hypocrisy. Because … he is the deputy PM and we the public may well be hypocritical at times and have had failings of character (brought about by the unrealistic expectations of church weddings and words like love honour and until not so long ago – obey, until death do us part). But, we, the people (except it seems those who live in New England) are looking for more honesty and transparency. Why didn’t “Barnaby” (if his name was John we couldn’t use just first name), why didn’t Barnaby allow the end of his marriage and his new relationship to be aired in a realistic and honest way twelve, twenty four, however many months ago? Because he’s a dishonest man, lacking integrity and supremely arrogant.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Well said, Don!

    Yeah, desperate stuff from politicians and media and important stuff being ignored. Bit like Gorton and Gotto.

    Completely unnecessary beat-up.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    I used the first name only because that is how people in the community refer to him — everyone knows ‘Barnaby’, and no one referred to him either with his surname or the rest of the titles. I attended a lunch the other day where that was exactly the style used. I hadn’t thought I was being disrespectful, if that is what you’re implying. Everyone recognises that he’s been stupid and short-sighted, but no one at that lunch did a high-and-mighty.

    She was not right that writer, unless she had never herself been guilty of the crimes she was laying on Mr Joyce. It is so easy to sledge others for doing something which you have done yourself, provided that no one knows about your own lapse. For this reason, I think it is better if writers concentrate on facts and arguments, not on lofty sermons suggesting that they themselves are as white as snow.

    • margaret says:

      “She” is Stephanie Dowrick and she and most of us are not in public office. I certainly don’t object to the use of “Barnaby” on the grounds of disrespect. What’s to respect about him? I object to the kind of mateiness and implied men will be men and “Barnaby” is one of us.
      Oh the facts and arguments are there and we’re laid out in Question Time. There is always room for writers to write about values or lack of them in leadership roles and public office and Stephanie Dowrick was not sermonising.
      Your acolyte Spangled Drongo is part of an echo chamber always ready and waiting to be obsequious.

    • margaret says:

      “Every Parliament is a hothouse, where there is intense pressure on the leading players, all day, every day. The hours can be weird. MPs and Senators are, almost all of them, away from their homes for extended periods. The pressure can lead to over-indulgence in alcohol, to drugs, to dalliance, and even to physical violence.
      Those who work there know all this. Moreover, there are a lot of alpha males (and an increasing number of alpha females) together with a lot of attractive younger women and younger men. The number of MPs and Senators who have enjoyed the favours of support staff, let alone of each other, is not restricted to the numeral one, and confined to Barnaby Joyce.”

      Somewhere we, the non-players and taxpayers can respect then?
      It sounds very unlike Annabel Crabbe’s whitewashed view which I couldn’t bear.
      Time to change the “Alpha” aspect of Parliament.

  • Rick says:

    I have found the whole issue to be over the top. The infidelity is a significant but private matter and members of the press gallery have almost literally whipped themselves into a frenzy, which says more about the journalists than it does about the significance of the issue.

    It is the treatment of the people involved and the magnification of all the pain for the family that concerns me. While journalists have been enjoying their judgemental raving and political exaggerations, they must have made the members of the Joyce family suffer much more than they otherwise would have. How could any members of the press gallery could gain so much pleasure from twisting the knife so vigorously? Where is the public interest served in hurting the Joyce children and other innocent victims?

    Relating Barnaby’s support for traditional definition of marriage to his infidelity, as some have done, is confusing two issues. One issue is the protection of freedom of conscience and the other is cheating on your wife. The latter is a sign of poor judgement and failing to meet the standards you commit to in entering a marriage. These failings occur across the political spectrum and to argue that a conservative politician should adhere to a higher standard of moral behaviour than a progressive person is leading to saying that progressive people can live at a lower moral standard without hypocrisy.

    Hypocrisy is an inevitable part of life and something most of us work against all the time. If you are never a hypocrite then you have just lowered your expectations of yourself so that you can smugly meet your own standards.

    • margaret says:

      You are already evidencing your own hypocrisy with these smarmy words:

      “It is the treatment of the people involved and the magnification of all the pain for the family that concerns me.”

      I don’t believe you.

        • margaret says:

          Of course I do. I like them both. They are people of calibre. I doubt I’ll ever feel the same about Barnaby Joyce.

          • spangled drongo says:

            It just depends when you choose to put your rose-coloured glasses on, marg.

            “But the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, urged Ms Kernot and Mr Evans to fully explain their actions to the people and Parliament. He had not seen Mr Evans’s email but there was never a justification for misleading the people or Parliament.

            “You have to be honest with your dealings with the public,” Mr Crean said. “In politics your word is your bond. If the story is true and the Parliament has been misled then it is a serious matter.”

            Oakes claimed the relationship began several years before Ms Kernot joined Labor, and ended in October 1999.

            In November, soon after the break-up, Ms Kernot was admitted to hospital with what was said to be glandular fever, but later described by her as an immune system breakdown caused by emotional and physical exhaustion.

            Her standing within the party and in the electorate diminished from that time, ending in her defeat at the last election.

            Ms Kernot left politics embittered with Labor, saying her priority would be recovery from the poison and viciousness heaped on her.”


          • Peter B says:

            You know, Margaret, I guess your statements say a lot about you and your admiration for those on the Labor side of politics. Could I ask whether you felt the same way about Hawke, Cairns, Burke, Keating, Gillard, Emerson, or Shorten, as to their integrity!? To use just one example [Burke], it is indeed extraordinary that he also had a fling with his PA, took her on a 1st class trip to Europe and ended up marrying her. And after a massive expenditure of taxpayers money. Where was the outrage from the media? There was none, and the same can be said for all the other Labor pollies. Did you also applaud Kernot having a fling with a student when she was a teacher, and yet no serious penalty resulted? If she had been a bloke on the other hand……

            Burke was instrumental in pushing Bronwyn Bishop out of the speakers chair, and yet his business class expenditure on trips with his family to Uluru and elsewhere, somehow didn’t register with our wonderful media. It was an insult at the time that he happily claimed to have paid back the cost of concert tickets [$60?], and yet the hundreds of thousands of dollars of other expenditure was ignored. That’s because the media are their friends and will do anything they can to help them out.

            There is also a Labor member sitting in the parliament with [admitted] dual citizenship at this very moment. Where is the media outrage over that. And yet when Labor used their mates in NZ to check on Joyce’s citizenship status, the media were all over it, thinking they could help their Labor mates in this country, claim a scalp. In fact they [along with Labor] tried to claim that the conservatives were insulting NZer’s, such is their ability to blow with the wind. And any wind will do.

            Shorten can insult pie shop owners, crash into stationary cars whilst drinking coffee, rip off workers [and be shown to have done so], change his mind on policy when it suits him, even escape media scrutiny over an alleged rape [do you not feel for the girl involved?], and you talk about integrity! Tony Abbott can allegedly punch a wall 30yrs previously at university [no one actually got punched], and the Labor Party and the media ran with that story for months.

            There has always been a deliberate pattern to the way the media and Labor operates in this country, and this can be very easily verified if the relevant so-called investigative journos bothered to do so. But being good union members themselves, obviously provides them with an opportunity to stick together and work to bring down those they are against politically, and they feel they have every justification for doing so. Just like Shorten. Surely it is extraordinary arrogance?

            So, please don’t mention integrity and Labor politicians [and the MSM] in the same breath.

            And I haven’t even mentioned the unions. Or maybe I did, because they and the Labor Party are one and the same, and corruption is their core business.

          • margaret says:

            “So, please don’t mention integrity and Labor politicians [and the MSM] in the same breath.”

            Wow, biased much yourself?

            Sex scandals and integrity. Integrity involves consistency. Libidos are often going to challenge consistency of one’s actions that’s for certain.

            However “red-blooded men” have many women and men seeing red.

            #MeToo is a Protest Movement against so-called “red-blooded” actions of male privilege. Protest movements are never endearing but they arise for a reason.

            It’s a different world now Peter B. Access to information via the internet has changed everything.
            Get with the program.

      • Rick says:

        Be as abusive as you wish Margaret, but whether you believe me or not is of no consequence. I do have concern for the way the media has in the main vigorously fed off this issue with no regard for collateral damage. Your rejection of this says something about you.

        • margaret says:

          Abusive? I can only think you object to wtf. Perhaps “Barnaby” can be held slightly responsible for collateral damage?
          Really he is such a goose I don’t understand why Don feels sorry for him and I don’t think Joyce’s wife would care two hoots right now about the media coverage. His daughters either. Their father made a fake apology to them in public … has he done that in private? Who would know and who would care.

          • Boambee John says:

            “Joyce’s wife”

            These days the above phrase is fraught with ambiguity. Perhaps using “Barnaby” might clarify?

          • Don Aitkin says:


            Where is your empathy? To find its home, imagine that you, for whatever reason, have become the target of a malicious person or two. They have dug up every embarrassing aspect of your life, your relationships of all kinds, your standing with other people. Then they exaggerate some of it, even make some of it up. And it all appears in the public prints. And there is nothing you can do about it. All sorts of people start asking questions about you. Your friends are embarrassed. Invitations stop coming. And so on. Maybe you did make a little slip of some kind…

            I’m not suggesting any of these things even exists with respect to you. I’m only asking you to put yourself into the shoes of someone who is being hunted by the media. It’s not at all funny, and I’ve had a taste of it in my life. It wasn’t funny then, either.

            About half of all marriages contracted in Australia ends in divorce. There are many divorced people in Parliament. None of them has come out to ask their colleagues and the media to cool it. Sexual Health Australia (look it up) suggests that about 60 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women have acknowledged a sexual affair in the course of their marriage, and suggests also that perhaps 70 per cent of all marriages have experienced one or both partners having done so.

            It is the disparity between what actually happens in Australia and the announced high moral values of the media and the politicians that gets my goat.

          • margaret says:

            Thank you Archbishop – I will work on my empathy for all god’s flawed creation in the garden of Eden.

          • margaret says:

            I don’t need a lecture on empathy. Your empathy for Barnaby Joyce is misplaced. Your empathy exists partly because of identification with a past experience as you have written, identification with the area of your youth no doubt comes into it as well as admiration for his “affable whip-cracking quirkiness” that makes his electorate love him as he metaphorically rides into the national capital in his akubra determined to make city centric parliament aware that they exist.
            I do have empathy Don and you sounded rather like the PM you criticised in that lecture to me. My empathy isn’t really activated by Barnaby Joyce or people who abuse the power and privilege of their position.

          • spangled drongo says:

            What day were you born, marg?:

            I was telling a woman at the club about my ability to guess what day a woman was born just by feeling her breasts.
            “Really” she said, “Go on then…… try.”
            After about thirty seconds of fondling, she began to lose patience and said, “Come on, what day was I born?”
            I said, “Yesterday.”

          • spangled drongo says:

            More actual real world:


          • margaret says:

            I wouldn’t click on any Larry Pickering link and you’re pretty pathetic yourself.

            This website attracts misogynists and silly stirrers, denialists, people who like echo chambers, rwnj’s, owm’s and lurkers behind the curtain.
            I won’t be commenting again but may lurk now and then to see if the commenters broaden to more than Beth the Serf as representative of the other half of your so-called “real world”.

          • spangled drongo says:

            “I wouldn’t click on any Larry Pickering link and you’re pretty pathetic yourself.”

            Welcome to [a very mild part of] the real world, marg petal.

            What did you say you did for a living, again?

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Ah, Margaret, your empathy isn’t activated by people like Barnaby. Well, that is obvious. But you have been the one that has asked male commenters in earlier themes to show some empathy, compassion and the rest. To do that you have to put yourself into their shoes. Difficult, yes. That is why I gave you a way in, imagining yourself to be in his position.

            Sorry I failed, but it seemed worthwhile at the time.

          • margaret says:

            That’s long and it’s a podcast. Here is a short video clip.


          • spangled drongo says:

            Please explain to us how that becomes your excuse, marg?

          • spangled drongo says:

            Marg, I bet even you played doctors and nurses when you were that age. And maybe the equivalent even later.

    • Boambee John says:

      “How could any members of the press gallery could gain so much pleasure from twisting the knife so vigorously? Where is the public interest served in hurting the Joyce children and other innocent victims?”

      The press gallery took a positive delight in hurting the Abbott daughters.

      It’s what they are, it’s what they do.

  • Chris Warren says:

    In general, Don is right.

    However when it comes to Barnaby this is ill informed.

    The fact is the Nationals in New England exposed and used Tony Windsor’s private life in a slanderous nasty election campaign.

    Consequently Barnaby is ripe for political roasting. He reaps ONLY what he sowed.

    Normally. politicians can have whatever relationships they like, and members of Parliament can appoint whoever they like as staffers without inteviews etc. I have worked as a staffer in th 1980’s and there is no issue here. They have to stay within entitlements though.

    If Barnaby was a loyal National, given the Windsor advert, he would kill the issue asap by voluntarily exiting.

    The critical video is:

    Erecting any defence for Barnaby based on some expected standards of excluding conduct wrt private matters is impossible.

    He, only, is fair game.

    • margaret says:

      Well, thanks for taking the heat out of the ‘sole woman’ angry response but exactly!
      That video which I watched on Tony Windsor’s page two days ago is a prime example of the adage, if you make your bed you must lie in it.
      But, you know, I’m sick of being with just a few men who get it and a lot who still walk too comfortably in the old world. I’ve said before where are the women commenters? I don’t care if they disagree with me.

    • dlb says:

      Am I missing something? Sorry I can’t find anything offensive in this election ad. Being a bloke I don’t think much of it, perhaps some women might like it? (I hope not)

      The reference to Julia is nothing to do with Winsor’s private life, it’s just a metaphor for him supporting the Gillard Govt. I can’t believe any one would take offence at that? Unless there is some back story I am unaware of?

      • Chris Warren says:


        “Am I missing something?”

        Just the bleeding obvious – if you run gutter attack adverts – then you will be attacked, at the same level, should an opportunity arise sometime later.

        I do not remember any of this barrage of “keep private out of politics” when it was Kernot and Evans in the cross hairs.

        Why have the Coalition immediately thrown up this screen – who else has been jumping between two beds?

        • dlb says:

          Again, I would hardly call that advertisement gutter politics, perhaps puerile. I also got the impression from the advert that Windsor was leaving recorded messages on voters phones. I find this stunt of invading ones privacy abhorrent, regardless of the Party that does it.

          Yes Don, the quality of our public life is deteriorating.

        • spangled drongo says:

          “I do not remember any of this barrage of “keep private out of politics” when it was Kernot and Evans in the cross hairs.”

          I don’t think you are much good at remembering anything that interferes with your philosophy, blith.

          “The public revelation of the affair – which was talked of, but not reported by members of the Canberra press gallery for years – could be seen by some as explaining the erratic behaviour of Ms Kernot after her October 1997 defection to Labor.”

          The Kernot and Evans affair was a non-event, publicly.

        • Peter B says:

          Your comment about Kernot/Evans is difficult to reconcile when the media kept quiet about their affair for about 8yrs. Had Oakes not brought it up, it would never have seen the light of day. I do recall, however, that Campbell Newman’s family was attacked by Labor leading up to their win in Qld. It was appalling stuff, and yet the media [particularly the ABC] had no hesitation in running completely fabricated nonsense and nothing was said. It was actually worse than the ‘Mediscare’ campaign, but Graham Richardson always maintained that ‘whatever it takes’ was the way to go for Labor, and nothing has changed.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    I doubt the lives of any of the major print journalists would survive a critical examination. Like him or hate him, Barnaby has made a difference. The print journalists, not so much, so why shouldn’t their tawdry affairs be exposed?

    I can’ t wait for the Royal commission into sexual abuse of paper-boys.

  • spangled drongo says:

    You could be right, Don. Turnbull’s weak and stupid solution seems to want to be seen to be supporting the feminist MeTooers:

    “There is a clear lack of preparation and co-ordination in Turnbull’s political attacks and defences as the Prime Minister contradicts himself, his ministers and his own office.

    Leave for Joyce was never going to solve the problem. The government has to either declare him totally innocent or provide evidence that he has not breached standards where there is a clear conflict of interest.

    Turnbull’s ban is hopelessly flawed and impossible to implement because it’s full of holes and puritanical bedroom peeping that might trend on Twitter but will not pass the pub test.”

  • Aert Driessen says:

    Thanks Don, well put, and I agree with 100% of what you have said, especially your last sentence. This has diminished the quality of our public life, but not so much because of what Barnaby did, but because of how our gutless PM handled the whole thing. His little spiel to the press yesterday was a joke. As a leader, Malcolm fails dismally. As for Barnaby, this man has courage, grit, and principle because he did not have the baby aborted. Yes, and I’ve heard the same whispers about one in the Opposition who did go down that road, no doubt to protect himself. I now hope that the Nats collectively have the courage and determination to insist that Barnaby remains Party Leader, and Deputy PM, and if MT can’t stomach that, to leave the Coalition. They could still contain the socialists on the Left by voting according to Nat principles which, as I see it, are mostly in accord with the Libs. Time for a shake-up of our two-party, Left and further Left, system.
    PS. You haven’t fixed the problem with signature details. ‘Margaret’ still appears as a default for me.

  • margaret says:

    Round and round and nine years on and on and on … myth busting time.

    “The myth is that the Australian media has a policy of leaving the private lives of politicians alone, so long as their behaviour doesn’t affect public policy.
    It hasn’t been true for years, even if Australia still lags way behind British newspapers, which are having an off day if they haven’t got a Tory wearing a pair of fishnet stockings while frolicking with a bevy of rent-girls and possibly a goat.”

  • margaret says:

    … the blunt advice of former prime minister Paul Keating: “If you want to be in power, you can’t afford to fuck around.”


  • beththeserf says:

    As long as people in power don’t coerce sexual favours from subordinates or the younger
    generation, how consenting adults relate is their own business and business of their
    immediate families. Increasing nanny state social intrusion into individual lives makes
    me think of the puritanical witch hunt behavior of New England society in ‘The Scarlet
    Letter’ by Nathanial Hawthorne.

  • beththeserf says:

    Oops Bryan, but I’m a young and tres attractive over sixty. lol!
    What the Hell!

  • Don Aitkin says:

    The Prime Minister’s ukase about no sexual relations between ministers and staffers made me shake my head in wonder. What demon got into him? A good rule is that you don’t establish a rule that cannot be policed. Who is going to police this new rule? Is it, perhaps a job for the Human Rights Commission? Will there be a new division in the AFP called the Sex Police? Will it be all right to have sexual relations with someone else’s staffer? Will Bill Clinton’s definition of sexual relations work here too? The whole thing is just madness.

    And his announcement was couched in unbelievably sanctimonious terms. You’d think his past job had been as Archbishop of Canterbury. The way he described his Deputy seemed to me offensive in the extreme. How he and Barnaby Joyce could work together again after that baffles me. Barnaby Joyce was much more restrained in his response, though the media described what he said as ‘a savage attack’. Where all this will end God knows.

    • Chris Warren says:

      They have vented enough now.

      They’ll probably kiss and make up next week.

      Unless Malcolm has some hidden agenda.

    • BB says:

      Without going back to read it again Don I thought your original post was about an unwritten rule that had been broken. The comments devolved into moral outrage over Barnaby’s moral depravity in which he persecuted all women in general. The charge for this was led by Margaret who was very busy telling everyone else how they were totally wrong and implied that the main problem with the world is the male of the species. Something like 60% of comments have been from her little was addressed of your original post. But one information point was gained that the media has in the past quite often has not abided by this rule which appears to be true. I do remember quite a number where it has been obeyed even so.

      I propose that since the media is about entertainment and obviously the sexual carrying on is of more interest than actually running the country, a change in the mainstream media. Let us stop the pretense that in the media that the running of the country is important. It is fairly evident that the due process of being innocent until proven guilty in sexual matters is now archaic. So that is get those cameras out and we will all scrutinise every interaction we can find between male and female that the public might obsess over. I was always disappointed that there were no videos of the consensual goings on between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. Just think how much copy that would have sold? Of course the goings-on between members of the media should not be left out of this it’s entertainment after all.

      I do wish the media would get out of the idea of pulling everyone down and try to promote the running of the country. I’m damn well fed up with moral outrage and fake accusations several of which appeared in these comments.

      • margaret says:

        “The charge for this was led by Margaret who was very busy telling everyone else how they were totally wrong and implied that the main problem with the world is the male of the species.”

        Banzai !!!
        You are the one expressing a prurient type of outrage in that rant BB. I’m not even focusing on the affair that Barnaby Joyce embarked upon.
        One thing that I agree with is that the MSM is and always has been both hand in glove with Parliament to remain tight-lipped when it suits (and when directed by their owners) and sensation breaking also under the same terms.
        Please point out the fake accusations that have been made in any comments by me.
        “Moral depravity” ?!! Unbelievable words, you are over the top and quite unhinged.
        I feel for you that you were unable to access footage of Clinton and Lewinsky’s “goings on”.

  • Nerone says:

    Thanks Don Aitkin! If you ever want to train for a race and have any questions, please let me know!

  • dlb says:

    I am getting the impression that the media frenzy is more about getting a political scalp, than circulating salacious scandal. Unfortunately the downfall of a high profile politician is “good” reality TV entertainment. Even makes the plebs lift their eyes from Facebook.
    And of course there are those agitators of the Left and conservative Right who would love to see the demise of the Turnbull Government.

  • PeterD says:

    The basic premise that underpins this ‘Barnaby’ column is that an MP’s ‘private life is kept private’.

    Given Cairns, Hawke, Shorten, and even Trump in the US, the ALP accepted the premise above, except for one major point of departure. Where such a relationship leads to conferral of special benefits not accessible to other colleagues, where there is a by-passing of special procedures, where there is a conflict of interest – then it becomes political, partisan, personal and vicious.

    On the special ABC Q&A panel [15Feb18] Professor Catherine Lumby raised a point which you might concede, Don: where a PhD supervisor is having a consensual sexual relationship with a candidate, with age differences not marked, the best course of action in her view was for that supervisor to recuse themself from the role, especially where key academic recommendations on progress etc are made. In fact, this may be policy in some universities, given past cases. So private life is not always kept private in some circumstances.

    The Q&A panel discussed briefly issues around this week’s headlines around Barnaby Joyce. Malcolm’s proposed ban on sex between ministers and staffers was dismissed as a thought bubble, a panic attack, a form of ‘bed sniffing’. ‘Who would enforce such a code?’, panellists mused, and it was generally condemned.

    The Q&A panelists clearly recognised that many long-lasting and happy relationships start and flourish in the work environment: as long as these are consensual, there is no problem. The real point, panelists believed, was that the person with power did not use that power to provide advantages to their lover/partner that deviate from normal procedures and protocols. So no promotions without proper advertising and interviews, for instance or that the person who signed off should not be the lover! The case now being prosecuted against Barnaby is based not on the relationship itself but on the conferral of advantages which are violations of normal procedures in the minds of politicians such as Mark Dreyfus. The challenge of course is that in the ALP, the Liberals, the Nationals etc there is often a subculture around preselections, factions, mates etc that reward this very type of behaviour.

    On conflicts of interest: it is quite reasonable to favour a policy of relocation/regionalisation of government departments to country areas, especially with pesticides, agricultural departments etc but to announce this during an election, with one’s own electorate being a direct beneficiary, is questionable.

    It could be argued that what this saga best illustrates is the difference between powerful, well paid ministers and those, for instance, on Centerlink welfare payments who need to observe very rigid standards. Free board: who wouldn’t like a mate like that? The ABC is asserting today, with some documentary support, that Greg Maquire’s quality hotel is a beneficiary of the extra meetings and accommodation expenses etc associated with the relocation of public servants to Armidale. A businessman who gives his mate ‘free’ lodging cries out for greater scrutiny.

    A couple of other generalisations around the premise ‘private life is kept private’:

    * The concept of private life, particularly for millennials who are digital natives, is almost a quaint notion because their virtual footprints are evident almost from birth.
    * The idea of virtue, character and integrity and its relationship to votes is very, very tenuous. Consider the hypothetical case of a US President who has an affair with a porn star not long after the birth of his child and then has a mate pay $160,000 in legal bills. His voting base remains intact and the punters, even the Evangelicals, remain glued on.
    * Finally, in the US with Trump and indeed in the relationship between Malcolm and Barnaby, you may have a politician who is extremely aggressive, a street fighter, a bouncer, a person who will use low blows etc. and the old, quaint, almost anachronistic values around courtesy, privacy and ‘decency’ as it used to be called, are unrecognisable. Witness, for instance, the aggression and hostility that a climate change sceptic/believer receives when they wander into the wrong chamber!

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Peter D,

      Interesting comments. My only objection is your statement that ‘the ALP accepted the premise’. Labor was not keen to let people know about the goings-on with favours of one kind and another when the villain was one of their own, as another commenter has pointed out.

      • PeterD says:

        True: sadly, the definition of a good politician has become one who stands on the grass and tells everyone else to get off the grass.

    • David says:

      ” It is quite reasonable to favour a policy of relocation/regionalisation of government departments to country areas, especially with pesticides, agricultural departments etc but to announce this during an election, with one’s own electorate being a direct beneficiary, is questionable”

      Exactly, Canberra is regional country Australia. Notwithstanding differences in land quality there are as many farms around Canberra as Tamworth.

  • Peter JMS says:

    Another thoughtful article Don.

    Having lived through a marriage dissolution due to a partner’s multiple infidelities, I can sympathise with Barnaby’s wife and daughters, and also Vikki. But I have long since got over any moralising about such situations. My ex remained a good mother, and in the long run that was all that mattered. Her personal conduct then and subsequently is otherwise of no interest to me.

    It is Barnaby’s performance as a politician that interests me, not his performance as a stud. None of us really know what was going on in the marriage or the affair for that matter. It is a messy situation which they should be allowed to sort out in privacy, not in the glare of prurient commentary and political skullduggery by those also inhabiting glass houses.

    And frankly I think Margaret’s judgemental lop-sided contributions to this discussion reflect her own issues with life.

    • margaret says:

      Ok I can’t let that slide “frankly”.
      You men want empathy and sympathy for your lives and yet you know nothing about me and mine. I’m fine thanks, any ‘issues’ I have are with the paternalistic patronising tone of all comments in reply to every comment I make on these posts of Don’s.
      I have never received any positive feedback (unless I appear to agree with the male outlook) and I put that down to my own rashness (not unlike Barnaby Joyce’s perhaps), in thinking, expecting that there was any dialogue here that would be inclusive of a woman’s point of view. Women are all different. I am one woman.
      The link to the photo that Chris Warren posted was front page on so many newspapers that I’m surprised it was necessary to show it again.
      What is to be made of it? That is the question. Is it that how can men help themselves when a woman dresses like this?
      I am a woman who wore mini skirts in the Sixties and in a classroom of young children and in the Staffroom (heaven forbid!). Body fitting elastane was still to come so really it was all about fabric, fashion, freedom, and fun and I was never harassed for my style, nor was any comment made about inappropriateness.
      However I was once humiliated in teachers college by an English lecturer during a drama class when brought to the front to “act” out a situation that involved me bending over backwards for some stupid “.romantic scene”. My roommate found me sobbing on my bed later and even to her, a close friend I couldn’t really describe why I felt so absolutely horrible.
      So “It’s not your fault” resonates with me deeply.
      Younger women these days are often but not always, more savvy, tougher and have their own reasons for doing what they do. Vikki Campion is not an 18 year old and is old enough to know her mind.
      Peter JMS I have never seen you make a comment before and you are probably a troll. I am not.

      “ It is Barnaby’s performance as a politician that interests me, not his performance as a stud.” Perhaps you come from Tamworth.

      • margaret says:

        And all of you and your wives would have been very happy if I had been the teacher of your child. It’s only since I became “invisible” that I have understood what I brushed off from my mother who said, when I was in my forties and having a bit of a rave … “Nothing will change you know”.

      • Peter JMS says:

        I am not a troll. I have previously commented on Don’s blog, but I don’t write a treatise in doing so. I appreciate his thoughtfulnes and logic, which I know is based on extensive experience.

        Your response simply verifies my observation. I really don’t want to engage further. There is more to life than blogging, and introspection is worthwhile. We are all fashioned by our personal issues. I wish you well and urge you to take care.

  • margaret says:

    You have my permission to delete all my comments on this post and all comments made on my comments.
    It will be interesting to see then what remains in relation to comment on your essay ‘Barnaby’.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Scott Morrison this morning on ABC Insiders put the case on Turnbull’s decision on the Barnaby affair very well for the coalition and made Shorten and Plibersek look foolish for threatening to cancel the decision if they got into power.

    Simply put, the boss can’t sleep with the staff. In 2018 that is good, if overdue, policy.

  • Chris Warren says:

    If you thought Barnaby was bad – there are worse Nationals, one even advocating the most hideous political motivated assassination of political opponents.

    I suspect that this may have fell foul of our modern anti-terrorism laws.

    • Chris Warren says:

      Murderous Christenesen is the second worst Drongo to come out of Queensland.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Poor ol’ blith is still hung up on offering 1080 to “indigenes” to prove their indigenousness.

        He doesn’t get that humourless, lefty proggies will argue stupidly and pointlessly for ever [as per his own performance] unless and until presented with naked reality.

        You’re not a blue-eyed indigene yourself by any chance, blith?

      • margaret says:

        Christensen is a dickhead. No integrity.

  • margaret says:

    It’s about the market and rampant capitalism.

    “In the last decade, the brand protection industry along with risk-averse managers have produced an exponential increase in workplace policies seeking to regulate the activities of employees both at work and outside work. Since then, many employees have lost their jobs for “damaging the brand”.“
    I still have no empathy for Barnaby Joyce but it’s not so much about his affair. Sex sells and will continue to, because we just aren’t good at handling it within the confines of a patriarchal structure.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Judging based on this video,

    he had to go – falling on one’s own sword?

  • margaret says:

    Barnaby Joyce boy from the bush but went to Riverview (so did Tony Abbott). Catholic elite boarding schools produce strange conflicted men.

    • spangled drongo says:

      You and blith make a great pair, marg.

      Barnaby did nothing that many politicians awa ordinary people do on a daily basis.

      He simply got swamped by hypocrites and the MSM.

  • […] lot of alpha men and a lot of attractive women. Parliament is one, as I mentioned the other day in the essay about Barnaby Joyce. Hollywood, television, the media generally, the theatre — all have something of this […]

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