Pub test: Barnababy
The deputy PM is the last person we need to worry about here
However reluctantly, I feel compelled to discuss Barnaby Joyce’s affair. It is unavoidably subjective, but in my opinion, it is only with today’s revelation [$] in the Daily Telegraph – that a taxpayer-funded job was created especially for Joyce’s lover, Vikki Campion, in the office of his National Party colleague Matt Canavan – that the affair has crossed the threshold of being in the public interest.
On Wednesday, when the story broke, I confess my reaction was “there but for the grace of God go I”, and an extreme reluctance to point the finger, tut-tut, or moralise.
At the same time, it is so predictable to have another proponent of traditional family values turn out to be a massive hypocrite. It’s a law of nature: the louder someone bangs on about virtue, the more likely it is they’ve got skeletons in the closet.
From his bully pulpit as deputy PM, Joyce has consistently been one of the most objectionable, uncompromising bangers-on, and didn’t care whose feelings he hurt along the way in the prosecution of his intolerance. It is hypocritical. So formidable LGBTI rights activist Rodney Croome is dead right when he tweets that “Joyce insisted on a plebiscite that put LGBTI relationships under scrutiny so he can’t claim ‘privacy’ now”. Feminist columnist Clementine Ford is dead right to point out Joyce’s hypocrisy in using his own daughters in his moral posturing: “We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband,” he said, “and I want that to happen for them. I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me,” … as if any legislator ever was going to do that. Former Greens leader Christine Milne is dead right to point out that back in 2006 Joyce opposed giving a world-leading, life-saving cervical cancer vaccine to girls because it might lead to promiscuity.
Without getting into conspiracy theories, it is curious that this story did not come out in glorious detail before the New England by-election on December 2. Editors get rightly cautious during election campaigns – anything that might swing the result has to be bullet-proof. But as Junkee pointed out this week, the Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson in a pre-election profile of Joyce also wrote about his “deeply personal crisis”, and claimed a “vicious innuendo” campaign was being deployed in order to keep him out of his seat. Definitely looks like punches were pulled there.
Joyce will wear it; he is a powerful individual who can and will look after himself. Very often, it’s not the story itself that’s most hurtful, it’s the pictures that are used and the prominence they’re given. The whole thing is messy, but personally, I feel for Vikki Campion, papped by her old paper. Might be some ugly office politics there. At the same time, Campion would know, as a thick-skinned journalist, that news fades fast.
Will it hurt the government? Not a bit. Might even be a sympathy vote in it. In one corner of Western Sydney at least, Barnaby Joyce passes the pub test, and it’s the media hoopla that instead comes in for criticism. In the Cabramatta Inn (130 years old this September), they’re not talking about him at all. If asked, they’re on his side.
Mind you, moments beforehand the truck driver I spoke to was lecturing the barwoman – who has herself never heard of Barnaby Joyce – at some length along the following lines: “The problem with lingerie girls is, they expect you to tip ’em, when all they’ve done is walk from here to there. Some of them are taking home $300 a night, for three hours work!” Which probably disqualifies him completely, but for what it’s worth he reckons the Tele story should not have been published: “Should never be brought up,” “everybody does it,” and the whole thing is a “total waste of time”. It’s hard to argue. His older mate is more circumspect: “They’re all hypocrites,” he says, but the real problem is today’s story about getting Campion a spot in Canavan’s office – “jobs for the girls!” Again, I agree.
since this morning
Ahead of a landmark speech tomorrow by Kevin Rudd on the 10th anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations, and Monday’s Closing the Gap response by Malcolm Turnbull, Crikey’s Bernard Keane analyses [$] how the strategy fell apart.
in case you missed it
At today’s COAG meeting, the federal government is hoping to persuade the states to sign up with an extra $30 billion in funding for public hospitals over five years.
The Reserve Bank’s statement on monetary policy, released today, warned of rising inflation after governor Philip Lowe told a business gathering on Thursday night he would not be pushed to raise rates in line with the US.
Alex Mitchell in New Matilda has previewed a sensational new book by Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery, who represented the “Witness K” who blew the whistle on Australia’s disgraceful spying on East Timor during sensitive negotiations over oil rights.
ACCC chief Rod Sims on RN Breakfast this morning welcomed the revamped NBN pricing that has seen an increase in internet speeds.
Paddy Manning is a contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly. He is a writer and journalist who has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and the Australian. He is also the author of three books, including Boganaire: The rise and fall of Nathan Tinkler.
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